DOLORES – Navajo elder James Peshlakai will give a presentation on Navajo tradition at the Anasazi Heritage Center on Sunday, July 8, at 1 p.m., part of the 2012 Four Corners Lecture Series. Admission to the museum is free throughout the day.
Peshlakai's talk, "Navajo People at the Crossroads of Arts and Cultures," will address the diverse influences and experiences that have shaped the 21st century lifestyle of his people, who call themselves Dine'. The Navajos migrated to the Colorado Plateau region 500-1000 years ago, and are related to Athapaskan people living today in Canada and Alaska. They are also closely related to the Apaches of New Mexico and Arizona.
Navajo culture absorbs, adapts and reflects a variety of elements gathered over its long history. The Navajos adopted agriculture from the Ancestral Puebloans who first farmed the Southwest, and learned sheepherding and silverwork from Spanish settlers whom they encountered in the 16th century. Peshlakai, who has dedicated his life to the preservation of Navajo culture, believes that a strong culture is like a well-woven blanket which blends many strands and colors into a harmonious whole. Born near Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff, he is a teacher, artist, and medicine man who successfully bridges cultural gaps. His father, uncles, and grandfathers were all medicine men. His paternal grandfather, Peshlakai Atsidi, was a leader of the western Navajo who visited Theodore Roosevelt in Washington, D.C., to speak on behalf of his people. Peshlakai is an accomplished artist and silversmith who helped found the Navajo Arts and Crafts Cooperative, and the Peshlakai Dancers, a troupe that has performed across the country.
Peshlakai has taught Applied Indigenous Studies at Northern Arizona University, He has spoken on the Navajo Way at institutions throughout the country including Wooster College, Vanderbilt University, and the Telluride Institute. He has guided numerous trips for at-risk Navajo youth in the Grand Canyon where he teaches self-reliance, native plants, geology, and cultural values. When not teaching or touring, he takes care of his sheep at his family ranch near Cameron, Ariz. The Bureau of Land Management Anasazi Heritage Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer. For more information, contact the museum at 970/882-5600.