CHAPTER XIII. A Navaho Weaver at Work


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ONE of the first great surprises to a white visitor to the Navaho reservation is that he sees so few Indians or their dwellings. Mile after mile he drives over the roads through the heart of what seems to be an entirely unpeopled country, save for the occasional teams he may meet, or the solitary Navaho horseman who now and again passes with a word, or in silence. He thinks the barren and waterless nature of the country may have to do with this absence of population, and in this he is largely correct. It is only where water is to be found—at least not too far away—that the Navaho establishes his residence. There must also be a patch of arable land within reasonable proximity to supply him with the corn that is his daily food. Here, then, he builds his hogan; if for summer use, a temporary structure of brush, a rude lean-to against the wall of a canyon or an excavated bank, or a mere circular shelter of green boughs, made in half an hour by a couple of men skilled in the use of the axe. If it is a permanent winter hogan it is built with the solemn and serious earnestness which characterizes all the important features of a Navaho's life.

No sooner is the household ‘‘„settled„’’ than a framework is erected outside, merely covered with brush, arrow-weed, or tules to keep off the sun's rays, and under this the loom is set up. Some hogans are built large enough to accommodate the loom, but in summer it is always in the open, merely placed so that during the working hours of the day it is in the shade.

Not infrequently the loom is set up in the open, the weaver so placing it that the sun's rays will not disturb her at the time she expects to work. Such a loom is pictured in Fig. 125, made from a copyright photograph by George R. King, of Pasadena.

The Navaho loom is a remarkable exhibition of primitive ingenuity and effectiveness. While there are diversities in details, in the main practically they are all alike. The accompanying illustration, Fig. 126, is from Dr. Matthews's admirable monograph on ‘‘„Navaho Weavers,„’’ which appears in the Third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, and a large portion of the description is in the author's own words. Two upright posts set firmly in the ground, wide enough (a a)


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apart to accommodate the full width of the blanket to be woven, are braced together top and bottom by equally strong cross pieces (b c). Trunks of small growing trees are occasionally used as the necessary uprights. This may be called the frame in which the loom is to be lashed. The loom proper has its lower beam (k) and upper beam (d). On neither of these, however, is the warp wound. The warp is tied at the top to a border cord (h), and also at the bottom. This border cord (h h) is lashed or tied with rope coils (e e) to the upper and lower loom beams and the warp is thus securely placed. But before weaving can be done

FIG. 126—Ordinary Navaho blanket loom

this warp must be fixed firmly in the frame and stretched tightly, as the work demands. This is done by first of all lashing the lower beam (k) to the lower brace (c) of the frame. Then a new stout brace or beam is introduced at the top of the loom, which Dr. Matthews appropriately terms a ‘‘„supplementary yarn-beam.„’’ This is firmly and securely lashed to the upper yarn-beam (f), and then, with a strong rawhide, which is wrapped spirally or tied (g g) around the upper brace of the loom-frame, the warp (i i) is made as taut as the weaver desires.

This supplementary beam also serves another purpose. The blanket is woven from the bottom. The weaver squats in front of her work, and as soon as weaving is done as high as her arms find it convenient she


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loosens the rawhide lashing of the supplementary yarn-beam and folds the woven part of her blanket, securely sewing the upper part of the fold to the lower beam. The rawhide lashings are again pulled tight, and this is sometimes done so thoroughly that the marks of the sewing remain in the blanket for years, sometimes even as long as the blanket itself lasts.

A loose flat stick, sharpened on one side, and some two feet long, and, say, three inches broad is the batten stick (l). This is loose and inserted by the weaver whenever and wherever desired to ‘‘„batten,„’’ or beat down, the weft snug into place.

A long slender circular stick serves as a heald-rod. The healds are made of cord or yarn fastened to a rod (m), and are tied to alternate threads of the warp. This heald-rod (m) serves, when pulled forward, to open the shed for the insertion of the shuttle. The upper shed is kept patent by a stout rod which has no healds attached, and called by Matthews the shed-rod (n). A small several-toothed wooden fork serves the purpose of the reed in our looms, and is used by the weaver to press in

FIG. 127—Diagram showing formation of warp

place the weft where it is irregularly woven, or does not go completely across the warp where it can be wedged home with the batten stick.

Now let us see the weaver actually at her work. We will assume that all prior processes are completed. The weaver has washed, spun, and dyed the wool, she has decided upon the size of her blanket, and formulated in her active and imaginative brain the design that she intends to materialize. She is now ready, therefore, for the preparing or constructing of the warp. Dr. Matthews thus clearly and graphically describes the process:

A frame of four sticks is made, not unlike the frame of the loom, but lying on or near the ground, instead of standing erect. The two sticks forming the sides of the frame are rough saplings or rails; the two forming the top and bottom are smooth, rounded poles—often the poles which afterwards serve as the beams of the loom; these are placed parallel to one another, their distance apart depending on the length of the projected blanket.

