Native American Culture/Sand Painting

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Question
Large Sand Painting
Large Sand Painting  

Small Sand Painting
Small Sand Painting  
These are pictures of two sand paintings that I have.  The small one is signed on the back by B. W. Benally. The following is also written on the back by the artist in ink:
This is a whirling rainbow.
The dancers are for healing and blessing
The dance that goes around it is
call the whirling rainbow.  May the
good spirit be with our painting.

The large sand painting also signed by B. W. Benally and written in ink on the back is:
These are the dancer for the healing and blessing, dancing around.

Both pictures were received in 1975.  No other history is known about them.  Do they have any value?

Answer
Quite a number of younger Navajo "haathaliis in training" (ceremonial singers) have been selling fixed sand practice sandpainting images on board or masonite since the late 1940s. Many of those who produce these are from four or five Navajo chapters near the four corners and near Shiprock, NM. These are critical to the training for specific ceremonial uses. IN a healing ceremony, many of which take several days, the singer will be required to create large size (some over 8 feet in diameter) sand paintings completely from memory. Each healing requires different images which must be produced using sand and pollen pigments, perfectly, by hand. During the end phases of each ceremonial step, the painting is gathered and tossed into the wind, to keep the power. Sandpaintings sold are not ceremonial items, but often incorporate carefully created practice images that are often made "incorrectly" to preserve the power in the image, as only those initiated fully into the Navajo spiritual religion should be allowed to see these images which recount the stories of the "Holy People" and others from their emergence stories. The only other culture that has a highly detailed ceremonial use of such sand images is the traditional Tibetan culture now restricted to Mandala forms. Your paintings would have sold between $65 and 195.00 in 1975. Hope this helps.

Native American Culture

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Richard Sutton

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As a direct reservation trader in all aspects of American Indian arts since 1985, I've answered questions regarding cultural property issues, origins of traditional crafts, materials and techniques, collecting, authenticity, symbols and, of course, repairs! We have operated a retail gallery since that time, bricks and mortar until 2007 and online since 1996. Our online operation closed in 2/2015, to allow me to finally write full-time. My writing site can be found at www.sailletales.com I'll be adding a book or two from our trader experiences under the pen name of W.T. Durand and the rest of my fiction is under my own name. We are not "New Age" practitioners of adopted American Indian religious ceremonies or combined philosophies. If you are seeking such knowledge for spiritual reasons, we will only provide answers that address factual information on these subjects. Unless one is raised in a traditional, American Indian family with language, culture and religious belief intact, we don't believe that simply applying the trappings or cultural property of a given traditional group will give a non-Indian (Native if you prefer)any insight other than the academic.

Experience

My primary focus is on Southwester American Indian Nations and their people, but I also have experience in Plains and Northeastern traditions, having engaged in active trade and retail since 1985 and study for most of my life. I am not claiming any expertise at all in the work, techniques, lifeways or crafts that are made by the Native People of Mexico. They are not the same, either linguistically or culturally but certainly their crafts deserve discussion and appraisal by those who are able to provide real information.

Publications
I was a guest on Fox Network "Lifestyles" program, during the 1990s, to discuss how to tell forgeries, and authenticating jewelry as Native American work. I have also written extensively for our website, www.kivatrading.com and our Ebay Store.

Education/Credentials
UofO, 1970 active in the Authentic American Indian Arts business and direct Trader since 1985. Graphic Designer and published novelist.

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