The College of Arts and HumanitiesCenter for Creativity and the Arts in collaboration with the Department of Theater Arts present “The Shawl Project: Winyan Omnicha – Gathering of the Women.”

“The Shawl Project: Winyan Omnicha – Gathering of the Women” will bring women together over a six-week period. During this time, the women will be taught to make traditional Native American shawls. Shawls are often worn as part of women’s regalia at powwows.  Making shawls for powwows is an artistic and culturally charged endeavor.

The “Shawl Project” is intended to be more than learning to make a shawl, said Cindy Urrutia, director of the Center for Creativity and the Arts. “It will be a time of learning about different tribal histories, stories and culture from community Elders. In many Indian tribes and at gatherings such as ‘The Shawl Project,’ tribal history and culture are shared and passed down from one generation to another through conversation.”

Fresno State graduate student Jamie Boley, Choctaw, conceived “The Shawl Project” when the Center for Creativity and Arts announced the 2016-2017 theme, “Native Communities: Tradition and Innovation.” Boley wanted to share the tradition of shawl making with the Fresno State community. She has been an instrumental liaison between the Center for Creativity and the Arts, and Lakota elders in the Central Valley.

The Shawl Project will be led by Tulare residents and elders Corky Mills and Millie Richards Vela, pictured above. Mills and Vela will guide and teach women how to make shawls as they share stories and their knowledge. Mills and Vela bring a combined 160 winters (years) of knowledge and experience to the “The Shawl Project.”

Mills’ Lakota name is Winyan Ishnala – “Lone Woman.” She is from the Cheyenne River Eagle Butte Agency, Eagle Butte, S.D. She is a community leader and elder of 80 winters Ms. Mills is a descendant of Chiefs White Horse, White Swan, War Eagle and John Grass. She currently resides Tulare and is active with the Owens Valley Career Development Center of Visalia, a tribal organization that provides career education, family literacy, language and temporary assistance services in Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings Tulare and Mono counties.

Vela, whose Lakota name is Winyan Hunska – “Tall Woman” – is a member of the Oglala Tribe of Pine Ridge, S.D. Vela comes from a family of renowned quilters whose works are part of Smithsonian National Quilt Collection. Vela is an elder of 80 winters. She also currently resides Tulare and is active with the Owens Valley Career Development Center.

At the end of the Shawl Project, women will not only have completed a shawl, but will have learned about different tribal histories and cultures, self-respect, honor, integrity and role modeling with Native American peers. Participants of the “Shawl Project” will meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays between Feb. 24 to April 7 in the Theater Costume Shop, Speech Arts 185.  Participation is free and open to the public. Native American faculty, staff and students are highly encouraged to participate. Space is limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis. INFO: Email ccafresnostate@csufresno.edu.