Christine McHorse

Navajo
Christine McHorse, Navajo potter
 

Christine Nofchissey was born in December, 1948, and grew up mostly in the Clifton-Morenci area of Arizona. Her father was a heavy equipment operator in the open pit copper mines there. Proud to be 100% Navajo, she spent most of her early summers herding sheep with her grandmother near Ganado on the Navajo Nation. She graduated from Santa Fe's Institute of American Indian Arts in 1968 and three years later, married Joel McHorse, a silversmith from Taos Pueblo (Joel's father was an Irish-Texan cowboy, hence the name).

Christine says she learned most of her pottery making techniques from Joel's grandmother, Lena Archuleta. Typical Taos pottery is simple and elegant with few decorative elements beyond the surface of micaceous clay. The tiny flecks of mica infuse the clay and act as temper when the clay is fired. When she does add design, her designs are drawn from the rich pantheon of Navajo tradition.

Christine grew up Navajo, then married into Taos Pueblo and now lives among Anglos in Santa Fe. She feels that none of the three cultures has much influence over how she works: she creates whatever she feels the clay suggesting that she create. The freedom of expression that comes with that extends even to the process whereby she fires her pots. Some pots are fired the Navajo way, in a pit outdoors, then coated in pinon pitch. Others are fired indoors in a kiln. Still others are fired in a kiln, then refired outdoors to produce the interaction between fire and pinon pitch that she feels the fire clouds on a particular piece demand. Always, she approaches her art with the depth of Navajo spirituality and Earth-connection infused in her during those long summers spent on the Navajo Reservation with her grandmother.

Christine's resume lists pages of honors and awards she's won and exhibitions she's participated in over the years, beginning with her first submission to the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market in 1984. She earned at least one blue ribbon almost every year she went to the Santa Fe Market. In 1992 she went to Santa Fe with only 2 pots, entered them in 2 different categories, earned 2 blue ribbons, returned to her booth and a waiting line of would-be buyers, and was headed back home by mid-morning of the first day, sold out.

She doesn't participate in Indian Market any more, she's graduated to the world stage and is shown in exhibitions and galleries from Santa Fe to New York to Canada and Germany. As she has said, "The ribbons and things are just bonuses. What I like is the opportunity to work without restraint."

While Christine may not participate in Santa Fe's Indian Market any more, she has participated for several years now in the "Best of the Best Show" at Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery, a show which opens just before Indian Market officially begins.


100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - www.andreafisherpottery.com - All Rights Reserved

 
 

Navajo Nation

A view in Monument Valley
A view in Monument Valley

Historical and archaeological evidence points to the Navajo people entering the Southwest around 1400 AD. 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. Navajo oral history points to a long relationship between the Navajo and the Puebloans as they learned from and traded with each other.

When the Spanish first arrived, the Navajo 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 the Navajo 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 Navajo 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 Navajo 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 Navajo country killing anyone carrying a weapon and destroying any crops, livestock and dwellings they found. Facing starvation and death, the last band of Navajo 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 the Navajo from raids by other tribes or by Anglo citizens. The failure was such that the Federal government and the Navajo 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 Navajo 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 Navajo 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. 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 Navajo pottery. She learned from Grace Barlow (her aunt) and passed her knowledge and experience on to her daughters and many others. Today, most Navajo pottery is heavy, thick-walled and coated with pine pitch (a sealer they also use on many of their baskets). Most Navajo pottery has little in the way of decoration but many pieces have a biyo' (a traditional decorative fillet) around the rim. Unlike Puebloan potters Navajo potters do not grind up old pot shards and use them for temper in creating new pottery. Their religion says those pot shards are filled with the spirits of their ancestors and forbids the reuse of the material. Similarly, Navajo religion limits Navajo potters to using primarily Navajo carpet designs in the decoration of their pots.

Navajo potters have also created a panoply of folk art, including unfired clay creations called "mud toys." Other Navajo 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


100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - www.andreafisherpottery.com - All Rights Reserved

 
Goldenmicaceousweddingvase, Click or tap to see a larger version
See a larger version


Christine McHorse, Navajo, Goldenmicaceousweddingvase
Christine McHorse
Navajo
$ 2900
rwnv0k143
Golden micaceous wedding vase
12 in H by 8 1/4 in Dia
Condition: Excellent
Signature: C McHorse


100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - www.andreafisherpottery.com - All Rights Reserved

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.


100 West San Francisco Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
(505) 986-1234 - www.andreafisherpottery.com - All Rights Reserved