In the tradition of Navajo storytellers, Susan Hudson, also known as Traditional Woman, honors her ancestors and her past through her stories. In addition to her beautiful oral stories, she preserves the past through her ledger-style quilts.
Pictured on the cover of this week’s PREVIEW is Hudson with her “Stars Among the Shunkaa Wakan” quilt. This quilt was given its name by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who also signed the quilt. Campbell was instrumental in encouraging Hudson to pursue her quilting, asking her “What will you do to set yourself apart?”
Hudson took that question to heart and the result has been emotional, stunning and award-winning works of art.
Five of her show quilts are on display this summer at the Pagosa Springs History Museum. A sixth, “Tears of our Children, Tears for our Children,” was purchased by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in 2014.
“Stars Among the Shunkaa Wakan” records names of Hudson’s ancestors who were on the Long Walk of the Diné. It then works through the generations from her great-great-grandfather through to her own children and grandchildren. Also featured on the quilt are the names of people who have been inspirational in her life such as Campbell and Ruben H. Garcia, retired master sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps.
This quilt features an eight-point star and horses, which are nicely embellished. Each horse has a special meaning to Hudson.
“Stars Among the Shunkaa Wakan” has received awards from the Heard Museum Indian Market, Indian Arts and Craft Association, Museum of Man, Gallup Intertribal Ceremonies, Navajo Nation Fair, 100th Shiprock Navajo Fair and Eitelijorg Museum Indian Market and Festival.
In addition to honoring Hudson’s past and present, a common theme in her quilts is telling stories related to the military, including the Navajo Code Talkers, POWs and MIAs, and the Vietnam War. These quilts are provocative and will cause the viewer to pause and reflect on the impact of these events in our nation’s history.
The Pagosa Springs History Museum opens for the 2015 season on May 23. Hudson is scheduled to be at the museum from 10 a.m. until noon Saturday to speak with interested visitors about her quilts and the meanings of each of the quilts.
Pagosa Springs History Museum is located at the old town waterworks site at the corner of U.S. 160 and 1st Street.
The town offered this location to the San Juan Historical Society when it was first formed in 1970. About the same time, the Job Corps was being phased out and one of the buildings there was determined to be about the right size for the site. It was dismantled, cut into two pieces, relocated to the new site and reconstructed.
The rock building was constructed in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration and today houses a portion of the museum. It was constructed to cover the water wheel that pushed the water through the town’s system. The large, open-topped tanks behind the museum once served as settlement and holding tanks for the town’s water supply.
Volunteers have been working for more than three decades to collect and preserve the history of the area. The collection that has been amassed is varied and informative. Special exhibits depict life in early day Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County.
Students of Worthe Crouse will enjoy the welded art on display, including a self-portrait and an eagle with a fish in its claws. Crouse was one of the founding members of the historical society and instrumental in getting the building that houses the museum to its current location.
The museum collection also includes a one-room school featuring furnishings from the Blanco Basin School and the desk used by Ruby Sisson, a favorite teacher of many Archuleta County’s generations of students.
Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to see the quality exhibits at the museum.
The museum is located at the corner of U.S. 160 and 1st Street, next to the river. It is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. throughout the summer. No admission is charged, but donations are gratefully accepted to help offset the expenses of operating the museum.