The Institute for Integrated Rural Development (IIRD) was established in 1996 by the Board of Regents of Diné; College to carry out its functions as a 1994 Land Grant Institution.
The “Special Emphasis Project in Navajo Textile Arts” is funded by CSREES from August 2003 through July 2005 to conduct community-based education and outreach with Diné; pastoralists and artists in order to revitalize families and communities, support local wool producers, sustain our culture, and improve well-being through culturally-relevant, value-added economic development based on sheep, wool, and textile arts. We focus on the traditional Navajo-Churro sheep, a breed that is the foundation for Diné; Lifeways and Textile Arts, while promoting the basics of sheep and wool improvement.
Program activities combine traditional techniques with modern science. We demonstrate correlations between contemporary genetics, flock management, and wool processing methods and many traditional practices that have now fallen into disuse. In particular, we show how simple improvements in feeding, land management, shearing, and cleaning of fleeces can markedly increase earned income for the individual producer.
We are relearning the sequence from sheep to loom to understand the concepts of value-added processing of our wool. While our first priority is supplying the internal market, we are beginning to explore external niche markets,where quality Navajo-Churro wool and hand-processed yarn bring high prices. Improved economic return contributes to conserving both the Navajo-Churro sheep breed and Navajo producer’s livelihood.
With our program participants, concepts are best learned through hands-on methodologies. We have taken them on several field trips so they can see real-life applications of what to date have been only abstract ideas. These trips break down the isolation and forge bonds between other cultures whose work is based on sheep, wool, and weaving.
Program participants range from elders who speak only Navajo to youth who speak primarily English. Our program has been a bridge between generations, effecting whole families. The pastoralists and artists have been empowered to take control of their livelihoods, as demonstrated by the recent successful rug auction organized by the weavers and the individuals who have begun spinning and dyeing Navajo-Churro wool for sale to other community members.
|Conference||2005 National Extension Risk Management Education Conference|