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Dennis Hathale

(1961)
Roger Hathale, known as "the medicine man from Tes Nez lah," is the patriarch of a large family (he and Dinah had seven boys and six girls), but only two of his sons, Dennis and Bruce, are engaged in making sandpaintings on used bed sheets, called "muslins." Hathale is part of a long tradition: "father, grandfather, and I don't known how many others before me were medicine men," he proudly states.

Roger Hathale was born in 1918. He had four years of formal education in Shiprock and doesn't speak much English or give many interviews ... Hathale explained the creation of his art form as follows: "I was looking around for something my boys could do and felt that they could reproduce the sandpaintings I made for the ceremonies, as long as they were accurate. If others did this type of art they would be harmed, but I have the power to protect my boys."

Dennis Hathale was born in 1961 and attended boarding school in Blanding, Utah, for about ten years. He considers himself an apprentice medicine man. He prays that, "someday-sometime, I will carry on after my father, but since 1986 I have been making muslins."

Dennis and Lynda are more urbanized than the other members of the family. They live in a small, tucked-out-of-sight frame house in Farmington, New Mexico, where Dennis is employed on temporary jobs for construction companies.

From Dennis and Lynda, we [are able] obtain some additional information about the muslin-making process. The basic material is used bedsheets purchased from the Salvation Army, flea fairs, and the like. Lynda points out that "the more cotton in the sheeting, the better, because cotton absorbs our sand mixture. Unfortunately we have bought so many that good sheets are now hard to find ."

The sheets are cut to size and rolled in a home-made gesso mixture of earth and water. After a thorough soaking in this mixture, the sheets are hung on a line to dry, and the excess mud is scraped off.

Excerpted from The People Speak - Navajo Folk Art, Chuck and Jan Rosenak, Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, AZ, 1994