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Gladys A. Reichard on kinship

In ``Spider Woman'' (1934) Gladys A. Reichard tells of a summer she spent learning Navajo weaving from three women on the Navajo Indian Reservation in White Sands, N.M. Reichard was one of the world's foremost authorities on the Navajos and a professor of anthropology at Barnard College. Here she describes her relationship to her teachers and their families. This adoption of kin-terms, as matter-of-fact to the family and to their Navajo friends as their ability at weaving or herding, has amusing as well as puzzling implications when whites are concerned. Marie is my younger sister, her husband Tom is my brother-in-law. Their two charming little boys are my sons. Atlnaba and Curley's-Son have the same relationship as Marie and Tom; and their intelligent capable Ninaba, I am proud to call my daughter. Ben Wilson's three little girls who tumble into my house over the high steps of its entrance are also my daughters. The terms for my children are not inconsistent. A woman and all her sisters are called by the same name, ``mother,'' and each one of the group calls her own children and the children of all the others ``child.'' So I, by getting three sisters, secure six delightful children. Marie and I talk over this. She knows enough of white people to realize how amusing the system is, but she is pleased about it, as are the others.

One day Atlnaba who has many pets underfoot in her own house, tells me of the pedigree of Nellie, the little white mother dog we saw on our first visit. She is the ``younger sister'' of the yellow dog that bites; she has a grandmother and numerous granchildren, also uncles and aunts. The application of kin-terms to the dogs and other animals is the height of whimsicality - and good practise for me in using kinship terms. I must talk Navajo to Atlnaba; we joke, and such jokes as these are in the range of my capacity and of the appreciation of us both.

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The weaving of the first blanket is now so far advanced that I am considering a pattern and colors for my next one. It is to be larger and more pretentious because it will have design. It is on my mind as I criticise this one from the vantage point of my trunk. My grandmother and sisters weave their patterns ``out of their heads,'' but they cannot be expected to weave one ``out of my head.'' So I sketch one with colored crayon in the intervals when I have no visitors, and after several attempts I am satisfied with it. I have drawn it in black, white, and red. But I have been much impressed with the combination of black, white, and green in the center of Atlnaba's sun-house blanket. I decide that, if we can get that shade in our dyeing, I will make the next one black, white, and green. This will allow me to get criticisms from my teachers and visitors at departing from the customary colors. From ``Spider Woman: A Story of Navajo Weavers and Chanters,'' by Gladys A. Reichard, published by The Rio Grande Press Inc., Glorieta, N.M.

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