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(PHOTOS) Cheyenne Frontier Days Native American Village highlights traditional crafts

Mar 03, 2024

Rick Biuv from De Los Angeles Weaving weaves on an upright loom inside the Native American Village on July 27. (Photo by Stephanie Lam / Cap City News)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Native American Village at Cheyenne Frontier Days features a number of artisans eager to share their craft and culture with attendees.

From demonstrating traditional weaving techniques to exhibiting Horse hair pottery, the mostly out-of-state vendors are CFD regulars who look forward to spending their Julys in Cheyenne.

The village is located at the southeast corner of Frontier Park and will be open today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Inside the De Los Angeles Weaving booth, Rick Biuv stations himself at an upright loom and concentrates. He pulls soft and colorful strings of wool yarn in and out of the wooden contraption, repeating the process over and over until a pattern begins to form.

“When you start to weave you have to plan,” said Biuv, whose family runs the Yuma, Arizona–based weaving business. “You have to plan on it and follow the design as you go. It’s interesting.”

Biuv travels around various states, including Wyoming and nearby Montana, demonstrating the traditional loom and selling the De Los Angeles hand-woven mats. At CFD, visitors can catch Biuv making a geometric design with red, turquoise, yellow, blue and green yarns that are hand-spun and dyed by his mother. If the third-generation weaver works uninterrupted, it can take him roughly two days to finish a 2-foot by 6-foot mat.

“It’s meditative, too,” he said. “I like to weave because my father used to weave and I followed him when I was a child. We all like to weave.”

Velma Wilson loves turquoise. She loves the way the stone feels, what it symbolizes and how stunning it looks on bracelets and rings.

“In Navajo, turquoise is a sacred stone, it’s for prosperity; that’s why we use a lot of it,” she said. “I like the stone, I gravitate towards it.”

Wilson is the owner of Turquoise Trail, a small, Arizona-based family business that makes turquoise jewelry, including rings, bracelets and necklaces. The stones are harvested from Kingman Turquoise Mines, one of the last few remaining turquoise mines in the country. Hailing from The Gap in Coconino County, the Wilson family has been selling their products at CFD for 23 years.

Wilson said the popularity of her jewelry differs depending on where she goes. In Sedona, Arizona, for example, customers like the tiny and dainty rings. Those from Cheyenne, however, like the bigger and flashier ones.

“When I go to Cheyenne I sell a lot of rings,” she said, “so I focus on making those and put myself in that mood to do rings.”

Jewelry-making has been a lifelong hobby for the owner. As a young girl, Wilson would spend her summers with her grandmother perfecting the craft. Wilson continued doing it into her adult years as a side job. Eventually, she decided to quit her job as an accountant and run the business full time.

“When I wake up early in the morning, I’ll work on it, it’s my time,” she said. “I enjoy it. … It pays off, coming to these big shows.”

Lined up neatly along the tables of Bancroft’s Native Jewelry booth are pale pieces of pottery intricately designed with curly black lines. The lines aren’t made from paint or clay, however, but from strands of horse hair.

Horsehair pottery is a traditional Navajo art form, said Juanita Bancroft, owner of the Arizona-based jewelry business. Bancroft makes homemade items — including the pottery, beaded artifacts, sterling silver jewelry, heishi shells, hematite accessories and Navajo rugs — at her home in Tuba City. This is her fifth time selling her products and setting up a booth in the CFD Native American Village.

The white clay pieces are first molded by Bancroft into various designs including vases, canoes, horse heads and turtles. She fires the clay in a kiln for three hours at a high temperature before pulling them out. Then, with a careful hand, she places 8–10 strands of hair around the pottery.

“Once the hair gets on the pottery it starts melting and makes its own pattern,” she said. “There’s no two alike; each one is different.”

Horses are sacred creatures in Navajo culture, Bancroft said, and this type of pottery can’t be made with other animal hairs like cat or dog. It’s a fact she likes to share with curious customers who come into her booth. Bancroft, who used to be a former teacher at a Head Start program in Tuba City, said she enjoys educating others about Navajo culture.

“After I retired, I wanted to do something different and teach the people about our culture,” she said. “That’s what I do right now.”

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