Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Navajo Blankets


How They Won Their National Reputation

Though Navajo blankets as rugs, portieres, couch coverings and a dozen other things, have held their own in American homes for a season and more, there are many interesting details of their manufacture which are not known to the casual customer.

The impress of the Spanish cross, recalling the invasions of the Coronado expedition of 1540 is still paramount in this industry of the tribe. This marked the Navajo's first knowledge of the white race, and the later influence of Mexican art can be traced in the zigzagging diamond.

There is always one blanket weaver in a Navajo family, generally a woman, though sometimes a man, and the blanket frame which is erected outside the "hogan," or hut, is part of its architecture. This frame is of upright posts or rude poles. Kneeling or squatting in front of it is the patient weaver from morning till night.

The blankets are considered a medium of barter, as current as any coin among the neighboring tribes, for the Navajo's country is the finest for flock raising, and their wool far famed. The dyes used, too, are practically indelible, and their manufacture is a tribe secret.

The blanket is the banner garment of the squaws with 'dressy" aspirations, and the choicest of wigwam decorations. The care taken in the making of these blankets may be realized when one knows that two or three months are given to the manufacture of some of the more elaborate. No two of these are ever exactly alike, and for certain tribal ceremonies especial patterns are introduced. The choicest designs are reserved for enshrouding the dead, as the journey to the "Happy Hunting Ground" is considered much enhanced by the richness of the traveler's wrapping.

It is the Navajo blanket, too, that oftenest forms the charmed square of the snake dancing Mokis, and the sun dancers of the Shoshones and Arapahoes carpet their sacred enclosures with these same weaves that American bachelors and den devotees pay such round prices for. No wonder, with its history, its wealth of association, with its richness of color and originality of design, the Navajo blanket has attained a National reputation.

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