On these poles the warp is laid in a continuous string. It is first firmly tied to one of the poles, which I call No. 1 (Fig. 127); then is passed over the other pole, No. 2, brought back under No. 2 and over No. 1, forward again under No. 1 and over No. 2, and so on to the end. Thus the first, third, fifth, etc., turns of the cord cross in the middle, the second, fourth, sixth, etc., forming a series of elongated figures 8, as shown in the following diagram—and making, in the very beginning of the process, the two sheds, which are kept distinct throughout the whole work.


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When sufficient string has been laid the end is tied to pole No. 2, and a rod is placed in each shed to keep it open, the rods being afterwards tied together at the ends to prevent them from falling out.

This done, the weaver takes three strings (which are afterwards twilled into one, as will appear) and ties them together at one end. She now sits outside of one of the poles, looking toward the center of the frame, and proceeds thus: (1) She secures the triple cord to the pole immediately to the left of the warp; (2) then she takes one of the threads (or strands, as they now become) and passes it under the first turn of the warp; (3) next she takes a second strand, and twilling it once, or oftener, with the other strands, includes with it the second bend of the warp; (4) this done, she takes the third strand and, twilling it as before, passes it under the third bend of the warp, and thus she goes on until the entire warp in one place is secured between the strands of the cord; (5) then she pulls the string to its fullest extent, and in doing so separates the threads of the warp from one another: (6) a similar three stranded cord is applied to the other end of the warp, along the outside of the other pole.

At this stage of the work these stout cords lie along the outer surfaces of the poles, parallel with the axes of the latter, but when the warp is taken off the poles and applied to the beams by the spiral thread, as above described, and as depicted in Fig. 126, and all is ready for weaving, the cords appear on the inner sides of the beams, i. e., one at the lower side of the yarn-beam, the other at the upper side of the cloth-beam, and when the blanket is finished they form the stout end margins of the web. In the coarser grade of blankets the cords are removed and the ends of the warp tied in pairs and made to form a fringe.

When the warp is transferred to the loom the rod which was placed in the upper shed remains there, or another rod, straighter and smoother, is substituted for it; but with the lower shed, healds are applied to anterior threads, and the rod is withdrawn.

The mode of applying the healds is simple: (1) the weaver sits facing the loom in the position for weaving; (2) she lays at the right (her right) side of the loom a ball of string which she knows contains more than sufficient material to make the healds; (3) she takes the end of this string and passes it to the left through the shed, leaving the ball in its original position; (4) she ties a loop at the end of the string large enough to admit the heald-rod; (5) she holds horizontally in her left hand a straightish, slender rod, which is to become the heald-rod—its right extremity touching the left edge of the warp—and passes the rod through the loop until the point of the stick is even with the third (second anterior from the left) thread of the warp; (6) she puts her finger through the space between the first and third threads and draws out a fold of the heald-string; (7) she twists this once around, so as to form a loop, and pushes the point of the heald-rod on to the right through this loop; (8) she puts her finger into the next space and forms another loop; (9) and so on she continues to advance her rod and form her loops from left to right until each of the anterior (alternate) warp-threads of the lower shed is included in a loop of the heald; (10) when the last loop is made she ties the string firmly to the rod near its right end.

When the weaving is nearly done and it becomes necessary to remove the healds, the rod is drawn out of the loops, a slight pull is made at the thread, the loops fall in an instant, and the straightened string is drawn out of the shed.

The weaver is now ready to proceed with the actual weaving—the insertion of the weft. As before stated, she has no shuttle; small balls

Fig. 128. Navaho Weaver at Work. Showing batten stick horizontally placard ready to beat down the weft.

Fig. 129. Batten Stick in Position to Allow Weft to Pass Through.

Fig. 130. Novel Arrangement of the Loom. (From a painting by Cassidy Davis, owned by J. L. Hubbell, Ganado, Ariz.)


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of colored, and larger balls of white, black, or gray yarn being used as shuttles, though occasionally a thread may be wrapped around the end of a stick for more convenient handling.

Squatted upon a sheep skin or a folded blanket before the warp, she decides to begin by weaving in the lower shed. She draws a portion of the healds towards her, and with them the anterior threads of the shed; by this motion she opens the shed about 1 inch, which is not sufficient for the easy passage of the woof. She inserts her batten edgewise into this opening and then turns it half around on its long axis, so that its broad surface lies horizontally; in this way the shed is opened to the extent of the width of the batten—about three inches; next the weft is passed through. In Fig. 126 the batten is shown lying edgewise (its broad surfaces vertical), as it appears when just inserted into the shed, and the weft, which has been passed through o.nly a portion of the shed, is seen hanging out with its end on the ground. In Fig. 129, the batten is shown in the second position described, with the shed open to the fullest extent necessary, and it is while in this position the weaver passes the shuttle through. When the weft is in, it is shoved down to its proper position by means of the reed-fork, and then the batten, restored to its first position (edgewise), is brought down with firm blows on the weft. It is by the vigorous use of the batten that the Navaho serapes are rendered waterproof. In Fig. 128, the weaver is seen bringing down this instrument ‘‘„in the manner and for the purpose described,„’’ as the letters patent say.

