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April 20th: A Message from the Director

A Message from the Director, 4-20-2020

I received many positive responses to my message last week and it was great hearing from so many of you. I am looking forward to when we can be together in person again. Today, I thought I would take you down south into southern Mexico and share another extraordinary experience with you. It was 2008 and I took eight members from the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture/ Laboratory of Anthropology to Chiapas, Mexico for a “Maya Arts, Archaeology, and Day of the Dead” tour. This was my second visit to Chiapas during the Day of the Dead celebrations with Traditions Mexico, a tour guide company out of Oaxaca.

We flew into Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico and visited the La Venta Museum and Park, which showcases several spectacular Olmec stone heads and pre-Hispanic stone sculptures. The park is also full of tropical flora and the zoo has several animals including beautiful macaws, jaguars and boa constrictors. We then went to Palenque, the ancestral home of the Mayan people living in the area today. There we explored the monumental palaces and temples, and, also saw Howler monkeys. From there we traveled into the Lacandon jungle to visit the ruin of Bonampak that still has colorful frescoes inside the temples. After visiting some of the Indigenous Lancandon traditional craftspeople we spent the night at a small lodge along the Usumacinta River, which runs between Chiapas and Guatemala. The next morning, we boarded a boat that took us to Yaxchilan, a beautiful ruin perched strategically above a horseshoe bend in the river.

Now it was time to head into the pine-clad highlands and our stay at San Cristobal de las Casa which would serve as our home base for the next four days. We met Walter “Chip” Morris who had lived in Chiapas since 1972 and served as our local guide. We visited local artisan markets and weaving co-ops and watched as the Day of the Dead activities started to take place. We visited the Mayan village of Chamula where we witnessed a fusion of Catholicism with Classic Mayan ceremonies. We visited the cross-clad hilltop Chamula cemetery of Romerio, where we were greeted by a festival with thousands of highland Maya wearing beautiful, colorful clothing, live bands, food and general pandemonium as they celebrated the dead.

The next day, we visited Zinacantan, a markedly different Mayan village on a misty mountain top, where the graveyard tombs were decorated with millions of flowers and attended by somber family members dressed in their finest blue green floral embroidery work. After going through the cemetery, we visited a household of weavers and ate lunch in their smoke-filled kitchen. Afterwards, we visited the San Lorenzo church where we saw a group of men representing the religious hierarchy, or cargo system. They were just finishing one of their rituals that involved the changing of the jewelry on the saints. These four men were dressed in the type of clothing signifying that they were the top-ranking members of the cargo system for that year. As they left the church, they invited us to follow them to one of the homes. The responsibility and care of the religious ornaments and materials are transferred each year to a high-ranking individual within the cargo system and these items are kept in room specified for this purpose at their homes. We entered a large room and chairs were place along the wall on the opposite side of the room for us to sit on. We witnessed the ritual of purifying the jewelry with prayers, songs and the smoke of copal incense. We were given fresh tortillas and a drink called “poche” while Chip talked to the group of men in their Tzotzil Mayan language. We could tell that they were transfixed by what he was telling them It wasn’t until we were walking back to the ce

Tuesday, April 21, 2020/Author: Tapley-Booth, Julie/Number of views (2909)/Comments (0)/
Categories: CSWS BlogNews

SJBAS Spring 2020 Intern

Amanda Vodicka

Amanda Vodicka was the Spring 2020 John Sanders Internship recipient provided by the San Juan Basin Archaeological Society. Please read more about her here:

Amanda Vodicka is an anthropology major at Fort Lewis College who is graduating in Spring 2020. She is a Dean's List student and has received the John Ives and Gabe Doegler anthropology scholarship awards. She was a work-study librarian at the Delaney Library at the Center of Southwest Studies her freshman year, and this past spring she received funding from the San Juan Basin Archaeological Society for an archaeology based internship with the Center's museum collections. Throughout the semester she worked with staff and other interns on inventorying the collections and began cataloging the Brougher Site objects from accession 2007:035. The remainder of the internship is being completed online with additional training and group discussions. In the future, Amanda plans on moving to the Pacific Northwest and enrolling in a graduate program for leadership and sustainability with plans of coordinating educational programs at a museum.

Thursday, April 16, 2020/Author: Tapley-Booth, Julie/Number of views (3148)/Comments (0)/
Categories: CSWS BlogNews

April 13th: A Message from the Director

Director's Message: 4/13/20

Like many of you who are staying at home during this pandemic, I am catching up on home projects that never seem to get done. This week I went through my collection of textiles to make sure there were no signs of pest (mostly moth) damage. If you have Navajo or other handwoven wool textiles in your collection this is something you want to do on a regular basis. As I was going through my cedar chest, I came across a small weaving that I had made years ago that brought back memories of one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had. The storyteller that I am, I would like to share this with you today.

