The workmanship of some of the traditional Navaho ornaments is matchless.
We stumbled upon Robert Charley in the Four Corners area of the United States in May. We traveled down a little dirt road at the point where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet on the Navaho Indian Reservation. It was a beautiful clear day which we were told was a rare thing in that area as they get a lot of dust storms. At the end of the narrow road, there were a few vendors set up with traditional Navaho art work and we spent a nice afternoon chatting with Navaho ornament artisan Robert Charley who has literally carved his own niche in the world of Native American ornaments with his arrow ornament designs.
Mr. Charley learned to make arrows from his grandfather who traded with other tribes to get the obsidian that he needed for the tips of the arrows. A process of flaking is used where the obsidian is hit at an acute angle and chipped away. The obsidian becomes even sharper than a metal blade. The native tribes in that area also used jasper, chalcedony, basalt and other hard minerals for the arrow tips which were struck with antlers, bones, wood or other rocks so that they were fractured into the shape and size needed for the arrow. Once the tip was shaped, it was carefully chipped or ground, and today Robert Charley actually dulls the obsidian for the ornament arrows because of the safety issue.
The Native American ornaments also have a spiritual significance to the Dine or Navaho culture. It is said that the hand painted arrows hung over the doorway of your home offer protection for your family and all who enter. Each ornament decoration has a different meaning with a lot of symbolism attached especially to color. An arrow with a black feather can mean male as well as night or darkness. Blue stands for female, sky or water. An ornament hand painted in green signifies earth or rain. Red represents sunset, and yellow is the symbol of day and sunshine. Dots painted on an ornament symbolize day and night. The four colors used to make the ornaments are also a symbol of protection from all four directions.
East – Black or Red South – Turquoise West – Yellow North – White
Robert Charley says that he can sell all of the arrow ornaments that he can make and he doesn’t have a web site. However, he did say that he welcomes calls to 970-739-2503 from individuals as well as stores that might have wholesale needs. You may also contact him by email at RobertCharley@ymail.com .
Article and images used with permission from Robert Charley