Post by Vera
Among the many benefits of working on the Quincy Tahoma biography, we have had many opportunities to personally meet people whose lives touched Tahoma’s. When I went to Window Rock to the Navajo Nation’s Késhmish (Christmas) Festival at the Navajo Nation Museum, I felt certain that I would run into some interesting people. Little did I imagine that I would unearth yet another girlfriend.
Nearly all the attendees at the two-day festival at the beautiful Navajo Nation Museum were Navajo families, not tourists. (A good reason for you to keep it in mind for next year.) Artists and craftsmen packed the large central hall and a children’s crafts room was set up on the side. If you could walk through that large room– packed with jewelry, glass and pottery ornaments, Navajo-print fabrics made into all sorts of things like scarves and purses, paintings, note cards, Christmas presents galore–without buying anything, you have more will power than I do!
Michelle Tsosie Sisneros who lives at Santa Clara Pueblo caught my eye. The work she was showing at the fair is not on her webpage. Because she is both Navajo and Pueblo, she has created a line of clay figures that combine Navajo and Pueblo symbols.
An enterprising family with eight children who compete in track and field events, was serving up fry bread, coffee, hot chocolate and other goodies in the small cafe. All proceeds went to support their five children who are members of the New Mexico team that will compete in a National track meet.
Anthony Chee Emerson, one of the outstanding Navajo painters who is quoted in Quincy Tahoma: The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist had a booth right beside the gift shop, where I sat at a table and talked to people about Quincy Tahoma. It was delightful to see Anthony’s work and get to chat with him once again.
Across from Anthony, a man in a huge cowboy hat sat behind a table of hand-made silver and turquoise jewelry. Juan Curley and his wife Polly make unforgettable jewelry, even though he also has a day job AND tends to his sheep and horses in Ganado where they live. After I admired Juan’s leather trophy jacket (2nd place, bull riding) he meandered over to my table and told me quite a bit of his life story–an interesting one, you can bet!
At the table beside me, a man sat in a high wheelchair, with various mechanized aides to help him move. He was selling a book with his inspirational story about what he had learned as a paraplegic, and told me how few Navajos know where to go for help with serious injuries and how he talks to students to familiarize them with his hope-filled story.
A young girl came by who wanted to buy the Tahoma book for school, but could not afford it. I gave her information to pass on to her school so they might purchase it for their library.
When I wandered around the room packed with booths, I stopped to talk to Beverly Blacksheep, who crafts ceramics, tiles, coffee cups, notecards and other items with her lovely Navajo-themed designs. When I told her that I was there with a book about Quincy Tahoma, she told me that his painting had influenced her work, and she had painted some horses on some of her pieces that were inspired by Tahoma. Then she said her mother-in-law went to school with Tahoma. In fact, she was his girlfriend. But Beverly did not want to tell me any more than that, because she was not sure her mother-in law-would approve.
Soon I met her husband Tim Genéeha, and he did not hesitate to tell me that his mother’s name is Helen Haskie. Along our research journey, someone had mentioned a girlfriend at the Indian school, Helen Haskie, but we could not find anyone else to confirm the story or tell us where she lived, so we gave up on finding her. Tim said that Tahoma gave Helen a large painting, but he does not know what happened to it.
Helen had first attended Ft. Wingate school, and then was transferred to Santa Fe. Tim promised to tell me more after he talks to his mother. Before I left, I made a list of questions that we would like to ask Helen if we could talk to her, and we eagerly await the response from possibly the FIRST of Tahoma’s girlfriends, and probably the ONLY Navajo girlfriend. And who knows, we may be able to find another missing painting.
So who’s next? Is there another girlfriend or two out there whom we have not heard about? Do you have Tahoma stories to share? We’re all ears.