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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Inspirations from the Forest

Native American Traditions

Tradition, and the value of passing ideas and objects from one generation to the next, are especially important in Native American culture.

Leona and Marvin Pooyouma are members of the Hopi tribe in Arizona. Leona is an accomplished wicker basket weaver who uses native plants and bushes found on the Hopi reservation. Marvin is skilled in the art of textile weaving, which he learned from his grandfather and is passing down to his sons. The Pooyoumas' art underscores the importance of both family and tribal traditions.

"A lot of the designs are traditional," Leona explains. "There's a design that my mother was really good at, and she passed it on to me. It's called a whirlwind design, because it's going back and forth. It reflects daily life and what's all around us—winds of the changing seasons."

According to Marvin, "Not many of our younger generation have picked up the skills to continue this tradition of weaving." But some people are learning on a one-to-one basis from a relative or friend, and schools on the reservation are offering classes. "I hope that continues so the Hopi weaving stays alive."

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