Kent Primary Students Appreciate Navajo Sand Painting

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, fourth-grade students in Sarah Bell’s art classes at Kent Primary learned about the significant role sand painting had in the rituals of the Navajo people, one of the largest indigenous tribes native to the southwestern United States.

Navajo sand paintings, also called dry paintings, are ritualistic depictions made by the Navajo people as part of sacred healing or curing ceremonies. Sand paintings are created by a shaman or healer who uses colored sand to create symbols believed to heal someone suffering from an ailment or issue.

Once the painting is completed, the person in need of healing is asked to sit on top of the sand as it would provide a portal for healing spirits to come through.

Navajo Sand Painting presentation

“After the people sit on the sand paintings, they let the sand go back to the earth,” said student Declan Howard.

The Navajo believe that after the sand painting has served its purpose and absorbed a person’s ailment or illness, the painting is to be destroyed and the remains are to be returned to the earth.

After learning the history and significance of sand paintings, our students created modern interpretations of their own. Our young artists were able to show some creativity with their sand paintings, using symbols that spoke to them.

“Our paintings use symbols, and all of these symbols mean something,” said student Vanessa Carinci who used symbols for friendship, peace, spring, river and others in her work. “I picked the symbols because they looked pretty, and I liked their different meanings.”

“The reason why I put a bear track is because I like bears,” said student Dimitri Dupi. “They are my favorite animal.”

Student Connor Hill used his sand painting to tell a story using the symbols for hunter, mountains, river, fish and others.

“I thought the hunter could hunt the animals for food and if he runs out of food then he can get water and fish from the river,” said Hill.