Shawl Project to collect Native American tribal histories, stories and culture

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  • Corky Mills and Millie Vela

Shawl Project to collect Native American tribal histories, stories and culture

“The Shawl Project: Winyan Omnicha – Gathering of the Women” will bring women together over a six-week period beginning at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24, to learn to make traditional Native American shawls while learning about tribal histories and culture from community elders.

The project is presented by Fresno State’s College of Arts and Humanities Center for Creativity and the Arts in collaboration with the Department of Theatre Arts.

Participants of the Shawl Project will meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays between Feb. 24 and April 7 in the Theatre Costume Shop in the Speech Arts building (Room 185). Participation is free and open to the public.

During this time, the women will be taught to make traditional Native American shawls, which are often worn as part of women’s regalia at powwows. Making shawls for powwows is an artistic and culturally charged endeavor.

The Shawl Project is intended to be more than learning to make a shawl, said Cindy Urrutia, director of the Center for Creativity and the Arts. “It will be a time of learning about different tribal histories, stories and culture from community elders. In many Indian tribes and at gatherings such as The Shawl Project, tribal history and culture are shared and passed down from one generation to another through conversation.”

Fresno State graduate student Jamie Boley, a member of the Choctaw tribe, conceived The Shawl Project when the Center for Creativity and Arts announced its 2016-2017 theme, “Native Communities: Tradition and Innovation.” Boley wanted to share the tradition of shawl making with the Fresno State community. She has served as a liaison between the Center for Creativity and the Arts and Lakota elders in the Central Valley.

The Shawl Project will be led by Tulare residents and elders Corky Mills and Millie Richards Vela. Mills and Vela bring a combined 160 winters (years) of knowledge and experience to the project.

Mills’ Lakota name is Winyan Ishnala, or “Lone Woman.” She is from the Cheyenne River Eagle Butte Agency of Eagle Butte, South Dakota. Mills is a descendant of Chiefs White Horse, White Swan, War Eagle and John Grass. She currently resides in Tulare and is active with the Owens Valley Career Development Center of Visalia, a tribal organization that provides career education, family literacy, language and temporary assistance services in Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Tulare and Mono counties.

Vela, whose Lakota name is Winyan Hunska, or “Tall Woman,” is a member of the Oglala Tribe of Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Vela comes from a family of renowned quilters whose works are part of the Smithsonian National Quilt Collection. She also currently resides Tulare and is active with the Owens Valley Career Development Center.

At the end of the Shawl Project, women will have completed a shawl, learned about tribal histories and cultures, self-respect, honor, integrity and role modeling with Native American peers. Native American faculty, staff and students are encouraged to participate. Space is limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, email ccafresnostate@csufresno.edu.

 

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