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Scout project aids Navajo weavers

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Eagle Scout Steven Ethington receives a gift from actor Jay Tavare. They are joined by Patrina Toya, left, Diana Toya and<BR>   Richelle Begay in front of a loom from Ethington's Eagle project.

Eagle Scout Steven Ethington receives a gift from actor Jay Tavare. They are joined by Patrina Toya, left, Diana Toya and
Richelle Begay in front of a loom from Ethington’s Eagle project.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

It wasn't long ago that Patrina Toya, 12, and her sister Diana, 9, learned to weave.

The Navajo girls learned the ancient art from their mother and grandmother, who live on the Navajo reservation. Weaving is not only a tradition but a way of life. Both say they enjoy it.

"(I like) that you get to choose your own colors and you can make up your own designs," Patrina said, while Diana added that she likes choosing what to weave.

Weaving just got a little easier for the two, thanks to an Eagle Scout project done by a Cottonwood Heights Scout.

Steve Ethington, 13, of Troop 115, was searching for a project to do for his Eagle award. His father, Carl Ethington, was acquainted with Mary Phillips, who works with the Adopt-a-Native Elder Program, which provides supplies to help support Navajo elders living a traditional lifestyle on the reservation. Phillips told Ethington about the Children's Weaving Program and how ANE was in need of child-size looms so the elders could pass this important art on to their grandchildren.

Once his father told him about it, Steve decided he wanted to take the project on.

He started fund-raising to get enough money to make three looms. At a cost of about $50 per loom, Steve hoped to raise $200 to complete his project.

However, when neighbors and friends heard what he was doing, they were thrilled, and donations came pouring in. Instead of raising $200, Steve raised $820. He decided to up his project to make 10 looms instead — and got the nine members of his Scout troop involved.

"We had to buy enough wood for one loom to see what we could do with it," he said. "We got my Scout troop together to buy enough for the rest and put them together."

With a design recommended to them by a friend of Phillips, Steve and his father put the first loom together. On Nov. 9, they presented it to the ANE Program during their 17th Annual Navajo Rug Show and Sale in Park City, surrounded by native elders and children, including Patrina and Diana.

"He's provided a real service to the community and learned to orchestrate it," Ethington said. "He's seen the bigger picture of what the need is."

Also on hand to attend the rug show and congratulate Steve on his donation was Native American actor Jay Tavare, who adopted an elder through ANE in 2003. Tavare presented Steve with a children's rug, made by youths in the Children's Weaving Program. He has starred in movies such as "The Missing" and "Cold Mountain."

Both Patrina and Diana felt that receiving the looms was helpful.

"It will be good for the elders," Diana said, and Patrina added, "It will keep the tradition alive for weaving."

Steve now must coordinate with the members of his Scout troop to build the remaining nine looms. Carl Ethington figures it will take from 45 minutes to an hour per loom. Because he raised so much in donations and it wasn't as expensive as he thought to build each loom, Steve will also donate $200 to the Children's Weaving Program to purchase yarn and other supplies.

His reasons for doing the project were simple.

"I just thought it would be a great thing to do for other people," he said.

For more information about the Adopt-A-Native Elder or Children's Weaving programs, visit www.anelder.org.

E-mail: twalquist@desnews.com