From Chinle we headed east through the Navajo Nation to Tsailé, where a branch of the Diné College is located. There we gathered with a dedicated group of fiber addicts and culture seekers for the Sheep is Life festival. Churro sheep, first brought to the Southwest by the Spanish conquistadors in the mid-1500s, have become an important part of Navajo culture. These sheep are extremely hardy: they are highly resistant to disease, require little water, and eat a diverse selection of vegetation. Today Navajo-churro sheep are considered a rare heritage breed and are raised for both wool and meat.
At the Sheep is Life festival, informational booths and vendors were spread across a shady field next to the college rodeo grounds. Workshops on spinning, felting and weaving were taking place. Assorted fleece, yarn and weaving supplies were for sale. Churro sheep were being shown in the rodeo grounds. Bags of fleece were being judged on their quality. A weaving exhibition – Chant of the Spider: A Holistic Journey into Diné Fiber Arts – and weaving sale were set up in the campus museum. The group spent a few hours enjoying the activities at the festival, and then jumped back in the vans and headed home for a brief reprieve before the final week of the field school. Next week we’ll be wrapping things up in the southern part of the state.