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 Red Point Miguelito  (c.1865 - 1936)

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Lived/Active: Arizona/New Mexico / Mexico      Known for: Navajo sandpainting designs, storyteller

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Biography from Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site:
Like most Navajo, Miguelito had many names. "Miguelito" is a Hispanic derived name that was given to him by Don Lorenzo Hubbell, and the one by which he was known by Anglos in the Ganado, Arizona area.  Miguelito, who narrated Navajo legends and made original paintings, was a Navajo chanter of great power in his own community, and was known and loved by many Anglo people.  During the last half of his life, he lived near Ganado, Arizona.  His mother's family lived in the region of Salaine, and he was born while the Navajo were at Fort Sumner, about 1865.  He belonged to the clan Place-where-he-comes-out.  Not much is known of his life until he came to Ganado where he married Maria Antonia of the Edge-of-the-Water clan about 1898.  

As a youth he was called Stooped One's Son, taking his name from his father.  When first married, he lived a short distance north of Ganado and later moved to a place still used by his children a mile south of the Hubbell Trading Post.  In his later years Miguelito was known as Red Point to the Navajo.  The family was kept together and enabled to eat because of the skill of the mother at weaving and because of the kindness of the trader, Don Lorenzo.  Miguelito's family worked for Mr. Schweizer, manager of Fred Harvey's Indian Department, performing weaving demonstrations at Albuquerque, and the San Francisco and San Diego Expositions of 1915.

Miguelito was interested in chanting and was a good singer.  During his life he mastered many ceremonial chants.  Miguelito followed out his precepts conscientiously, but as he was not brought up in an atmosphere of rigid conservatism, he was able to see that certain Navajo rules decreed in ancient times must naturally break down upon the impact of a culture like ours. Consequently he allowed himself to be persuaded by his Anglo friends, whose judgment he respected, to reproduce the patterns of the sandpaintings in permanent mediums.  Roman Hubbell, younger son of Don Lorenzo Hubbell, who realized the depth and power in Navajo religion, had always felt that unless someone did this, much that is best in Navajo belief would be lost as times changed and as young men became less interested in the religious lore.  Roman persuaded Miguelito that it was his duty to leave his knowledge available for future generations.

Miguelito's three understudies died or had failed to continue the exacting course required.  Miquelito had found it difficult to draw sandpaintings when there was no patient over whom to sing.  He also struggled with himself against the ruling that the sandpaintings should not be made permanent although there was precedent in the fact that the chanters from Chinlee had already painted some designs for Sam Day, Jr.  Miguelito overcame this difficulty in the fascination of working with brush and paper, but in breaking the taboo other problems arose when he began working at Albuquerque in 1924.  

Mr. Schweizer wanted him to draw all the paintings he knew in rapid succession day after day.  In even the most elaborate performance of a Navajo chant, except for the Night Chant, not more than four, or at most five paintings were made.  Consequently the fulfilment of this task was what the Navajo call "overdoing."  And there was still another tenet to be broken, the teaching that no singer should ever "give up all" he knows to anyone at one particular time. Something should always be held back.  One may return to it upon another occasion, or the novice may get it from another instructor.  When viewed from the Navajo point of view, it may readily be seen that the old man had many difficult decisions to make.

Miguelito's solution was the result of his essential honesty and rationalization. He was accepting a large fee for his compromise and should therefore deliver the goods.  He took a chance that, by prayer and purification, he could atone for the sin of breaking the rules; and however wildly the conflict raged, he nevertheless made the paintings and made them accurately, as well as the stories which go with them.

Miguelito's bravery and honesty was rewarded by his trust in the power of his faith, and the processes it prescribed to remove such harm as might ensue.  That which is most dangerous according to Navajo tenet is the unknown error.  Known and acknowledged mistakes can be removed by properly conducted ceremony.

At the time of his death in 1936, he was looking forward to a hunting trip to the Kaibab National Forest where he was to be taken by his friend, Roman Hubbell, to secure buckskin from deer ceremonially slain, that is, suffocated with pollen and not wounded.

REFERENCE:

Reichard, Gladys A.  [Navajo Medicine Man] Sandpaintings.  [1939]  New York: Dover Publications, Inc.  1977.


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