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NAYAJO 



AND HIS 



BLANKE 



U. S. HOLLISTLR ? 

DENVER, COL 




COPYRIGHT 190}, BY U. S. HOLLISTEK. 



THE PRINTING AND THREE-COLOR WORK BY 
THE UNITED STATES COLORTYPK CO. 

AND 

HALF-TONE WORK BY 

THE WILLIAMSON-HAFFNER ENGRAVING CO. 
DENVER, COLORADO 



CONTENTS 



99 



INTRODUCTION 

"THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN" (Sprague). - 3 

THE RED MAN . 1 7 

A SUMMER DAY IN NAVAJO LAND 21 

THE NAVAJO LAND 

THE NAVAJO . 

HABITATIONS . 

THE BEGINNING 

ANOTHER STEP 

THE BLANKET . 

CONCLUSION . 



514 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



COLORED PLATES FAC ,NG PAGE 

PLATE I One-half of a Navajo Squaw-dress" of the period between 

1840 and 1860 29 

PLATE II An old example of Navajo work in pink bayeta, native dyes, 

made about 1850 ^ 

PLATE III An old blanket of native wool in natural colors and native 

dyes - 67 

PLATE IV A curious and rare old blanket of sacred significance, woven 

about 1845 87 

PLATE V A modern rug-blanket, made in 1891 93 

PLATE VI An old specimen bearing the Head Chiefs emblem, of the 

period of 1865 103 

PLATE VII A valuable old bayeta blanket made about 1840 - 113 

PLATE VIII A combination of bayeta and Germantovvn yarn - 117 

PLATE IX A Navajo beauty, wholly of German town yarn, about twenty- 
five years old 123 

PLATE X Another fine example of Navajo weaving, entirely of German- 
town yarn - 137 

ENGRAVINGS PAGE 

"Homeward Bound" Frontispiece 

Portrait of the Author 9 

Group of Navajos Visiting Santa Fe 1 6 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Continued 

PAGE 

FIGURE I * * "in most characteristics entirely different from the 

aborigines of any other country" 17 

FIGURE 2 * * "where two mountains look at each other across a 

canon" 2 1 

FIGURE 3 -A Navajo Summer Hogan 24 

FIGURE 4 "a mountain, mesa and valley country" 27 

FIGURE 5 A Cliff Dweller s Sandal; upper and lower sides 31 

FIGURE 6 A Navajo "Sweat House" 38 

FIGURE 7 "he struts and poses in great style until he scents 

his mother-in-law" 41 

FIGURE 8 Navajos Worshiping the Elements 46 

FIGURE 9 Navajo Indians Trading 5 i 

FIGURE 10 A Navajo Silversmith 58 

FIGURE 11 "may be almost anything that can be considered a 

.shelter" 65 

FIGURE 12 A Navajo Winter Hogan 68 

FIGURE i 3 A More Elaborate Winter Hogan 74 

FIGURE 14 "familiar landmarks today, but which were far more 

populous then than now" 

FIGURE 15 "At San Ildelfonso * * he built the first church in New 

Mexico" 83 

FIGURE 16 * "there was then, as now, a Navajo flock in every 

valley" 91 

FIGURE 17 A Navajo Woman Carding Wool 100 

FIGURE 1 8 A Navajo Woman Spinning Wool i i o 

FIGURE 19 A Navajo Weaver 120 

FIGURE 20 "the young Navajo woman in her bridal array" 129 

FIGURE 21 A View in Zuni 34 

FIGURE 22 Navajos Gazing Upon A Railroad Train 142 



INTRODUCTION 




\YiTii the passing 1 of the North 
American Indians from their 
nntive condition there is an in 
creasing interest in all that relates 
to them, to their origin, and to 
their modes of life before they 
were disturbed by the influences 
of advancing civilization. In the 
sequence of events it will not be 
long until they will live only in 
history; and therefore, realizing 
that this fate awaits them in the 
near future, we are collecting and 
recording all information we can 
obtain concerning their legends, 
traditions, beliefs, habits, man 
ners, customs, and handiwork, and 

are eager to witness their tribal ceremonies and religious rites be 
fore the encroachments of the white man bring about their discon 
tinuance. Every fact pertaining to their lives that we gather and 
record, and every article of their production that we obtain and 
preserve, will be of value to coming generations, and add to the 
stock of material available to future historians of this remarkable 
race of men. 

Our researches along these lines bring us into contact with 
the structures and other remains of those strange and unknown 
peoples, the Cliff Dwellers and the Mound Builders, who were cer 
tainly far antecedent to our Indians in their occupation of our 



10 INTRODUCTION. 

country. We study with intense interest their surviving monu 
ments and other evidences of their presence here in the remote past 
in our still baffled efforts to determine who and what they were and 
how and when they lived ; and treasure their lesser relics their im 
plements, pottery, and woven fabrics as mementos of vanished 
races who, as we have many reasons for believing, may have risen 
and flourished long before the Christian era. 

In decorating our homes with fine examples of our Indians 
barbaric work which we willingly purchase at almost any price, 
we gratify our love for curious things and yield to our fancy for 
unusual embellishments; but in doing so we may also be building 
better than we know. Collections of the implements of domestic 
use, and of warfare, and of the clothing and ornaments, made by 
the Indians of our eastern coast in the time when our Pilgrim 
Fathers landed, would be of great value now ; and collections as 
sembled by us of similar articles made by the Indians of the present 
day will be hereafter of great ethnological and historic value. 

