Blankets and textiles are an important part of Native American culture and history. We invite you to learn more about the history and enter for your chance to win a Native-made blanket from My Paisley Pals below.
The History of Navajo Blankets and Rugs
In Navajo culture, two holy ones — spider man and spider woman, taught the Diné people how to weave. "The legend says that Spider Man created the loom of sunshine, lightning, and rain, while Spider Woman taught the Navajo how to weave it."1
"The Navajo people eventually came to be recognized as the most skillful of all the Native American weavers, dexterously crafting pieces prized for their vivid patterns, durability, and all-around practicality." They even bred their own type of sheep whose wool was great for weaving — the Navajo-Churro.1
The Navajos spun their wool and created blankets for daily use and wear until the 1860s when the U.S. Army interfered. The U.S. government deemed the Navajo a threat and forced them from their land by assault and "scorched earth" military strategy (burning their land and killing their livestock.) 1
Not long after "The Long Walk," the government signed a peace treaty with the Navajo and allowed them to return to their land. The government tried to make amends by giving them a new sheep — a French breed called the Rambouillet. But their wool wasn't anywhere near the same quality as the Navajo-Churro.1
In the 1870s, the Santa Fe Railway brought more Easterners to the Southwest introducing Navajo blankets to a much wider audience. As the traders demanded larger quantities of blankets, the quality of the blankets began to deteriorate. Simultaneously, Pendleton Woolen Mills "new, cheaper wearing-blankets with Navajo motifs, which made it even harder to sell the Navajo originals." 1
Appropriation vs. Appreciation
According to the Cambridge dictionary, appropriation is "the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect the culture."2
For example, making great personal profit from Native "inspired" designs is appropriation. Does this mean you can't wear Native fashion or decorate your house with Native Homegoods? You absolutely can, but please make sure you are purchasing from an actual Native artist — not someone who is using Native designs to make a profit.
This blanket is from My Paisley Pals, a Native-owned custom shirt and apparel shop. Learn more about them and check out their products here: www.mypaisleypals.com
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