Steve Getzwiller quietly left this world on August 23rd , 2023 at the age of 74. He left it a more beautiful place, though, having elevated the artistry of Navajo weavings and those who created them up to a whole other level.
He was born March 4th, 1949, to Marion and Kathryn “Kay” (Harrigan) Getzwiller in Benson, Arizona. He was the fourth generation of his family to grow up in the ranching life of southeastern Arizona. As a kid he often hung around the Amerind Foundation in Dragoon, a museum and research center for Native American arts and culture, and was inspired to study anthropology at the University of Arizona. When he was 18, he traded his childhood collection of .22 rifles for his first Navajo rug. After college, he started carving out his own path as a trader on the reservation, buying and selling pawn jewelry and weavings much like famous traders Hubbell or J.B. Moore did generations earlier. But again, he took it to another level.
It was the beginning of his Nizhoni Ranch Gallery first in Benson and later in Sonoita. His truck was his office on four wheels, crisscrossing the Navajo Nation often without a paved road or map but going on instinct. For more than 50 years, he worked closely with weavers, not just by selling their pieces, but so much more. “There’s definitely mutual respect,” he once said, describing the collaborative relationships he developed. “I’m their banker, employer, counselor, and friend. Their problems become my problems.”
Steve and his wife Gail were family to them. Steve helped to bring back the churro sheep to the Navajo. He also wanted to preserve the past, and bring recognition to works of unknown weavers of the 19th and early 20th century. Steve Getzwiller’s book, “The Fine Art of Navajo Weaving” with photographs by Ray Manley, introduced the old along with contemporary weaving to countless others beyond the Southwest.
Like his dad, a world champion rodeo star, Steve was pretty quiet about his life. As he once said, “The goal of my life’s work with the Navajo weavers has been to see how far I can push the envelope, how much I can help improve contemporary Navajo weaving and bring it to the highest level possible.” He was predeceased by his parents, and is survived by his wife Gail, daughter Jamie Hellems (James), son Sean Getzwiller (Aspyn) and grandchildren (Oliver, Dorian, Holden, Carter Kay). He also leaves behind his sister Darby Getzwiller and brother Joe Getzwiller. At this time, services are pending. Famliy requests donations to "Forever Navajo" Foundation in lieu of flowers.