When the lower shed has received its thread of weft the weaver opens the upper shed. This is done by releasing the healds and shoving the shed-rod down until it comes in contact with the healds; this opens the upper shed down to the web. Then the weft is inserted and the batten and reed-fork used as before. Thus she goes on with each shed alternately until the web is finished.

It is, of course, desirable, at least in handsome blankets of intricate pattern, to have both ends uniform even if the figure be a little faulty in the center. To accomplish this, some of the weavers depend on a careful estimate of the length of each figure before they begin, and weave continuously in one direction; but the majority weave a little portion of the upper end before they finish the middle. Sometimes this is done by weaving from above downwards; at other times it is done by turning the loom upside down and working from below upwards in the ordinary manner.

The ends of the blanket are bordered with a stout three-ply string applied to the folds of the warp. The lateral edges of the blanket are similarly protected by stout cords applied to the weft. The way in which these are woven in, next demands our attention. Two stout worsted cords, tied together, are firmly attached to each end of the cloth-beam just outside the warp; they are then carried upwards and loosely tied to the yarn-beam or the supplementary yarn-beam. Every time the weft is turned at the edge these two strings are twisted together and the weft is passed through the twist; thus one thread or strand of this border is always on the outside. As it is constantly twisted in one direction, it is evident that, after a while, a counter twist must form which would render the passage of the weft between the cords difficult, if the cords could not be untwisted again. These cords are tied loosely to one of the upper beams for this purpose. From time to time the cords are untied and the unwoven portion straightened as the work progresses. The coarse blankets do not have them.


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Yet, while this is the rule for all weaving, it is not always followed. There seems to be a great deal of self-will, of individuality, of refusal to be tied down to rules, among these Navaho weavers, and it is no uncommon thing to find a weaver doing as is illustrated in Fig. 128, where, without any apparent reason, the woof-threads are not taken across the whole width of the blanket. In Figs. 143-4-5, which are of blankets that would be called of standard grade (see page 149), the zigzag pattern of the design of both blankets is clearly worked without any regard to the ordinary demands of woof-weaving, viz., that the threads go straight across the blanket to allow of them being battened down evenly. Even in the illustrations, if a glass is used, I have no doubt the oblique character of the threads can be seen, and expert weavers on the white man's machines, to whom I have shown these specimens, express surprise at the perfection of the work, and also their inability to understand how it is done. This remarkable facility in doing the unusual thing, in finding a way to do something that has never been done before, is ever and anon cropping up in Navaho work, and necessarily makes the study that much the more interesting.

Another interesting variation in Navaho weaving is shown in Fig. 130, which is from an excellent painting by Cassidy Davis, in the collection of John Lorenzo Hubbell, of Granado, Arizona. For some reason the weaver did not wish her loom to stand too high. Her warp, therefore, was brought over the upper beam of her loom-frame and lashed to an extra beam, securely fastened to the uprights at about half their height. In all my thirty years of travel among Navaho weavers I have seen this method followed not more than three or four times.

Before weaving can be begun, however, the yarn must be prepared. The processes of dyeing have already been explained, but not those that are gone through from gathering the wool to spinning it ready for the dye pot.

Shearing is done in the spring and fall. The Navahos are expert at the work, but are neither as rapid, skilful, nor as careful as the Indian shearers of California. The fall shearing is begun as early as possible to avoid the cold of winter, and in spring it is postponed as long as is safe, so as to avoid the sudden storms of that period.

Just before lambing time the herds are removed to the mountains, where there is generally plenty of good pasturage and water. Here corrals for their protection are easily constructed, and here they are kept—the whole Navaho family often remaining until the lambs are strong enough to travel.

Up to a few years ago the sheep were seldom washed either before or after shearing, but now the Government has provided in several places

Fig. 131. Navaho Method of Using Distaff or Spindle. (By permission of the Bureau of American Ethnology.)

Fig. 132. Navaho Blanket of the Finest Quality. Fig. 134. Weaving of Saddle Girth.

Fig. 133. Diagram Showing Arrangement of Threads of the Warp in the Healds and on the Rod. (All the illustrations of this page by courtesy of the Bureau of American Ethnology.)


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on the reservation places for dipping and washing. This keeps the animals more healthful, and also materially aids in cleansing the fleece. When shearing time comes the men do the larger part of the work, though the women render constant and effective assistance, often catching the animals, turning them upon their backs, and completing the shearing themselves. American clippers have entirely supplanted the rude flint knives that alone were used in the earlier days.

When the fleece is removed and the wool is to be used for weaving, it is first thoroughly tossed, shaken, or beaten against a tree, a wagon wheel, upon the rocks or hard ground to remove the sand and as much loose and foreign material as can be shaken out. Then it is thrown over some object and all the burrs and lumps or matted wool carefully picked out.

