In the tradition of Navajo storytellers, Susan Hudson, also given the name of 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.
‘Stars Among the Shunkaa Wakan’
Susan Hudson is shown with her “Stars Among the Shunkaa Wakan” quilt. This quilt was given its name by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who also signed the quilt. Campbell was instrumental in encouraging Susan to pursue her quilting, asking her “What will you do to set yourself apart?”
She took that question to heart and the result has been emotional and stunning works of art.
Five of her show quilts are on display this summer at the Pagosa Springs History Museum. The 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 Susan’s ancestors who were on the Long Walk of the Diné. It then works through the generations of 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 Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Ruben H. Garcia, retired Master Sergeant USMC.
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.
Nii’ Da’ Ba’ Hii Ba’ Hane’ translates to “Warrior Story.”
This quilt was begun in November 2014 and completed in March 2015.
The first showing of “Warrior Story” was at Phoenix’s Heard Museum Indian Fair and Market in March where it was awarded first place in the textiles category.
Navajo quilter Susan Hudson creates her quilts to honor, “all of our grandmothers who were sent to the boarding schools.”
Most recently, Hudson was awarded the Best of Show prize at the 23rd annual Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival in Indianapolis for her “Warrior Story” quilt. This show was held in June of 2015.
The idea for this quilt came to Hudson in a dream and she translated it to fabric.
She says, “This comes from my heart. This comes from my dreams. This comes from the Great Spirit. This comes from my spirit helpers and mostly my ancestors, all of those brave, brave women.”
“Warrior Story” represents the history of her people from 1492.
The wall in the quilt is based on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Some of the names depicted on the wall in the quilt are Susan’s ancestors.
Sets of figures on the quilt tell stories of the people in the present meeting people in the past.
One set of figures shows a veteran who was wounded in the war and lost his legs. The blanket draped on his legs is representative of the flags that drape the coffins of our fallen soldiers. The wheels on the wheelchair of this veteran are peace symbols. This veteran is saluting his comrade who was killed in the war. The emblem on the veteran’s hat is from American Horse’s Top Hat, which is at the Red Cloud Indian School.
Another figure represents anyone that can relate to the quilt. The figure only has one leg. It represents that our soldiers came home missing something in them. Whether it was a limb, pieces of their heart or pieces of their spirit. It is to open up a conversation and maybe to help them start the healing, to cry or to realize they are not alone.
Click this link to view the Eiteljorg Museum’s video of Susan talking about this quilt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lZo0oH-pS8&feature=youtu.be.
This quilt is on display here in Pagosa Springs at the Pagosa Springs History Museum. It is part of a special display of five of Hudson’s quilts. Each quilt tells a remarkable story and they are emotionally moving.
‘Tears Of Our Children, Tears For Our Children’
Susan creates a stunning quilt, which tells a chapter in the lives of her people. This quilt was purchased by the Smithsonian and will be displayed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. You can enjoy a video of Susan describing the meaning of this quilt by click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEDLOaDKyzI.