By Shari Pierce
Special to The PREVIEW
Bring your goose bumps.
The Pagosa Springs History Museum has a treat in store for you.
This summer, the museum is featuring quilts by Navajo quilter Susan Hudson. These quilts are inspirational as they honor Hudson’s past and the past of her ancestors.
One of her quilts, “29 Warriors,” shares the story of the Navajo people as they were forced to go on the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo; they were forced to attend U.S. government boarding schools and some were beaten for speaking their native language.
Yet, when called upon by the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, these warriors responded.
From Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, 29 Navajo men became the original Navajo Code Talkers. They and the code talkers who followed them were instrumental in the United States’ war efforts in the South Pacific.
Hudson’s ledger-style quilt tells the story of these brave warriors, including the words of her grandfather, Joe Morris Sr., who was a code talker: “My weapon was my language.”
Graphic elements on the quilt also honor Hudson’s family and heritage. The center of the quilt is a star, with the colors honoring Diné College. Surrounding the star are horses running. Each horse has meaning and honors something in Hudson’s life. Sheepskin and woven blankets on the horses honor her family. A battlefield cross is made with moccasins replacing combat boots. Every element on the quilt has its own meaning and is part of a larger story.
A “show” quilt, as Hudson called it, “Stars Among the Shunkaa Wakan” 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 and stunning works of art.
“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, a retired Marine Corps master sergeant.
This quilt features an eight-point star and ponies, which are nicely embellished.
“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.
These are only two of the quilts by Hudson, who has also been named a tradition woman, which are on display at the Pagosa Springs History Museum. You’ll want to experience them all.
In addition to these very special quilts, the museum houses exhibits that share the early history of Pagosa Springs, from farming and ranching to logging and a general store. A look at the kitchen, the range and food chopper will make today’s cooks grateful for modern conveniences.
Stop in and see the hundreds of artifacts on display and enjoy the history of a small Colorado town.
Admission to the Pagosa Springs History Museum is free, although donations are gratefully accepted to offset the expenses of running the museum.
The Pagosa Springs History Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. through mid-September.
The museum is located at 96 Pagosa St. (the corner of U.S. 160 and 1st Street) on the east end of historic downtown Pagosa Springs.