Now it is ready to be washed. Bowls are prepared full of the clearest water obtainable, and if it is possible to be near a stream or spring advantage is taken of this close proximity. From the weaver's household stores several pieces of the root of the amole are taken. Yucca glauca, Y. baccata, Y. angustifolia, Y. radiosa, and Y. elata are all used for this purpose, though the second named seems to contain the largest and richest saponine. These roots are beaten between rocks until reduced to a mass of fibres, and are then splashed up and down in a bowl of water until the latter becomes covered with a rich and soft, foamy lather. In these suds the wool is soaked and more or less thoroughly washed, according to the habit of the weaver. If she be conscientious and desirous of doing first-class work, she well knows the washing must be well done, or the dye will not ‘‘„take„’’ satisfactorily.

In the case of white wool, which is to be used, without dyeing, also of black, brown, and native gray, the careful weaver is extra particular to see that the wool is thoroughly washed. The fleeces are then spread out on whatever shrubs are nearest at hand to dry. This does not require long, as a rule, in the hot sunshine of the Arizona or New Mexico country, and the wool is then ready for carding.

In the olden days teasels were used. These are still found growing wild on the reservation. Of late years, however, the traders have supplied the weavers with the simple and somewhat primitive old-fashioned wire-toothed cards, such as our great-grandmothers used to use, and that remind us somewhat of a horse's curry-comb. With these—generally one in each hand—the wool is carded out until the staple is smooth and uniform and the wool made into a long loose roll.

Both in their loom and distaff the Navahos are rigidly conservative. For many years the Mexicans of the Southwest have been using the spinning wheel, and later, when the Mormons settled on the very edge of


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Navaho territory, they also brought the wheel and endeavored to prevail upon the Navahos to adopt it. As yet, however, all efforts to lead them away from the primitive distaff have failed. They will neither buy, make, nor receive a gift of a spinning wheel.

The distaff, or spindle, held in the hand of the woman illustrated in Fig. 131 consists of a smooth round stick, about two feet long, pointed at both ends, and of a wheel or disk of flat wood some four or five inches in diameter, through the center of which is a small hole, made to hold the stick, at about a distance of five or six inches from the butt end of the stick.

When everything is ready for the spinning—carded-wool on a blanket on the ground, distaff in the right hand—the spinner squats down, Turkish or tailor fashion, and picks up a little of the wool in her left hand, into which she sticks the tip of the spindle. With a few dexterous turns the wool is soon caught fast, and now the distaff is kept spinning by a swift motion of the fingers of the right hand, while with the left the wool is drawn out to arms' length to the required thickness. While this operation is going on the end of the distaff rests upon the ground, and the wool is held so that it is on about a straight line with it. As soon as the strand is as long, and twisted as much, as the woman desires, she tilts the distaff so that it and the wool-strand are almost at acute angles, and, the spindle still kept twirling, the wool is wound up and down the upper portion of the stick. This is repeated until the stick will hold no more, when the stranded-wool is unwound from the spindle, wrapped into balls and laid aside. As soon as all the wool is spun, or so much as the weaver thinks she may need, it is all respun, once or twice, or even more, according to the thickness and tightness of the yarn needed. The second twisting is generally enough for the making of the wool warps, but the third twisting gives a tight, strong, bristly cord about as thick as ordinary binding twine. For the extra fine blankets the yarn is both fine and extra tightly woven.

Practically all Navaho blankets are ‘‘„single-ply„’’—that is, the pattern or design is the same on both sides, no matter how elaborate or complex this may be.

To produce their variegated patterns they have a separate skein, shuttle, or thread for each component of the pattern. Take, for instance, the blanket depicted in Fig. 132. Across this blanket, between the points a-b, we have two serrated borders, two white spaces, a small diamond in the center, and twenty-four serrated stripes, making in all twenty-nine component parts of the pattern. Now, when the weaver was working in this place, twenty-nine different threads of weft might have been seen hanging from the face of the web at one time. When the web is so nearly finished that the batten can no longer be inserted in the warp, slender rods are placed in the shed, while the weft is passed with increased difficulty on the end of a delicate splinter

Fig. 135. Fig. 135 is an enlarged section of Fig. 134, showing the manipulation, of the healds for weaving in diagonals.

Fig. 136 shows the arrangement of the healds for weaving diamonds,

Fig. 137 shows a blanket, part of which is diagonal and part diamond weave. (All illustrations on this page by courtesy of the Bureau of American Ethnology.)

Fig. 138. Two Sides of the Navaho Blanket, Each Side Being Different. (Courtesy of the American Anthropologist.)


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and the reed-fork alone presses the warp home. Later it becomes necessary to remove even the rod and the shed; then the alternate threads are separated by a slender stick worked in tediously between them, and two threads of woof are inserted—one above and the other below the stick. The very last thread is sometimes put in with a darning needle. The weaving of the last three inches requires more labor than any foot of the previous work. [Matthews.]

