Eugene Joe


Eugene Joe is a Navajo sand artist who lives near Shiprock, New Mexico. At an early age, Eugene’s grandfather helped him discover his gift of art. His grandfather would send the boy to meditate on a nearby hill and say, “You have a gift that’s inside of you. Go there and find it.”

“Your creator gave you a special tool in your life. To find that is to learn how to face the reality of life.”

In the time of wagons and horses and dirt roads, my grandfather used to tell me, “Go on that hill.”

That’s where my discipline began. He told me to sit out there and meditate and focus on my life. And so I would sit up there, maybe for three or four hours. Sitting there, the first thing I thought about was that I was afraid of ants, spiders, snakes, scorpions, and centipedes. Before I left the wagon, my grandfather said, “ Don’t think of things that surround you that will interfere with you. Focus. Focus on yourself. Don’t look at the ants. Don’t look at the centipedes. Don’t feel the heat that burns your skin. Become one so you learn how to face what surrounds you. And learn to overcome those fears.”

Sitting there on the hill, I began drawing on the earth—and there was the gift. That’s why I’m a sand artist. It was set before me. All I had to do was reach out and walk into it.

Everything is up to you. If you want peace in your life, you have to make that peace. If you want to be successful, you have to make that happen. If you want an education, you have to make it happen. It’s up to us, up to the whole world itself to become one again. That’s how I see it and I believe in that.

Eugene Joe Short Audio Clips

Eugene Joe Full Audio

Discussion Questions

  • Have you found your “gift” as Eugene describes it? If yes, what is it and what is it about that gift that is fulfilling? If no, are you seeking for your gift? Does it make you more anxious or excited? Do you feel pressure to discover your gift?
  • What fears keep you from realizing your full potential?
  • Do you ever find yourself wanting to “rush into the future?” Why do you rush?
  • How do you make peace happen in your life? Is it something you have to work for?
  • What have you discovered lately that has brought excitement and/or fulfillment to you?

6 thoughts on “Eugene Joe

  1. Hi. This is for the family of Eugene Many Feathers: toJh at in gallery gave me permission to paint Eugene’s picture but I have no way to email it to them. Can you help? Thanks.

  2. My father used to drive for Eugene b Joe when he was a young man. My dad told me stories about driving for him and living on the rez. I have always dreamed of meeting Mr Joe and of a simpler way of life that came from the tales my dad told me. Unfortunately my dad fell under the spell of drugs. Anthony Nava was his name. Hearing the wisdom shared here is truly what I need right now. I feel everything spiraling out of control. I need family and I have none left. Thank you for this sharing this amazing day insightful interview.

    1. Thanks for this note Janice, and I’m glad you found some comfort in Eugene’s story. I hope you’ll be able to find and create the family and connection you are looking for.

  3. I met Eugene with his mom and dad when I was a girl in Wyoming, they came to dinner in our home. I would love to say hello to him.
    Thelman family.

  4. Hi. Is there a way to write to Eugene Joe? I found 3 of his dad’s sand paintings in my garage in Los Angeles..signed James C joe. Thanks. Wanted to ask him a question.

    1. Thanks Sandy…how wonderful! I am a little protective of the folks I have interviewed. If you send me an email with your contact info to, I will pass it on to Eugene. I bet he’d be delighted to be in touch and hear your story. I’ll watch for your email.

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