Denetdale, wrote her book
Reclaiming Diné History. The
Legacy of Chief Manuelito and Juanita.
went, 'Whoa,'" Jenny Nez recalled. "That's when we knew
we descended from somebody really special."
Denetdale's son Nicholas, 30, a welder and college
student, also made the trip from Tohatchi to watch the
dress being unpacked for its first time on exhibit in
many years, if ever.
this thing just got taken, and for it to come home now,
it makes me feel stronger and more powerful," he said.
"It lifts my spirits to think that something you do,
something you leave behind, can reach back years later
and help someone."
gave the biil to her friend, photographer and collector
George Wharton James, in 1874. It was already well worn
and patched in several places with calico, and it is
believed to have been woven between 1868 and the year he
lost the dress for a while, then found it, and it was
eventually donated to the Southwest Museum in Los
Angeles, now the Autry National Center. The items were
archived, but it is not known if they were ever
displayed. In her book, Denetdale writes of traveling to
the museum in 1997 to see the weavings.
simple dress and the somewhat newer saddle blanket, with
a colorful star design in the center, arrived at the
museum last week by climate-controlled truck, along with
a conservator from the Autry Center, Angie McGrew. Good
curation demanded the weavings sit in their boxes for a
length of time.
I didn't realize how important it was until I arrived
about midnight on Tuesday and Jennifer and (museum
exhibit curator) Clarenda (Begay) were there to greet
it," said McGrew, who is Chiricahua Apache. "It's a
wonderful artifact, but it didn't hit me until then how
personal it is to the Navajo people."
said she is "so impressed" with the Manuelito exhibit.
confident about leaving these objects here for six
months," she said.
Denetdale said other museums, including the visitor
center at Bosque Redondo, have already expressed
interest in hosting the exhibit after it is finished at
the Navajo Nation Museum.
shows how important it is to be in a position to share
our stories the way we want them told," she commented.