It was the summer of 2001 and I was the Curator of Native American and Non-Western Art at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I traveled out to the Navajo Reservation to take a five-day weaving class from a young woman by the name of Valencia. There were five women from a weaving guild in California, and me, in the class. I was the only one who had never done any weaving before, so needless to say I had quite a lot to learn. We were provided with a small upright loom, yarn and traditional weaving tools. We set our looms up under a large ramada next to the hogan and were given instructions on how to do the tapestry weave. We were free to create whatever design we wanted. While the other students started weaving beautiful colorful designs, I decided to keep mine simple and do a burgundy pine tree on a gray background. After a while I started getting the hang of it. While teaching us traditional Navajo weaving techniques, Valencia shared a lot of information about Navajo culture and language.

On the afternoon of our fourth day an elderly Navajo woman and her young granddaughter pulled up in an old pickup truck. She talked with Valencia and her sister for quite a while and then she came over to me and asked me in Navajo what I was weaving. Her granddaughter translated for us. I told her I was weaving a pine tree and she asked me why? I told her that the tree represented my clan from Ireland. My ancestors were called Woods and so the pine tree was representative of my clan. She nodded her head up and down and then gave me a big smile. Later that afternoon Valencia told us she and her sister were supposed to have a Beauty Way Ceremony the week before, but it had been postponed. The woman who had come that afternoon was the medicine woman who was going to do the ceremony and she decided that it was going to start that night. We were told that we wouldn’t be able to sleep in the hogan that night because the ceremony was going to be held there. We were going to have to sleep in our cars. We were also invited to join in the ceremony that evening, which would go until about midnight. I was the only one from our class to attend. There was no way I was passing up an opportunity to observe a Beauty Way Ceremony. We were also told that if we wanted our weaving tools to be blessed by the medicine woman that we could leave them in the hogan that night.

The next day we all worked on finishing up our weavings. This was the last day of our class and we would all be heading home the next day. Throughout the day Valencia and her sister were busy preparing for the all night ceremony. At one point that afternoon Valencia approached me and said that the medicine woman specifically asked that I participate in the ceremony that night. I was deeply honored and immediately accepted the invitation. I finished my weaving, packed my car, and went into the kitchen to help prepare the food for both the students’ dinner and for the ceremony.

When the medicine woman and the singers arrived Valencia’s aunt and I spread out the bowls of food on a cloth on the floor in the middle of the hogan. The first to eat was the medicine woman and she requested that I serve her. Again, I was surprised and honored. Even though I didn&

Monday, April 13, 2020/Author: Tapley-Booth, Julie/Number of views (2685)/Comments (0)/
Categories: CSWS BlogNews

April 6th: A Message from the Director

A Message from the Director: 4-6-2020

It is warming up outside and Spring is in the air. As we continue to stay at home teleworking, educating our children, and caring for our loved ones I hope you are able to spend a little time outside enjoying the warmth of the sun. As I work from my home computer and look out the window I have seen three Stellar’s Blue Jays hanging out in a Ponderosa Pine, Robins hunting for worms, and my first Western Bluebird. As I walk around my garden, I see tulips and daffodils starting to come up. These are all signs that Spring has arrived. As I reflect on the beauty that Mother Nature brings to us every day, I send my heartfelt blessings on the wind to all who are struggling during this difficult time.

Like so many of you, I am getting “Cabin Fever” and look forward to the time when we can all be together again. It may be a while yet before we can celebrate the wonderful new PIVOT exhibit and the exciting public programs we have planned for the summer. In the meantime, I hope you are staying safe and well. I look forward to seeing you soon!


Shelby J. Tisdale. Ph.D.


Monday, April 6, 2020/Author: Tapley-Booth, Julie/Number of views (3205)/Comments (0)/
Categories: CSWS BlogNews
Tags: spring

March 30th: A Message from the Director

A Message from the Director: March 30, 2020

The last couple of weeks have been challenging for all of us, individually and collectively. In many ways, being apart has highlighted how important it is to come together. Fort Lewis College students are starting their online classes today and our interns are continuing to work on their projects for the Center of Southwest Studies remotely. During this time of social and physical distancing I miss our students and their discussions about classes, family and life, as they work on projects in the museum workroom and run up and down the elevator with collection items as they work with Liz and Amy. I miss seeing them huddled behind archives boxes as they work on projects for Nik and Gretchen. I miss seeing them behind the library desk or in the book stacks as they serve library patrons or work on the book inventory for Clyde. My staff and I are here for them and will do whatever we can to ensure that they successfully complete this semester.

We are fortunate to live in a caring and giving community here is the southwest corner of Colorado. I want to take a moment to thank those on the frontlines at FLC and in the community who are working to protect us and to keep us all safe. This includes our first responders and medical professionals who are working to save lives during these extraordinary times. The FLC essential employees who are assisting those students who are remaining on campus. I also want to thank those working in our local grocery stores who are keeping the shelves stocked, the restaurants who are providing carry out and delivery services, and those who are feeding our school kids and the needy in our community. I send a BIG THANKS to all of you as we work through this crisis together.

To all, stay safe and stay well!

Shelby J. Tisdale, Ph.D.


Monday, March 30, 2020/Author: Tapley-Booth, Julie/Number of views (2030)/Comments (0)/
Categories: CSWS BlogNews

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