Native American Culture/art question

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Question
what am i?
what am i?  
I've been finding pieces like this all over my are (northern Illinois) and was just wondering what exactly they are. Thank you

Answer
These are small, detail portions of larger sand paintings, created by Navajo artists -- often healers in training -- for sale. They use finely ground sand and pollen pigments to illustrate images containing mythic figures from the stories of the Creation and others in the Navajo religion. They are usually intentionally altered so as not to depict any of the "Holy People" or power symbols accurately when used for sale.

Sandpainting is an integral part of Navajo spiritual and physical healing practice. It has been used for thousands of years and is still central to elaborate ceremonies that require many days to conduct properly. A healer draws a very large specific image on the ground using the natural colored pigments, completely from memory. It is meticulous, composed of very fine lines that are created strictly using the hands. No reference images are allowed to be present, and often a ceremony will require more than one large -- five to eight foot image, upon which the patient is placed during the ceremony. At the conclusion of each section, the painting is destroyed and gathered often tossed into the wind in specific directions. The images serve to focus the power of healing summoned by the ceremony, to the patient. The images must be learned through practice under the eye of a mentor healer, so young healers in training often make these small image sections to strengthen their memory and their skill. They will practice until they can produce the exact, perfectly rendered images. Most concentrate on one or two ceremonies. These practice images grew from the appreciation of non-Navajo people for the artistic quality of this very sacred art form. The sale of "fixed" versions on board is a relatively new art medium, having been first done in the 1970s in the area near the Shiprock Chapter on the reservation in New Mexico. Now they are done in many communities by many artists and sometimes referred to as "sand art".

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Richard Sutton

Expertise

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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