April 19th, 2015 Last Updated on: October 31st, 2016
Rhonda Mato Najin Kozma makes moccasins that powwow dancers love to rock! Her beadwork melds Lakota tradition with the legacy of her dyamic ancestors. She pauses from making a set of new moccs to share her talent with us at Powwows.com!
DK: Your work is truly marvelous! How did you begin to bead?
RK: When I was in 6th grade, my Aunty Marie and grandma came home with beads for me and my two sisters. They taught us how to bead and I learned how to do rosettes, peyote stitch and lazy stitch. They also taught us how to make star quilts. They always encouraged me to be in a positive attitude while beading and sewing. To this day, I still try to do that. If I am not relaxed or stress free, I cannot bead. I have to wait.
DK: Wise insights! You also make delightful moccasins! Will you share your skill with us?
RK: The moccasins I make, I like to envision the colors in my mind, draft the designs to make sure they fit well and start beading. I recently made my Aunty some moccasins. She loves the sunrise and the sunset. I call these moccasins Alamosa sunset. She lives close to Alamosa. Her name is She Runs with many Spotted Horses, so I also put horse tracks on her moccasins. I also wanted her to feel like these were not any other's pair of moccasins, but that they were hers. They were connected to her. That's how I like to do moccasins.
DK: Each pair becomes a genuine work of art since you make them that way! What tribal traditions distinguish your moccs?
RK: Lodges and buffalo tracks on moccasins are common for northern Plains tribes. That's what I know when I look at my grandmother's moccasins and the moccasins my aunt Marie did. They were Sicangu women from Rosebud SD and the designs they did said that is who they are. That's how I learned too. I believe my Aunt Marie enjoyed making moccasins too. When she passed to the spirit world in 2007, (my grandma Neva passed just before that in 2004.) she had a lot of moccasins and some that weren't finished.
I had the pleasure of finishing a pair that was already started and it came with a design on graph paper. I figured it all out. I needed to use this certain type of graph paper to make my own designs. Looking at her beadwork, that's how I needed to bead. That's how I learned.
DK: Such a noble family legacy and artistic influence! We'd love to hear about your esteemed relatives?
RK:This is my grandmother Elizabeth Neva Standing Bear Light in the Lodge. She made me into the woman I am today. She taught me how to cook, clean, how to pray, how to bead how to act like a lady. My mother was sick with Multiples Sclerosis and so my grandmother and my Aunty Marie Standing Bear Light in the Lodge also raised me and my brothers and sisters. My dad was a single father most of the time. So he needed help. Anyway, I wanted to show you all who I look up to, even if she is in the spirit world now. I still look up to her.
DK: Glorious! We're honored to see your beautiful inspiration!
RK: She took us to the Sundance and other ceremonies. She was a medicine woman, even though she didn't tell people she was one. I feel like she still encourages me to learn the Lakota ways. When I'm beading too, I feel like she is around. Because the beaded designs I do either if it's on moccasins, medallions or leggings, are designs passed down to me from her and from her mother, my grandmother Emma Broken Leg. great-grandmother Emma made these I do for her husband, Chief Silas Standing Bear. So these beaded designs I do go way back. I get my ideas from them. Most importantly I want to keep the designs in my family. For my own enjoyment I like to bead moccasins. I see a lot of different ways people make them and I love their creativity. Personally, I like to just bead on some good brain tan buckskin.
DK: Thank you for blessing us with your story and with your skill!
RK: Thank YOU!
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