While the great majority of blankets are woven in this simple ‘‘„single-ply„’’ style, the Navaho weaver, by deft manipulation and digital dexterity gained by years of practice, is able to weave blankets, dresses, shirts, etc., in six different styles. Each of these has a separate name, (according to Father Berard), and the processes are as follows:

That indefatigable student and observer, Dr. Matthews, found a blanket of this double or two-ply weave, and after gaining all the information he could upon the subject wrote the following article in the American Anthropologist. The whole of it is so interesting that it is quoted without abridgment:

As the American Indians are generally believed to be neither imitative nor inventive, it is well to consider a remarkable instance of their aptness in learning, and, added thereto, an example of their inventive advancement.

The whole art of weaving among the Navahos is worthy of close study for many reasons, but not least for a psychological reason. We have fair evidence from the early Spanish explorers that they knew nothing of loom-weaving three hundred years ago. The Navaho traditions (and the evidence of these is not without value) corroborate such statements. They tell us many times that the early Athabascan intruders in New Mexico and Arizona dressed themselves in rude mats or garments made of juniper bark, which must have been woven by the fingers without mechanical appliances. But we have also the evidence of travelers of a still earlier date that the sedentary Indians who were neighbors of the Navahos used the loom and wove fabrics of cotton and other materials. We have archaeological evidence that the Pueblos and cliff-dwellers wove, with the assistance of a mechanism, webs of cotton, yucca-fiber, feathers, and hair, and that they knitted with wooden needles leggins of human hair; for this purpose, it is thought, they saved their combings.

Three hundred years ago, then, the Navahos knew nothing of the loom; but in the meantime they have become a race of expert loom-weavers, and they have accomplished this without coercion or any such formal methods of instruction as we employ;

Fig. 139. Manuelito's Widow Wearing Squaw Dress in Old Navaho Fashion.

Fig. 140. Navaho Shirt of Very Early Weave. (Collection of J. L. Hubbell.)


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they having ‘‘„picked it up.„’’ True, they had their instructors near at hand—the sedentary Indians with whom they have traded and intermarried—but other wild tribes of the southwest had the same opportunities to learn and never profited by them. All had an equal chance to steal sheep from the Mexicans; but all did not become shepherds. The weaving of wool was, of course, unknown in America before the Spaniards introduced sheep in the sixteenth century; but the Indians were not obliged to change their old looms when the new staple was introduced.

Within the time to which I allude, not only have the Navahos learned from their neighbors, the sedentary Indians, the art of weaving, but they have come to excel their teachers. Although blankets are still woven in Zuni today, if an inhabitant of that pueblo desires a specially fine serape, he purchases it from a Navaho.

While living in New Mexico during the years 1880-84, in daily contact with members of the Navaho tribe, I made a careful study of the Navaho art of weaving and wrote a treatise on the subject which appeared in the Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, 1885). In that article I described all the important forms of Navaho blankets I had ever seen; but I had not seen a two-faced blanket, and, up to the date of writing, had not even heard of it; there is, therefore, no allusion to it in my treatise. I was absent from New Mexico, except during two short visits, for six years. Sometime after I returned to it, in 1890, for another sojourn of four years, I saw, for the first time, one of those two-faced blankets. Thus I may safely say that after I left New Mexico, in 1884, the process of making this blanket was invented by a Navaho Indian, and probably, though not necessarily, by a Navaho woman.

During my second sojourn in New Mexico I tried to find a woman who wove this peculiar blanket in order that I might induce her by liberal pecuniary promises, as I had done on previous occasions with other weavers of special fabrics, to come to my residence and work under my observation; but I never succeeded. I was told that the blankets were made in a distant part of the Navaho country; my informants knew not where. If there were more than one maker, I never learned; but from what I know of the Navahos I think it probable that the inventor has made no secret of the process and that now, at least, there are many weavers of the two-faced blankets.

Someone may question if this art did not exist during my first sojourn in the Navaho country previous to 1884, and if I might not have failed to observe it. This is by no means probable. Everyone in the Navaho country then believed that the distinguishing feature of the Indian blanket was that, no matter how richly figured, its two surfaces were always exactly alike in all respects. Mr. Thomas V. Keam, of Keam's Canyon, Arizona, is the Indian trader who has been longest established among the Navahos, and is their most popular trader; he has dealt and dwelt with them, I think, for about thirty years, and he is an educated, intelligent, and observant man. Had such blankets been even occasionally seen among these Indians prior to 1884, some of them would have been brought to him to trade and he would not have failed to observe their unusual appearance. In 1896 I wrote requesting Mr. Keam to get for me a two-faced blanket from his part of the country and asking him what he knew of the origin of the new blanket. In his reply, dated January 27, 1897, he says:

‘‘

„As you suppose, it is only about three years since I first saw this work, and to date there are only a few who understand this weaving. The diamond or diagonal twill is undoubtedly copied by them from the Hopi, but the double or reversible weaving I believe to be of their own [Navaho] invention, as I know of no other tribe that does such weaving.„

’’


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Thus we see that it was not until about the year 1893 that the oldest trader in the Navaho land saw a two-faced blanket.

