Pendleton Woolen Mills is proud to be part of the National Park Experience series with a new short film, “Canyon Song.”
Canyon Song follows the Draper family as they practice traditional indigenous farming methods in the Canyon de Chelly Wilderness.
As a portrait of two young Dine girls, Tonisha and Tonielle Draper, “Canyon Song” artfully positions the historic with the modern. The girls sing songs about social media (you should watch the closing credits to enjoy this) and visit the carnival. Tonisha participates in competitions that showcase understanding and reverence for Navajo culture.
These girls are the heart of the film, and their smiles, voices and joy will haunt you.
Canyon de Chelly sits in the heart of the Navajo nation. Spider Rock, with spires that tower 800 feet above the canyon floor, is one of the canyon’s most important landmarks.
Spider Woman, one of the major Navajo deities, is traditionally said to live at the top of Spider Rock. In our research, we came across this description of her from an older book of legends:
The people gazed wide-eyed upon her shining beauty. Her woven upper garment of soft white wool hung tunic-wise over a blue skirt. On its left side was woven a band bearing the Butterfly and Squash Blossom, in designs of red and yellow and green with bands of black appearing in between. Her neck was hung with heavy necklaces of turquoise, shell and coral, and pendants of the same hung from her ears. Her face was fair, with warm eyes and tender lips, and her form most graceful. Upon her feet were skin boots of gleaming white, and they now turned toward where the sand spun about in whirlpool fashion. She held up her right hand and smiled upon them, then stepped upon the whirling sand. Wonder of wonders, before their eyes the sands seemed to suck her swiftly down until she disappeared entirely from their sight. (source)
Spider Woman is the original weaver, who wove the web of the Universe. She also played a key role in Earth’s creation as Tawa, the Sun God, sang the world into existence. Spider Woman made a gift of her weaving skills to her people as part of the “Beauty Way,” a Navajo tradition of balance in mind, body and spirit. She also has a fierce aspect. Parents would threaten their children with her wrath:
As children growing up at Spider Rock, Canyon De Chelly and Canyon Del Muerto, our grandmother would tell us of mischievous and disobedient children that were taken to Spider Woman and woven up in her tight weaving, after Talking God had spoken through the wind spirits to instruct Spider Woman on how to find and identify the bad little kids. Spider Woman would boil and eat the bad little kids, that is why there are white banded streaks at the top of Spider Rock, where the bones of the bad children still bleach the rocks to this day. (source)
Now, if that isn’t enough to make you behave…
It is a privilege to be part of a film that celebrates this harsh and beautiful country, and the people who live there. Please enjoy “Canyon Song.”
Photos courtesy of The National Park Experience.
See Pendleton’s Spider Rock pattern here: Spider Rock