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Patrick Scott--feather fans.

In 2003 The Navajo Nation Museum, Window Rock, Arizona, played host to an exhibition, Symbols of Faith and Belief, Art of the Native American Church. This exhibit was organized by the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When I visited the exhibit, I came away impressed with the contemporary pieces of Native American Church (NAC) ritual instruments mixed in with historical items.

Most notable in the exhibit were the feather fans. One contemporary artist, Patrick Scott, made a number of feather fans and gourd rattles that were featured in the exhibit. Out of both curiosity and admiration, I visited Patrick at his home in Tuba City, Arizona, located on the northwest side of the Navajo Nation, not far from Flagstaff, Arizona. Information gleaned from his website and my visit to his home revealed a commitment to both his native traditions and to his art.

Patrick was born in Tuba City, in 1966 to the Bitter Water Clan and born for the Many Goats Clan. He was raised in White Mesa, Arizona. From the third grade on he attended boarding school and ultimately graduated from Tuba City High School. He then graduated from Haskell Indian Jr. College in 1987 with an Associate Science degree in welding. It was at Haskell in Lawrence, Kansas, that Patrick met his wife Mary. He then went on to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and graduated with a degree in Business Management in 1995.

Patrick began his artwork in 1981 under the positive influence of an older brother. His mother was a weaver and he comes from a "very creative" family. His work is so accomplished and sought after that as of 1995 he has been a full-time artist.

Patrick makes feather fans for pow-wows, ceremonies, and Native American Church services. While eagle, hawk and other raptor feather fans are only allowed to be carried by Native Americans of federally recognized tribes, Patrick makes fans available to other non-native Americans made from goose, turkey, pheasant, parrot, and other legal feathers. He washes each feather carefully, using traditional Navajo herbs. His handles are finished in gourd, peyote, brick and straight stack stitch using mostly size 14 seed beads, and occasionally size 13 glass cut beads.

Daniel C. Swan, author of Peyote Religious Art, Symbols of Faith and Belief, observed this about Patrick:
 'Patrick Scott is an artist of considerable importance among Navajo
 Peyote artists and NAC artists in general. His work in both
 traditional and fine art genres. While best known for his amazing
 feather fans, Patrick is also an accomplished carver (in wood) and
 sculptor (in stone). In collaboration with his brother, Scott
 developed a unique set of designs for use in peyote or gourd stitch
 beadwork that incorporate border motifs from Navajo rugs and a
 color palette that emphasized natural tones on cream and off-white
 backgrounds. He prefers the "two-drop" technique of gourd stitch
 based on its ability to produce sharper angles and inclines in his
 designs. Patrick has often been an innovator in the composition of
 feathers and their associated embellishments into feather fans. I
 perceive him to have been a major figure in the evolution of a
 distinct Navajo style of featherwork in NAC fans. His work exhibits
 a brilliance in his innovative approaches in the use of thread work
 and trim feathers to create fans of unique interest and beauty.
 Scott's work benefits from an unbelievable aesthetic talent in his
 use of multiple layers of trim feathers in an "overlay and
 shingled" technique that is executed with tremendous precision and
 skill (Swan).'

During my visit to his home, Patrick graciously allowed me to photograph some of his fans from his family collection. Patrick also provided written narratives for each of the photos of his fans and their significance to his family.


In addition to fans, Patrick makes gourd rattles and sculpture. To promote his work he also sells T-shirts, key chains and magnets with clear images of this fan work. As Dan Swan wisely observes, Patrick "is an astute businessman, applying his formal education to market his works. He is perhaps the most accessible artist working in the traditional art forms of the Native American Church" (Swan). Please visit his website, it provides a visual feast of his most impressive work.


Scott, Patrick, Tuba City, Arizona, personal conversation, May 29, 2004.

Swan, Daniel C., Museum Director, C. H. Nash Archaeological Museum, Memphis, Tennessee, personal correspondence, November 30, 2004.

Written & Photographed by Peter Durkin

The Fans

Figure 1 (opposite page): This fan, made from Steller's Sea Eagle tail feathers, is a family fan. This fan stays at our home and is rarely taken out of the house. It has been taken to our family peyote meeting, and a beauty way ceremony for us. Other than that, it hardly goes anywhere. The feather work and the beadwork on the fan display the fire colors, which represent life. Fire represents life, and when we got married we were given our own lighter stick, and that represents our fire. So, that same thought went into this family fan. The horse tail at the bottom came from a horse that we use to herd sheep with. The horse has passed on, but we keep him alive the through this fan.


Figure 2 (opposite page): Scissor-tailed Flycatcher fan with feathers collected over 15 years from birds mostly common in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and down into Mexico. "This morning song fan was put together for the purpose of singing, and we use this fan to sing with in the early morning time in the peyote ceremonies. That is the time we sing the most complicated songs, the tunes that make you feel really good. When we sing with this fan, we think about the person who is sponsoring the ceremony, and we think good thoughts for them as we sing through this fan." Patrick uses bamboo sticks as extensions for the feathers, and twisted fringe is attached to the handle.


Figure 3: This fan is made from the feathers of the Birds of Paradise. They are similar to the magpies, but the iridescent colors on the fan are purple, with a little bit of ripple on the feathers. This is my wife's fan. Her favorite color is purple, so I designed the beadwork and the feather work all purple. The title on this fan is A Purple Sunrise. There is an elk on the beaded handle that represents the food, the shelter and the life that our ancestors lived.


Figure 4: These feathers are from a female Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo. These birds are native to Australia, but people in the United States have these birds for pets. "I got this set of tail feathers from a person in Florida. The design on the feather work is a Navajo basket design, with a sunrise in the background. The design was put together for the purpose of protection. There are many evil thoughts, bad thinking, and bad talking that come our way all the time, and this our protector." The design on the handle has a blue water bird, with peyote designs at the bottom.


Figure 5: Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo feathers, with oscillating Green Winged Macaw feathers in the center of the fan. The colors represent a sun burst and a really bright sunrise going out in different directions. This fan was put together for the purpose of running my business. In our Dine ways, it is taught that the good things come about in the early morning sunrise. That is the time to go running, to take your corn pollen out and pray, the time to go out and pray for the good things in life. I thought about the many things that my life is filled with, and my family is very fortunate to experience these many good thoughts with me. That is what we get out of the business that I have, and that is the purpose of putting this fan together. The beadwork is called the Comanche or brick stitch, and is made with cut beads that are all the same size. That is one of the most difficult things to do, to make a brick stitch out of cut beads. You have to sit there for hours, picking through your beads, making sure that they are all the same size.

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Author:Durkin, Peter
Publication:Whispering Wind
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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