As I have said, the Navaho loom is a machine, and a rather elaborate machine, too. The step from a tool to a machine marks a wide advance in human evolution. I have described accurately, in the paper already quoted, the mechanism of the Navaho loom (as it existed in the last decade, at least) and have analyzed its component elements, which are essentially those of our own household loom. There is no doubt that the ordinary Navaho loom is an aboriginal invention which has not been modified since pre-Columbian days. In the weaving of belts, hair-bands, and garters, the Zuni women employ a harness or heald which seems to be derived from the Old World; but the Navaho heald is a rude, aboriginal device.

I cannot say what particular modification has been made in the loom (or perhaps I would better say in the application or management of the loom) to produce the new style of web, but it would greatly interest me to know. I trust that some of the many scientific explorers who have recently taken to visiting the Navaho land may find time to determine this and to describe it in technical terms. If the step from a tool to a machine is long, so is the step from one form or application of a machine to another which can produce such unusual results as we see in the specimen here illustrated.

Another thing worthy of notice in this blanket is that we have here a diagonal cloth. There is considerable difference between the Navaho loom which produces this web and the machine which produces a plain surface. The difference is shown in the essay to which I have referred. As one might suppose, the loom that produces the twilled or diagonal surface is the more elaborate, and its manipulation requires the greater skill and care. This specimen shows that it is the more elaborate loom which the inventor has seen fit to modify for the new form.

But the specimen is not only a blanket partly woven (Fig. 138); it is a loom, and a nearly complete loom, lacking only two movable parts (reed-fork and batten) which are common to all looms. Where is the secret, then? Why may not I, by merely examining the loom, tell how the change is made? I answer that I cannot do so without seeing the mechanism in operation. I might invent a plausible explanation and deliver it with an air of certainty which would impress you as the truth and yet be far astray. I should have to see the weaver at work, and even then might find it difficult to analyze the process. This I know from experience. There are writers who can reconstruct looms and processes by merely examining the webs or the impression left by these webs on plastic clay; but, unfortunately, this is beyond my ability.

I know of no fabric made by civilized man that is quite like this. I have asked experts in the dry-goods line if they knew of any and have been told that they did not. The modern golf-cloth, which is perfectly plain on one side and figured on the other, is somewhat similar in character, but not quite. I have no doubt that, were such an end desired, the American inventor would have little difficulty in producing a loom that would weave a two-faced fabric; but so far he has not done so. I merely mention these facts to show that the Navaho inventor has received no suggestion from either an European fabric or a civilized artisan.

There are baskets made by certain Indians of the Pacific Coast in which the figures woven on the outside are quite different from those woven directly behind them on the inside. They are two-faced fabrics, but the work is done altogether by hand and so offers little comparison with the Navaho blanket-work which is done by machinery. I have never seen any of these two-faced baskets among the Navahos,

Fig. 141. Elle, of Ganado, Ariz., One of the Best of Living Weavers.

Fig. 142. Tuli, the Child Weaver.

Fig. 143. Lighting Design Blanket. (Collection of Hamilton Noel.)

Fig. 144. Lighting Design Blanket. (Author's Collection.)


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and am certain they do not know how to make them; but I cannot deny that they may have seen them and have obtained at least an art suggestion from them.

During my many years of association with the Navaho I have been able to buy a few of these double-faced blankets, but have never seen the weaver of them at work, hence can add nothing to Dr. Matthews's description.

While, as a rule, among the Navahos, modern blankets are woven by women, there have always been men who have engaged in the art, and in describing some of the blankets herein pictured it will be observed that the masculine pronoun has been used, designating a man weaver. Dr. Matthews used to assert in his day that the best weaver on the reservation was a man, but it would be a rash statement to make today in the light of the excellent specimens constantly coming from the expert fingers of women. As some of the designs herein show, they are works of genius, which two or more generations of careful fostering have called into being.

It is a remarkable fact that while the Navahos have a wonderful variety of chants or songs which they sing in their ceremonies, the Navaho women seldom, if ever, sing at their work. In this regard they are different from their sisters of the Pueblo race. These Indians have many songs which they sing while grinding the flour at the metate, when attending their flocks, or out in the cornfield. But the Navaho women do not sing, except ceremonially, and there is little in the high-pitched, almost screeching, forced, and strenuously vociferous singing of the dances, to lead one to attempt it while engaged in the thoughtful, quiet, and sedentary occupation of weaving.

