Rug of the Day: A Beautiful Family Supporting Burntwater by Bah Yazzie Ashley

Bah Yazzie Ashley with a small Burntwater rug

Bah Yazzie Ashley with a small (for her) Burntwater weaving. This photo was taken in May of 2006

Tempe, AZ   I think it’s been a little too long since we had some Rug of the Day fun and today’s rug picture isn’t the best rug photograph out there but it’s the best one I have of this rug.   When I saw the picture I remembered the rug with a big smile.  It was the first rug that I bought from Bah Yazzie Ashley and it has long since been sold to an appreciative collector  who may have in turn sold it or given it  to someone else.  It’s a Double Diamond Burntwater woven with vegetally dyed yarns from R.B. Burnham and Co. It wasn’t woven to win a prize, it wasn’t woven to be featured on a web site, it was woven so that Bah Yazzie could provide for herself and her family by producing something beautiful and marketable.   In the Navajo sense, it’s a good way to make a living.

It is one of  thousands and thousands of rugs that weavers have produced to pay the bills, send children to school and to provide the extras that all of us like to have the ability to buy.   You’ll also probably notice that Bah Yazzie is in a wheelchair.  She’s had trouble with her legs since she was young and that’s been exacerbated by arthritis as she’s gotten older.  She does all of her weaving in her wheelchair or on a wheeled stool.  If she stands up, she’s about 4’9″ of weaving mastery and matriarchal grandeur. 

Her name, Bah Yazzie, translates to “Little Warrior”, but the translation does not really convey the meaning of the term  in the Navajo sense.   Being a warrior in the Navajo culture means that you’re the person who gets the job done, who is depended on, who will make the tough calls and live with the fallout.  It is not a male or female trait, but rather a standard that everyone aspires to.   To gain a better understanding  of this concept, you might want to read Noel Bennett and Tiana Bighorse’s superb tribute to Tiana’s father, Gus Bighorse.  It’s called Bighorse the Warrior and it’s a short book with a profound message. 

There’s a more recent picture of Bah Yazzie below.  It was taken in September with our weaving class.   Bah Yazzie’s step-daughter Jennie Slick is on her left.   Bah Yazzie is in her mid 80’s and is still weaving to support herself and her family.  Her son, Peter, sometimes helps and is a weaver in his own right.  

Bah Yazzie Ashley with weaving class

Bah Yazzie Ashley with Jennie Slick and the September 2011 Weaving in Beauty class. We're at R.Burnham and Co. in Sanders, AZ

Hagoshsíí (so long for now)

Mary Walker

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1 Comment

  1. Sandy Gally on December 3, 2011 at 9:01 am

    How exciting to have Rug of the Day return. I have missed it, especially your explanations, Mary. Sure hope I can meet Bah Yazzie Ashley next year.