Second Shift sandpainting program introduces students to native culture
Ryan Summerlin April 28, 2014
Mitchell Silas has been doing Navajo sandpainting since he was 7 years old, and has traveled the world over doing demonstrations.
Silas recently oversaw an eight-week Access Roaring Fork Second Shift after school program at Glenwood Springs Middle School.
The addition of glue and dyed craft sand is a bit of a departure from the rituals he watched medicine men perform when he was young, but that doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the craft.
“Maybe in the future these kids will learn a different way of doing it,” he said.
Navajo sandpainting, like similar practices in India, Tibet, China and Russia, is a dying art, Silas says. He bemoans the loss of many aspects of Native American culture and language, including many of the medicinal rituals that went with the sandpainting.
“When the missionaries came in they told us [our] ceremonies were evil, and we shouldn’t do them,” he explained.
Still, growing up near the town Aneth in the southeastern corner of Utah, Silas was able to witness the old rituals firsthand.
“When I first saw it when I was 6, I just loved it. It was like magic,” he recalled.