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A Chronology of Navajo Rug and Blanket Developments

The history of Navajo weaving can be classified into a number of chronological periods based on design, technology, influence, and other factors. The following links provide brief descriptions of developments in Navajo weaving, organized by distinct time periods, and using a linear time-frame. The linked website, A History of Navajo Weaving, is the joint project of Lee Anderson & Eric Anderson. I found in my explorations that the subject of Navajo weaving is usually centered on rugs and blankets. The best Navajo rugs and blankets are hand-crafted works of art, highly valued by collectors who are willing to pay large sums of money to acquire them. This is one craft that may prove to be economically advantageous to the gifted Navajo artist.

Additionally, many symbols adorn these handcrafted textiles, including symbols having sacred and supernatural significance. These artful textiles fill Navajo life spaces, contributing to the physical matrix that supports Navajo beliefs and values. However, sacred symbols and objects may be threatened by commiditization, with the resulting desensitization to sacred symbols and objects. In effect, they start to lose the power of their unique and special meanings as they become visual elements of advertising, packaging, and product design. The power of sacred symbolism is sacrificed on the alter of capitalism in exchange for the power of money. When sacred symbols are stripped from their sacred places, the human psyche and spirit are wounded, left behind to drift in a sea of meaningless images. Also, this is a problem of intellectual property, an issue that is now being addressed in many Native American communities.

There are other schemas for classifying the development of Navajo weaving, and I encourage you to discover and explore these on your own if you are interested.

Online Exhibit and Demonstration of Navajo Weaving

The National Museum of the American Indian is exhibiting, Woven by the Grandmothers, on the World Wide Web. The online slide presentation demonstrates how Nineteenth Century Navaho textiles were produced. If you have patience for the download and connection time, it is worth the wait to see the pictures of rugs, tools, and Navajo women demonstrating their skills. The presentation appears in the form of a static, web-based, slide presentation. I am not sure how long the virtual exhibit will be made accessible online, so the above link may not connect to the web site at some unpredictable point in the future.


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