Henry and Sally Fowler, Navajo Nation

Pattern and Disruption: Diné Lifeways and Embedded Mathematics

In 2021, the Kennedy Museum of Art presented the exhibition Pattern and Disruption: Diné Lifeways and Embedded Mathematics. The exhibition explored Diné weaving design from the perspective of their traditions and beliefs, and how fundamental mathematical ideas are also embedded in the designs. Among the Diné, weaving is regarded as a spiritual act, rooted in the earth, and an expression of their place in the world. Mathematics are integral not only to the designs, but also to Diné cosmology.

The exhibition was curated by Henry and Sally Fowler, members of the Navajo Nation, and former Ohio University Professor Bob Klein.


The Kennedy Museum of Art was granted permission to create an introductory video for the exhibition with excerpts from the documentary film Navajo Math Circles (2016)by George Paul Csicsery. Bob and Henry originally met each other while both working with the Navajo Math Circles project.​

Kennedy Museum of Art

The Kennedy Museum of Art on The Ridges of Ohio University’s Athens campus stewards a unique collection of Southwest Native American art donated by Edwin L. and Ruth E. Kennedy. The collection focuses on textiles and jewelry items of predominantly Diné (Navajo), Hopituh Shi-nu-mu (Hopi), and A:shiwi (Zuni) origin from the 19th to the 21st century.

Henry H. Fowler

Dr. Henry H. Fowler is the chair of Diné Studies at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico, and an associate professor of mathematics. Dr. Fowler is born for Bitter Water (Tódich'ii'nii) and born into Zuni-Edgewater (Naasht'ézhidine'é-Tábąąhá); his maternal grandparents are the Manygoats People (Tł'ízílání), and his paternal grandparents are the Red-running-into-the-water People (Táchii'nii).

Henry H. Fowler, portrait with weaving

Sally Fowler

Sally Fowler started weaving at age 7. She continues to weave using the natural colors of wool from the flock of sheep she shepherds, and dyes made from native plants of the Southwest. Her clans are born for Bitter Water People (Tódich’ii’nii) and born into Manygoats People (Tł'ízílání); her maternal grandparents are the Mexican People (Naakaidine'é), and her paternal grandparents are the Edgewater People (Tábąąhá). She is referred to as Shimá, a Navajo name denoting a respected elder.

Sally Fowler, portrait with weaving

Bob Klein

Bob Klein is the co-director of the Alliance of Indigenous Math Circles (AIMC). Math circles are a way of connecting mathematicians and students/teachers to engage in beautiful mathematical problem solving. This is how Klein met the Fowlers and formed a partnership that has lasted nearly a decade and served more than a thousand students and teachers with the help of more than 50 mathematicians from around the United States. During the pandemic, the AIMC created the online Bluebird Math Circle that meets bi-weekly and engages people of all ages and origins in great math. Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, AIMC directors collaborated with colleagues to build the Sunflower Bluebird Math Circle to engage Ukrainian students and teachers (whether displaced or still in Ukraine) in connection and mathematics. Klein is one of many collaborators who believe that the beauty and power of mathematics can be used to bring people together in hózhó (beauty and harmony). Klein was adopted by the Fowlers into the Bitter Water Clan (Tódich'ii'nii).

Bob Klein, portrait with weaving