CHAPTER XX. Pueblo Indian Weavers


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WE have already seen that the art of weaving was known to the Pueblo Indians long prior to the coming of the Spaniards into New Mexico (and Arizona) in 1540. They were also growers and weavers of cotton. In the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, is a fine specimen of cotton weaving taken from a prehistoric cliff-dwelling. It is from a cotton blanket that was originally about three by five feet in size. It is in colors and the designs are similar to those found on the pottery of an earlier or contemporaneous period.

In spite of the oft-made assertion that ‘‘„the Pueblos appear to have soon discarded the spinning of cotton for the easier spinning of wool,„’’ there is plenty of evidence that they have never discontinued cotton-weaving, and they still (1914) make many of their garments of this material. Every wedding dress of a Hopi maiden is of cotton, and I have half a dozen or more ceremonial costumes of cotton, embroidered with wool of different colors in striking designs. Fig. 34 is of a rare old Hopi woman's blanket, with a white cotton body and a border of deep blue with stripes of white cotton and red bayeta. Blankets of this type are very rare and seldom found, even in the best collections. The cotton weave is of twilled design and is a beautiful specimen of artistic work, while the border is in two panels, the wider of which is crossed with double diamonds. On the inner edge of this panel are a row of triangular figures placed one upon another. The white of the cotton has taken on a rich creamy hue, which gives the blanket as a whole a very pleasing effect.

In practically all of the various pueblos of the Rio Grande, of New Mexico and Arizona, one or more weavers can be found who make blankets that cannot be distinguished from those of the Navaho. At the Hopi House, near El Tovar, at the Grand Canyon, Fred Harvey generally has a Hopi weaving Navaho blankets. Mrs. Matilda Coxe Stevenson, whose colossal work on the Zunis occupies the whole six hundred pages, with scores of additional plates, of the Twenty-third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, states that:

in 1881 a young boy about twelve years of age became jealous over the writer's admiration for the blankets of the Navaho and determined to see what he could do. Going to work with no design before him, he produced a saddle-blanket of exceptional beauty.

FIG. 219. Standard Blanket. (Courtesy of the C. C. Manning Co.) Gray base, with design in red, white, and black. [PAGE 151]


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The elaborate figures were woven in various colors on a red ground. In 1902 a Zuni priest presented the writer with a blanket of his own weaving, which, though not fine, was elaborate in design and color. It was made in order to show the writer that the Zunis possess the art of weaving blankets in the Navaho style even though they do not practice it. They prefer to purchase blankets of the more elaborate kind from the Navahos and give their time to other things.

During the past twenty years since active and open hostilities between the Navahos and Pueblos have terminated there has been a commingling which has somewhat disturbed the old and rigid lines of racial or tribal divergence. This has manifested itself in weaving as in many other ways. For instance, time was when one familiar with the different tribes could immediately point out a Navaho-woven blanket from that of a Hopi, Zuni, or Acoma, etc. But that day has gone by. A Navaho woman weaver may be found making a dress in the Hopi weave, or a Hopi man weaving a Navaho blanket. In my collection I have a squaw-dress which was woven by a Zuni man, but it has none of the characteristics of the twilled or diamond weaving so often found in Pueblo squaw-dress weaving. Indeed, it is a simple Navaho weave throughout. It is woven broad side on. The two plain striped portions are in black and dark gray. The center design is in red, with the crosses in orange, with a smaller cross inside each in black. The upper and lower stripes are in red, with the ‘‘„square-eyed„’’ design in red, purple, and orange.

Fig. 244 is of a Hopi weaver at Sichomovi, on the first mesa. It will be observed that, in the main, this loom is exactly the same as that of the Navaho weavers, though the weaver is a man. Here, too, is another evidence of individuality in weaving methods. This man, having woven the diagonal portion of the squaw-dress at one end, turned the loom over so that he could complete the diagonal weaving of the other end before he began the plain or simple weave of the center of the dress.

That this method, however, is not uncommon is shown by Fig. 245, which depicts a Hopi man weaver at the most western of the Hopi pueblos, Oraibi.

One of the most interesting of sights is to see a Hopi weaving a white cotton garment, full blanket size, from cotton of his own growing, cleaning, carding, and spinning. This is generally done in the sanctity of the kiva, or secret underground ceremonial chamber, because the dress, when completed, is to be worn by his bride at the wedding ceremony. Such a blanket has no color to it whatever, but is adorned with carefully made and most elaborate cords and tassels at each corner. A reed case is also made for carrying it.

For dance and other ceremonial purposes, however, cotton dresses of this type are beautifully embroidered in black, green, and red, similar to


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the kilt shown in Fig. 246. The Hopis are great adepts in this kind of work.

Fig. 247 shows a member of the Antelope clan at Oraibi weaving a ceremonial sash or kilt, which he is to wear at the forthcoming Snake Dance, in the manner shown in Fig. 248. This dance is fully described in my Indians of the Painted Desert Region and is one of the most remarkable and astounding religious rites of the pagan world. The sash is shown in Fig. 246, with one of the Pueblo and Navaho belts worn around the waists of the women.

Fig. 220. Standard Quality Blanket, Good Design and Color. (Autho's Collection.)

Fig. 221. Standard Blanket, Saddle Size. (Matthews Collection.)

Fig. 222. Standard Blanket. (Matthews Collection.)

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