Native American artists hope to pass their tradition on to future generations

Dec 24, 2023, 10:29 PM | Updated: Dec 26, 2023, 6:15 am

CAMERON, Ariz. – Near the southern end of the Grand Canyon is a trading post where you can find the work of Native American artisans, and if you’re lucky, you might catch the artist working there, too.

Vivian Descheny is one of those artisans, and amidst the tourists and traders you can hear a sound that’s been heard for generations – rug weaving.

Vivian Descheny has been a rug weaver for 34 years, a tradition she hopes to pass along to her children and grandchildren. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

“My grandkids really love the thump of this pattern,” Descheny said as she worked on a rug that would take her a week or so to complete.

Descheny grew up listening to the sound of rug weaving, something her grandmother passed on to her when she was 14 years old.

“She told me you don’t need a university degree, all you need is your hands, your weaving, your thoughts and your prayer,” Descheny said.

Born in Salt Lake City, Descheny later moved to Arizona and is the only remaining Navajo rug weaver at the Cameron Trading Post.

“They’re all deceased, and they didn’t really teach their children or grandchildren,” Descheny said.  

Using 40 separate colors, Descheny weaves five patterns into one rug. Her pattern, known as the Burntwater weave, is one of a kind.

“All my rugs, they have a part of me,” Descheny said.

Known as the “Spiderwoman,” Descheny worries that the rug weaving tradition will not continue on with the next generations.

“These days, children are not really interested in learning the culture of weaving,” she said.

Others share same opinion

A sentiment shared by Jimmy Jensen, a Navajo silversmith at the trading post.

When he was 8 years old, Jensen discovered he could make jewelry.

“Anything that I can draw on a piece of paper without picking it up, I can make,” Jensen said. ”It’s just my hand and my trusty pliers.”

Jensen makes silver deer charms that tell the story of a 4,000-year-old talisman found in a cave near the Grand Canyon, it was originally created to help bring good luck and help his ancestors find food.

The tradition of making a silver deer was passed down by his grandfather and is one he hopes to continue.

Jimmy Jensen makes handmade jewelry, anywhere from silver hummingbirds, dragonflies, and friendship hands, to deer. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

“That’s why I share with my kids,” Jensen said. “My kids all make the same type of jewelry.”

It’s not just about creating a livelihood from their craft or even displaying their art, but for Jensen and Descheny, it’s about preserving these traditions.

“This is what we do,” Descheny said. “You got to pass it down. Our little family has to continue.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Andrew Adams

Sandy crews mow, weed to reduce potential fire hazards around the city

Crews worked to clear potential fire hazards by leveling fields within the city's limits on Wednesday.

9 hours ago

Police arresting the suspect in a double homicide in St. George on June 19, 2024....

Mary Culbertson

Suspected shooter admits to killing both her parents in Washington County home after arrest, police say

After an hourslong search for a suspected shooter, police took the shooter into custody where she confessed to killing her parents.

10 hours ago

Willie Mays was honored by the Salt Lake Bees on Juneteenth after his death Tuesday. (KSL TV)...

Brian Carlson

Salt Lake Bees remember Hall of Famer Willie Mays on Juneteenth

The Salt Lake Bees wore throwback jerseys of an all-African American team from 1906 in honor of player Willie Mays and Juneteenth.

12 hours ago

Protestors gather outside the House chambers during a legislative special session at the Utah State...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.com

Utah lawmakers vote to block federal protections for LGBTQ+ students under Title IX

Utah lawmakers convened in a special session on Juneteenth to declare the state's intent not to follow a federal rule providing anti-discrimination protections to transgender youth.

12 hours ago

Southbound traffic on I-215 being diverted northbound because of a box truck fire....

Michael Houck

I-215 southbound traffic halted after box truck fire

Southbound traffic on I-215 near 4700 South is being diverted northbound because of a box truck that caught fire Wednesday afternoon.

13 hours ago

Balloons at a Juneteenth celebration at Weber State University. (KSL TV)...

Shelby Lofton

‘I think people get scared because it’s talking about slavery’: Weber State students, staff pause to celebrate and honor Juneteenth

Weber State University students and staff gathered on campus to reflect and celebrate Juneteenth.

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Native American artists hope to pass their tradition on to future generations