August 06, 2011

History of the Indian trade blanket

A Slate slide show discusses why "Navajo," "Native American," and "Indian" prints seem to be everywhere these days. And their connection to genuine Native culture, if any. The following slide describes the origin of Navajo rugs.

The Strange History of the Indian Trade Blanket

By Julia FelsenthalThe rise of the notion of the cozy corner proved fortuitous for Native American artisans, too. Enterprising traders saw a new niche they could ask Navajo weavers in their territories to fill: a market for Navajo rugs. Traders encouraged the Navajo to begin rug weaving (which they had never done), by showing them examples of Middle Eastern rugs for inspiration; the result was that the Navajo began to incorporate some of those Middle Eastern motifs into their new, unprecedentedly thick textiles. So as white Americans were making blankets that were supposed to look authentically Native American for a largely Native American market, Native Americans were making textiles tailored to white use for white people.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Pendleton's White Buffalo Blankets and Pendleton Spreads Native Designs.

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