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September 19, 2021 1 min read

Traditions only die if we let them, and there is something to be said for the artisans who are committed to keeping them alive. Dave Chavarria is one of them, taking the time to learn the traditional way of crafting these beautifully beaded medicine bags and bringing them into the realm of contemporary collectibility.

Dave Chavarria is a beading and flint knapping artist from the Pueblo of Santa Clara, New Mexico.

As a young boy, Dave would hunt arrowheads outside his family home in Santa Clara. He always wanted to learn how to make them, but no one in the village knew how — it was, in many ways, a lost art in his community.

Years later, Dave struck up a conversation with someone at work while waiting in line in the cafeteria one day. The conversation evolved to the two men talking about flint knapping, which eventually led to Dave finally learning the craft.

Today, Dave hand carves knives out of mahogany, obsidian, and other materials found in the southwest near Santa Clara. He also creates deerskin sheaths and pouches with intricately beaded designs.

The smaller pouches (neck pouches) can take up to 6 hours each to make, and they are traditionally used to carry tobacco, medicine, or items used for protection. The larger pouches are called Strike-a-Light Bags. Plains Indians would carry paraphernalia in the Strike-a-Light bags like their flints, pipes, and other items they’d need to start a fire or light a pipe.

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