Sahmie, Ida – “Night Chant” Eight Figure Tile
This is an amazingly complex tile by Ida Sahmie. It is the Night Chant Dance with eight male Yei-bi-chi dancers in a row. The background area is fully painted with bee-weed (a plant) to make it black. In the background there are stars. Ida also incises into the clay for the faces and the bodies, leather, and masks. She is a daughter-in-law of Priscilla Nampeyo and Ida continues to make beautifully formed pottery with wonderfully complex designs. She has won numerous awards for her pottery at events such as Santa Fe Indian Market. She is the only Navajo potter creating this unique style of ethnographic pottery. It is signed on the bottom in the clay, “Ida Sahmie”. It is traditionally fired and painted with natural clay slips and bee-weed (the black).
“Yei bichei (Yébîchai), or “maternal grandfather of the yei”, is another name of Talking God who often speaks on behalf of the other Holy People. (He, along with Growling God, Black God, and Water Sprinkler, were the first four Holy People encountered by the Navajo.) He is invoked (along with eight other male yei) in the “Night Chant” or “Nightway” sometimes simply called “Yei bichei,” a nine-night ceremony in which masked dancers personify the gods.”