Yet it should not be thought from this that the songless Navaho woman is sad and forlorn. On the contrary, I know of no race of women in the world that are so physically self-reliant, so vigorous, strong, robust, and able as they; and mentally within their scope they are equally alert. And though they do not talk much (especially in the presence of white strangers) they are by no means a subdued, timid, and ‘‘„put-upon„’’ sex. They are self-assertive in a high degree and are given a much higher place in the social economy than most women. When they marry they retain their own property, and all children born belong to the mother. A woman can divorce a man as well and as easily as a man a woman, and while there is always a gift of ten or twelve horses from the bridegroom or his family to the parents of the bride, this is, as Berard says, not ‘‘„the price paid for the girl, but a gift sanctioned by tradition, as the Navaho do not sell their children.„’’

It should be noted, too, that the women are often the owners of the flocks of sheep, and in such case that the husband will not dare to sell even a single animal without the consent of his wife. And when the blanket is


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woven it is the wife, as a rule, who sells it and receives the money or goods that she barters in exchange for it.

One of the most peculiar taboos known is that of a Navaho man against sight of his mother-in-law. After the marriage ceremony he must never see her, officially. It is regarded as bad taste for a man to show any familiarity to the mother of the maiden he wishes to marry, possibly to prevent any feeling of jealousy between mother and daughter, and this may be the explanation of the taboo. The mother, after marriage, becomes do-zo-ini—‘‘„she who may not be seen.„’’ On several occasions I have done my utmost, played every kind of a trick imaginable, and exercised my inventive faculties to the utmost to bring mother-in-law and sonin-law together, but always in vain.

This undoubtedly is a good taboo. While it does not prevent a mother from visiting her married daughter, the fact that the visit is made in the husband's absence conduces to domestic peace, in that her suggestions for the conducting of her daughter's household are not made in the husband's presence and cannot, therefore, be construed into criticisms of him or his methods.

It should not be implied from the existence of this taboo that there is any personal aversion existing on the part of the husband against his mother-in-law. He may have been the best of friends with her, and still entertain the same kind of feeling. It is merely a fixed Navaho custom to which he must adhere whether he likes it or not, as evil is bound to come to him and his family if he dares to violate so long established a taboo.

General U. S. Hollister thinks that,

as the Navaho is polygamous, it is possible that this singular custom originated in a theory of protection for the husband. A man with half a dozen wives would have as many mothers-in-law, and. according to beliefs prevalent among white people, would also have a pretty hard time if all of them exercised influence over his household. Therefore, such a custom may be a very grave necessity in Navaho land.

The Navahos have special names for all the different kinds of blankets and Berard thus classifies them:

One of the very earliest and commonest forms was the nakhai bicliidi, which, as its name implies, is the Mexican rug or pelt. This style was a pattern borrowed from the Mexicans. The center was woven in a belt of blue, flanked by narrow strips of black, the remainder of the blanket alternating in belts of white, black, and blue. interspersed at optional intervals. The design was a very plain one and made for the Mexican trade.

This type of blanket, even by experts, will generally be called an ‘‘„old ChimayÓ,„’’ for it is the same style of blanket made up to twenty-five

Fig. 145. Lightning Design Blanket. (Author's Collection.)


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five years ago by the ChimayÓ and other Mexican weavers of New and Old Mexico. I have several old specimens of the ChimayÓ weave which were purchased from their weavers, and one of them is pictured in Fig. 249. I also possess, however, a Navaho blanket of almost similar type, and though I have shown it to several experts not one has recognized it as a Navaho, but all alike have denominated it ChimayÓ. Personally I can see no difference, and had I not purchased this latter blanket from an old Navaho, who herself wove it, I should have deemed it a ChimayÓ. (See p. 169.)

Nago nodozi, horizontally striped, a blanket woven in alternating stripes of black and white, with an occasional narrow strip of red added in the center, and the end belts of black. Red tassels decorated each corner.

A similar blanket, and one much in demand by the Utes, was known as alni naijini, or the blanket with the black (streak) belt in center. While the body of the blanket was laced with strips of white and black, the center was mounted with a wide black belt, with additional red and blue strips woven in between. Similar belts were woven in equi-distant intervals between the center belt and the ends, though they were narrower than the center belt. The corners were decorated with black tassels, making. a very attractive blanket.

The hanolchade, or carded blanket, which is now designated as the chief's blanket, is probably the chief of blankets, though it can hardly be said to have been worn by the chiefs exclusively. Here, too, the idea of alternating stripes of black and white is retained in the body of the blanket, though as a distinctive feature three zigzag diamonds made of small cubes of blue, red, and black yarn are set in the center of a wide belt of black. The interior of each diamond is a perfect white surmounted by a red cross in the center. The top and bottom of the blanket is finished in similar half diamonds.—[Berard.]

