Indigenous Grooves

Written by Mike Shoe2 Category: Arts Issue: November 2013
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The Navajo Code Talkers during World War II referred to a bomber plane as a “buzzard,” pronounced jay-sho in their language.

That’s just one bit of information to be gleaned from the book Arizona: Nationsand Art (Walnut Canyon Press) by Annica Benning, a student at Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University. Benning began the book when she was 13, journeying across Arizona taking photos of Native American people and their arts and crafts. The visually colorful and compelling book was designed to be approachable and educational, including lightly texted chapters on Navajo Code Talkers and “The Forgotten Hopi Code Talkers,” Navajo weaving and “The Making of a Blanket,” katsina dolls (traditional and contemporary), “Interesting Museums to Visit” across Arizona, and a recipe for Navajo fry bread. Since publication, more than 180,000 copies have been gifted – every   Arizona public school library and US Army library nationwide now has a copy. The book functions as both a cultural window and a tourism incentive, as Benning urges readers to “please come visit my beautiful state.”