Brown wedding vase with applique horned toad design and fire clouds made by Betty Manygoats of Dineh
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Betty Manygoats, Dineh, Brown wedding vase with applique horned toad design and fire clouds
Betty Manygoats
Dineh
$ 695
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Brown wedding vase with applique horned toad design and fire clouds
7.75 in L by 9 in W by 14.75 in H
Condition: Excellent
Signature: BM
Date Created: 2022


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Betty Manygoats

Dineh (Navajo)
Betty Manygoats
Bowl made by Betty Manygoats
 

Betty Manygoats doesn't speak English. She has always led a simple life in the remote reaches of the Dineh Nation, so remote she was home-schooled by her father because it was just too far to get her to a school. At the age of twenty-five she learned how to make pitch pots from her maternal grandmother, Grace Barlow, and before long she was teaching Dineh pottery making at the Tuba City High School.

Her most important students have been her children and she still supervises their efforts and encourages them in the art. Breaking with Dineh tradition, her husband joins her in pottery making to help support their family.

Betty also went against Dineh teachings when she first put horned toads on her vases. Traditional Dineh believe it best to avoid the horned toad and that "messing" with him brings bad luck. Being a Christian, Betty doesn't pay much attention to traditional superstitions. Besides, she's become rather famous for the horned toads that decorate her pots.

Betty has taught several of her children to make pottery and counts Elizabeth Manygoats, Rose Williams and Louise Goodman among her well-known potting relatives. Over the years she has participated in shows at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, the Santo Domingo Arts and Crafts Show at Santo Domingo Pueblo and the Window Rock Arts and Crafts Show in Window Rock, Arizona.

The traditional Puebloan wedding vase with a top handle spanning two spouts is Betty's favorite piece to make (with plenty of horned toads decorating the surface, too), but she is not limited in her scope of imagination or abilities. She uses the widest range of motifs on her pottery of any current Dineh potter and she occasionally paints her figures to add more detail. She sometimes has up to ten pieces at a time spread out on her kitchen table, all hand coiled, decorated and waiting to be ground fired, then coated with pine pitch.

Betty has not always signed her pots, but when she has she usually signs with her initials: BM or BBM. On occasion, she has signed her work with her name printed in full, "BETTY MANYGOATS", as well as in cursive signature style, "Betty B Manygoats".

 

Dineh

A view in Monument Valley
A view in Monument Valley

The Dineh refers to themselves as "Dineh" because the word means "the People" in their language. "Navajo" is a name that was given to them by the early Spanish. Historical and archaeological evidence points to the Dineh people entering the Southwest around 1400 CE. Their oral history still contains stories of that migration as the journey began in eastern Alaska and northwestern Canada centuries after their ancestors made the journey across the Bering Land Bridge from central Asia about 10,000 years ago. They were primarily hunter-gatherers until they came into contact with the Pueblo peoples and learned the basics of survival in this drier climate. Dineh oral history points to a long relationship between the Dineh and the Puebloans as they learned from and traded with each other.

When the Spanish first arrived, the Dineh occupied much of the area between the San Francisco Peaks (in Arizona), Hesperus Mountain and Blanca Peak (in Colorado) and Mount Taylor (in New Mexico). Spanish records indicate they traded bison meat, hides and stone to the Puebloans in exchange for maize and woven cotton goods. It was the Spanish who brought sheep to the New World and the Dineh took to sheep-herding quickly with sheep becoming a form of currency and sign of wealth.

When the Americans arrived in 1846, things began to change. The first fifteen years were marked by broken treaties and increasing raids and animosities on both sides. Finally, Brigadier General James H. Carleton ordered Colonel Kit Carson to round up the Dineh and transport them to Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico for internment. Carson succeeded only by engaging in a scorched earth campaign in which his troops swept through Dineh country killing anyone carrying a weapon and destroying any crops, livestock and dwellings they found. Facing starvation and death, the last band of Dineh surrendered at Canyon de Chelly.

Carson's campaign then led straight into "the Long Walk" to Bosque Redondo, a 300-mile trek during which at least 10% of the people died along the way. At Bosque Redondo they discovered the government had not allocated an adequate supply of water, livestock, provisions or firewood to support the 4,000-5,000 people interned there. The Army also did little to protect them from raids by other tribes or by Anglo citizens. The failure was such that the Federal government and the Dineh negotiated a treaty that allowed the people to return to a reservation that was only a shadow of their former territory little more than a couple years after they had left. However, succeeding years have seen additions to the reservation until today it is the largest Native American Reservation in the 48 contiguous states.

Large deposits of uranium were discovered on the Navajo Nation after World War II but the mining that followed ignored basic environmental protection for the workers, waterways and land. The Dineh have made claims of high rates of cancer and lung disease from the environmental contamination but the Federal government has yet to offer comprehensive compensation.

As a semi-nomadic tribe, the Dineh never made much pottery, preferring to use baskets for most storage purposes. They did produce a small amount of pottery for ceremonial uses. Once they were settled on a reservation, pottery began to make more sense. From a beginning making simple wares for colonial estates they transformed their pottery into art. After 1950 Cow Springs brownware began to appear on the market. A trader named Bill Beaver was in Shonto back then, encouraging local potters to "make something different" and the market in the outside world responded positively to those different creations.

