The landmark Navajo Village has officially changed hands but not their principles. Tomas Hunt, top world championship Hoop Dancer has just acquired the land, and with a humble vision, he hopes to preserve the lineage of traditions through education and dance.
The Navajo Village carried a world-class reputation for traditional dances and storytelling during the big boom of tourism in the Lake Powell area 15 years ago. It has seen better days and for the last couple years was in great need of repairs and upkeep. The former owner, Wally Brown, knew he had to decide on what to do with the property because he was getting older and knew the Village needed more that just upgrades, it needed a person who would carry on a legacy. So, when Hunt approached him with a new plan to preserve the Village, the Brown family and the Cummings family took the offer seriously. Two months later, Brown told Hunt the decision was made to let him take over the land.
“I feel good about it. Tomas is very business minded, motivated and has good ideas about how to make a better presentation to the public. So, there is no problem with me thinking what he’ll do will be anything less than what I would like to see happen.” said Brown. “I’m getting old and rickety and maybe someday when he is my age he will pass it along to somebody else who will keep it going. The main thing is to pass on the correct information about the Diné teachings. There has been a lot of things added [from movies] that are not part of the traditional Navajo ways, things that are too foreign. Navajo teachings and traditional ways are what have sustained us, and now we are drifting away. The people are embracing the western culture losing their heritage, their identity; things that are important to being Diné. When people lose their identity and language, they lose their heritage. We are trying to offer an option to keep the Diné teachings going.” Brown adds with absolute hope and confidence. Brown will continue to make speaking appearances at the Village.
Hoop dancing, flute playing and storytelling are the main staple attractions, but teaching weaving and spiritual beliefs are included on the tour. “We will also be consistently teaching Navajo hoop dancing. Eventually, I want to bring in different types of Navajo dances that won’t pervert the use of the dances outside the ceremonies and use it to teach the Navajo culture. With time we will.” says Hunt. The long-term plan will segue into a self-sustaining venue that supports a ‘Navajo owned and operated’ reputation, then perhaps a performance art theater or possibly a showcase for authentic Navajo artists. “There is definitely room to grow.”
Hunt has been inspired by the love for his people and, his wife, Kate whose support helped to pursue the investment.
He’d been dancing at the Navajo Village since he was in 5th grade and it is where he learned to hoop dance. This past year he was driving past it and saw the potential still hiding within. “It has not been the most dependable place lately, but, my wife Kate and I are working to change that.”
Hunt feels breaking down old stereotypes is vital to preserving the heritage and future of the Navajo Village.
Hunt’s new plan for the Navajo Village will not tear down or modernize the worn structures but repair and polish what is still standing to keep the authentic experience of a traditional village.
Repairs have already begun with techniques the ancestors used to build their family homes from materials off the land. Hunt estimates the cost will be minimal and with family members helping, the hard work will offset the cost.
Advertisement, signs and a website will consume the majority of the budget.
They will not be cooking on site but will incorporate food sales with friends from Into the Grand this summer.
Having the Navajo Village available as a place to teach and perform is essential to his projects at Yellow World Productions with partner Joseph Secody. Notably the Little Feathers tribe of hoop dancers, whom they’ve taught over the last few years, will now have a regular place to display their progress.
The Navajo Village will reopen their doors on April 2nd.
“We want to have an awesome and fun, educational and entertaining tour. I want people in Page to come in with a mindset of what they thought they knew so we can change their ideas.” invites Hunt. “We want to make Page the best Page it can be.”
For scheduling information and hours of operation questions visit navajovillage.com or call (928) 660-0304.