When this type is found in the old bayeta or native-wool, native-dyed blankets they are regarded as almost priceless by collectors. Fig. 7 is a good representation of one of these blankets in the Fred Harvey collection. Some twenty-five years ago I purchased a modern blanket of this type from one of John Lorenzo Hubbell's weavers at Ganado. It has been in continuous use since that time, mainly on the floor of Dr. W. L. Judson's art studio at Garvanza (Art Department of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles), and is a far more desirable blanket today than when it was first purchased. It has toned down somewhat and taken on some of the dignity of age, and while there can be no danger of mistaking it for a bayeta it is so good a blanket, so well dyed and woven, that its value will be enhanced as the years go by. Mr. Hubbell still has several of his most expert and careful weavers who prefer to weave nothing but this kind of blanket, and he keeps them busy all the time, as there is always a larger demand for this type (when well woven) than can be


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supplied. Fred Harvey also has several of his best weavers at work on this especial type.

Bil, woman's dress, was originally woven in black and blue. The black color, which is a fast jet black, was made from a mixture of sumac, pitch, and native ochre, called tsekho je ki, while the blue was indigo, bediltlish, obtained from the Mexicans. The top and bottom of the blanket alternated in four lines of blue and three of black, with the body of the blanket, or its center, alni, a plain jet black. The whole was bordered, banati, and tasseled, bijanil, in blue.

With the introduction of bayeta, red was substituted for the blue in the body of the blanket, though the blue border and tassels were retained (dotlish bequaolo, the weave runs out in blue). The solid black center, too, was retained, and gradually various designs of red and blue were woven with the black, lizhin bildestlo, at each side of the center belt.—[Berard.]

Specimens of this earlier type of woman's dress are very scarce. Only a few are to be found in the museums. The only one I was ever able to secure from the Navahos was one that was made and worn for years by the wife of the great warrior chief Manuelito (see Fig. 139). As it was the last of its kind, and was very worn and much repaired, she had carefully washed it and put it away amongst her treasures, from whence she drew it forth to show to me. When I expressed my desire to purchase it she refused to let me have it, on account of its dilapidated condition. But as later we became good friends she finally insisted upon my taking it as a gift.

During an Indian fiesta held in Los Angeles I loaned this rare dress, with a score or more of other of my blanket treasures, and when I came to make up an accounting of the ‘‘„returns„’’ this was missing, and I have never since been able to trace it, to my extreme regret.

Of the later type, showing the bayeta, I have a number of fine specimens. The older types are almost worth their weight in gold. Fig. 10 shows one of the earlier ones in the Hubbell collection. They are now neither woven nor worn and one may wander over the reservation for a year and not find one in any condition. Hence those that are now in collections are highly treasured.

Ba dotlizhi, or bil baba dotlizhi, blue borders. This was a woman's shawl, and owes its name to the two borders of blue which flanked the center of black. While the bil, or woman's dress, was of two pieces, which were sewed at the top and sides, leaving an opening for the head and arms only, the shawls were made in a single pattern and used after the manner of a shawl or wrap, much as the men use the blanket.

Bil lagai, white shawl, was so called from the alternating white and red color which was woven horizontally in narrow strips throughout. The border and tassels were blue. It was the only woman's garment in which white was used, and therefore was appropriately designated. The woman's dress and the shawls are not used today.—[Berard.]

FIG. 146. Navaho Blanket of Symbolic Design. (Author's Collection.) [PAGE 124]


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These were undoubtedly suggested by the white cotton shawls or garments of the Hopi women, as pictured elsewhere. There are none of these made by the Navahos today, though the Hopis still make them of cotton, finely embroidering them.

Baghaitloni, slit-weave. No special design seems to have been assigned to this blanket, but any blanket might be woven so as to leave a slit about four fingers wide in the center of the blanket, which was afterwards laced with blue yarn. It is generally stated that this weave had to be occasionally resorted to in order to avoid overdoing weaving. Yet it has also been advanced that this blanket was worn by the men just as the women used the bil, or woman's dress, and that to avoid ridicule, the above version of overdoing the weaving has been attached to the ‘‘„slit-weave.„’’ But this seems rather far-fetched.—[Berard.]

Another shirt which, like the preceding, was originally borrowed from the Pueblo, was still in vogue not so very many years ago. It was woven of wool yarn in the shape of a woman's dress, but provided with a longitudinal slit in the center for the purpose of passing it over the head. Fig. 140. It was entirely black in color and the only decoration was a tassel in each corner. When too filthy it would be washed and redyed, and from its varied use in wearing it either side out, or turning the front to rear at will, it was called ae nahotali, or bil lizhin ae nahotali, ‘‘„the black dress shirt which may be worn either side up.„’’ As the surface of the shirt was very rough, ditsid, which it was impossible to obviate even by a loose weave, ilzholigo istlo, a fur collar made of wildcat skin, noshdui bakhagi, was added and tied with buckskin thongs. The front sides of the shirt were folded inwardly and overlapped by the rear, in which fashion it was held close to the body by means of a cord tied around the waist. Despite this precaution the wind had free access to it, wherefore the more humorous dubbed it ae akidanalki, or ‘‘„the shirt which flaps in the wind.„’’ It was worn in addition to and over the ordinary wool or calico shirt, and some did not despise to store it away, indasistsos, for festive occasions. At present it has disappeared entirely.

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