Rose Williams is considered the matriarch of modern Dineh pottery. She learned from Grace Barlow (her aunt) and passed her knowledge and experience on to her daughters and many others. Today, most Dineh pottery is heavy, thick-walled and coated with pine pitch (a sealer they also use on many of their baskets). Most Dineh pottery has little in the way of decoration but many pieces have a biyo' (a traditional decorative fillet) around the rim. Unlike Puebloan potters, Dineh potters do not grind up old pot sherds and use them for temper in creating new pottery. Their religion says those pot sherds are infused with the spirits of their ancestors and that forbids the reuse of the material. Similarly, Dineh religion limits Dineh potters to using primarily Dineh carpet designs in the decoration of their pots.

Dineh potters have also created a panoply of folk art, including unfired clay creations called "mud toys." Other Dineh potters, like Christine McHorse, have graduated into the mainstream of American Ceramic Art and easily compete among the finest ceramic artists on Earth.

Location map for the Navajo Nation

For more info:
at Wikipedia
at Wikipedia
official website

The Story of
the Wedding Vase

as told by Teresita Naranjo of Santa Clara Pueblo

Wedding vase by Helen Naha

Helen Naha
Hopi
Red wedding vase with sgraffito geometric design

Wilma Baca Tosa
Jemez Pueblo
Avanyu design carved into a black wedding vase

Margaret Tafoya
Santa Clara Pueblo

The Wedding Vase has been used for a long, long time in Indian Wedding Ceremonies.

After a period of courtship, when a boy and girl decide to get married, they cannot do so until certain customs have been observed. The boy must first call all his relatives together to tell them that he desires to be married to a certain girl. If the relatives agree, two or three of the oldest men are chosen to call on the parents of the girl. They pray according to Indian custom and the oldest man will tell the parents of the girl what their purpose is in visiting. The girl’s parents never give a definite answer at this time, but just say that they will let the boy’s family know their decision later.

About a week later, the girl calls a meeting of her relatives. The family then decides what answer should be given. If the answer is “no” that is the end of it. If the answer is “yes” then the oldest men in her family are delegated to go to the boy’s home, and to give the answer, and to tell the boy on what day he can come to receive his bride-to-be. The boy must also notify all of his relatives on what day the girl will receive him, so that they will be able to have gifts for the girl.

Now the boy must find a Godmother and Godfather. The Godmother immediately starts making the wedding vase so that it will be finished by the time the girl is to be received. The Godmother also takes some of the stones which have been designated as holy and dips them into water, to make it holy water. It is with this holy water that the vase is filled on the day of the reception.

The reception day finally comes and the Godmother and Godfather lead the procession of the boy’s relatives to the home of the girl. The groom is the last in line and must stand at the door of the bride’s home until the gifts his relatives have brought have been opened and received by the bride.

The bride and groom now kneel in the middle of the room with the groom’s relatives and the bride’s parents praying all around them. The bride then gives her squash blossom necklace to the groom’s oldest male relative, while the groom gives his necklace to the bride’s oldest male relative. After each man has prayed, the groom’s necklace is placed on the bride, and the bride’s is likewise placed on the groom.

After the exchange of squash blossom necklaces and prayers, the Godmother places the wedding vase in front of the bride and groom. The bride drinks out of one side of the wedding vase and the groom drinks from the other. Then, the vase is passed to all in the room, with the women all drinking from the bride’s side, and the men from the groom’s.

After the ritual drinking of the holy water and the prayers, the bride’s family feeds all the groom’s relatives and a date is set for the church wedding. The wedding vase is now put aside until after the church wedding.

Once the church wedding ceremony has occurred, the wedding vase is filled with any drink the family may wish. Once again, all the family drinks in the traditional manner, with women drinking from one side, and men the other. Having served its ceremonial purpose, the wedding vase is given to the young newlyweds as a good luck piece.

Rose Williams Family Tree

Dineh (Navajo)

Disclaimer: This "family tree" is a best effort on our part to determine who the potters are in this family and arrange them in a generational order. The general information available is questionable so we have tried to show each of these diagrams to living members of each family to get their input and approval, too. This diagram is subject to change should we get better info.

    Rose Williams (1915-2015), learned to make pottery from her aunt, Grace Barlow
    • Alice Cling (1946-)
      • Michelle Williams (c. 1970-)
    • Susie Williams Crank & Lorenzo Spencer
    • Sue Ann Williams (1956-)
      • Andrea Williams
    • Lorraine Williams-Yazzie (1955-)(daughter-in-law)
      • Stuart Roy (son-in-law)
    • Some of Rose's students:
    • Louise Goodman (1937-2015)
    • Silas Claw (1913-2002) & Bertha Claw (1926-)
    • Faye Tso (1933-2004)
    • Lorena Bartlett

    Betty (Barlow) Manygoats (learned to make pottery from her paternal grandmother, Grace Barlow)
    • Elizabeth Manygoats & Jonathan Chee
      • Larrisena Manygoats

Some of the above info is drawn from Navajo Folk Art, by Chuck and Jan Rosenak, © 2008, Rio Nuevo Publishers

Other info is derived from personal contacts with family members and through interminable searches of the Internet.