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Beading The Apache Way

By: Kelly Moss

Sally Kenton was just 7 years old when she snuck into her mother’s beading room to bead her first project , “a flimsy, and loosely beaded keychain” which she quickly delivered to her father when he got home so as not to get in trouble.

Although Sally thought her first attempt at beading to be rather “ugly” her father thought differently. He proudly attached his keys to his newly beaded keychain and left the house for a Chairman’s campaign rally. That same evening, her father returned home with a fistful of five dollar bills and a list of orders for more keychains! Sally took the money and spent every last cent on seed beads she could call her own.

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That first attempt at beading was more than 40 years ago, but the sight of a tray full of colorful beads still makes her feel “happy inside.” It really isn’t surprising that beading continues to be a big part of Sally’s life 40 years later. Her great, great grandmother married William A. Alchesay (better known as A-1). William was one of the first leaders of the White Mountain Apache tribe. He was appointed this position by the Bluecoats (U.S. Military), Sally told us, “because he had knowledge of trails, planting and harvesting of crops, as well as a culture

leader everyone looked up to.” His wife Anna liked to bead cradleboards and necklaces, as did all of Sally’s grandmothers and her own mother.

Today, Sally’s beading projects (all done on her own handmade 17 year old loom) include elaborately designed choker T-necklaces as well as strand necklaces (her favorite), capes, sashes, buckskin dresses, moccasins, medallion necklaces, coin purses, and belts. When asked of her biggest challenge, she replied that often someone needs a T-necklace beaded that same day. Her “world’s record” for completing a T-necklace, start to finish, is two and one-half hours! Her most unusual request came from a native Eskimo from Alaska who had married a woman from San Carlos. Their daughter was having a Sunrise Dance and she wanted an igloo on her T-necklace, which of course Sally happily provided.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 8.50.08 AMOn any given afternoon or evening, you can find Sally at her kitchen table, with Apache social songs playing in the background, working on her latest beading project.

( The Pickle Barrel Trading Post is one of the largest trading posts in the Southwest, and represent an extensive collection of Native American artisans including both traditional and contemporary works . We begin a series of spotlights on artisans who have work represented at The Pickle Barrel.)

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