As Indian wars have gone out of fashion, present-time products 
of Indian handiwork, among which general attention is divided, are 
basketry, beadwork, buckskin garments, necklaces, pottery, and the 
Navajo blanket. The more conspicuous of these, and toward which 
the greatest interest is directed, are the basket and the blanket. 
Basket-making covers a wide range of territory, the art being prac 
ticed by many tribes, who produce an almost endless variety of forms 
and patterns. From Alaska southward along our western coast 
and in the Rocky Mountain region, wherever there is an Indian tribe 
or clan, we may find the native-made basket in some form either 
for utilitarian, ceremonial, or ornamental purposes. 

Among primitive people everywhere in the world the basket 
was the parent of textile fabrics); the art of weaving baskets having 
preceded that of weaving cloth, and having suggested the latter, 
among all races. How little we appreciate these early efforts of 
aboriginal men who gathered bark and twigs, or fibrous leaves of 



INTRODUCTION. 11 

plants, and formed them into rude receptacles for domestic use, and 
later developed the rudimentary art into one producing rough cover 
ings for their bodies ! In the fact that the oldest-known pieces of 
pottery bear marks of having been formed inside a basket, we have 
evidence that basketry preceded pottery ; the basket-covering having 
been burned away, thus removing the mold and baking the pottery 
at the same time. It is difficult to realize that all the luxurious, 
beautiful, and useful fabrics produced by our modern looms had 
their origin in the exceedingly crude basket-weaving done by people 
living in a state of barbarism, if not of savagery. Collecting and 
studying Indian baskets possess much fascination for all who do so, 
and will long be in high favor among lovers of barbaric art. 

But the Navajo blankets are peculiarly attractive to those who 
become familiar with their remarkable qualities and very interesting 
history. Indeed they are unique among Indian products, and may 
be said to stand aloof from all the others. Made by only one tribe, 
they have characteristics that no other people try to imitate ; and at 
this time are attracting probably more attention than any other 
articles of Indian manufacture. 

My interest in these really wonderful products of the simple 
looms of the Navajos dates from the first year of my residence in 
the Rocky Mountain country, and has remained unabated through 
the twenty years or more that have elapsed since. During this period 
I have had many opportunities to learn something about the abor 
iginal people of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, having 
frequently visited the wigwams and wickyups of the Utes and of 
the Apaches, the adobe villages of the Pueblos, and the hogans of 
the Navajos. Though my boyhood years were spent on the pioneer 
line, and among my earlier recollections are those of Chippewa 
Indians calling in bands at my father s house in southern Wiscon 
sin when that part of the country was practically a wilderness, 1 
have never been in sympathy with those who think "the only good 
Indians are dead ones." There are many good Indians, and also 



12 INTRODUCTION. 

many bad ones. But it might be worth while to remember that 
not all white men are good. 

For some material used in the preparation of this little volume 
I am indebted to Pike s "Account" of his famous expedition, Major 
Emory s "Notes of a Military Reconnoissance," Governor Prince s 
"Story of New Mexico," and to the Reports of the Smithsonian 
Institution s Bureau of Ethnology; but its contents represent to a 
greater extent the results of my own observations and researches 
supplemented by information received from many good friends in 
the Navajo land. 

The colored plates are direct reproductions from blankets in 
my collection, while the title page is by that conscientious painter 
of Indian life, Frank P. Sauerwen, three of whose pictures appear 
among the engravings. The other engravings are from photographs 
by P. E. Harroun, Sumner W. Matteson, Charles H. Goodman, 
Professor George H. Pepper of the Hyde expedition under the 
auspices of the American Museum of Natural History (New York), 
and by myself. 

During the years in which I have been interested in the work 
of the Navajos and in collecting choice examples of their weaving, 
many questions concerning these people and their woven fabrics 
have been asked me; and it was in consequence of these frequent 
inquiries that I was prompted to prepare this little book. While it 
is far from a complete presentation of the subjects with which it 
deals, it may prove of value and interest to those who admire and 
buy Navajo blankets; and to them it is respectfully dedicated. 

U. S. HOLLISTER. 
Denver, Colo., May, 1903. 



THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN 

(SPRAGUE.) 

"Not many generations ago, where you now sit, encircled with 
all that exalts and embellishes civilized life, the rank thistle nodded 
in the wind, and the wild fox dug his hole unscared. Here lived 
and loved another race of beings. Beneath the same sun that rolls 
over your head, the Indian hunter pursued the panting deer ; gazing 
on the same moon that smiles for you, the Indian lover wooed his 
dusky mate. 

"Here, the wigwam-blaze beamed on the tender and helpless, 
and the council-fire glared on the wise and daring. Now, they 
dipped their noble limbs in your sedgy lakes, and now, they paddled 
the light canoe along your rocky shores. Here they warred ; the 
echoing whoop, the bloody grapple, the defying death-song, all 
were here; and when the tiger-strife was over, here curled the smoke 
of peace. 

"Here, too, they worshiped; and from many a dark bosom 
went up a fervent prayer to the Great Spirit. He had not written 
his laws for them on tables of stone, but he had traced them on 
the tables of their hearts. The poor child of Nature knew not the 
God of Revelation, but the God of the universe he acknowledged 
in everything around. 

"He beheld him in the star that sank in beauty behind his 
lonely dwelling; in the sacred orb that flamed on him from his 
mid-day throne ; in the flower that snapped in the morning s breeze ; 
in the lofty pine that defied a thousand whirlwinds; in the timid 
warbler that never left its native grove; in the fearless eagle, whose 
untired pinion was wet in the clouds; in the worm that crawled 
at his feet; and in his own matchless form, glowing with a spark of 



14 THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN. 

that light, to whose mysterious source he bent in humble, though 
blind adoration. 

"And all this has passed away. Across the ocean came a pilgrim 
bark, bearing the seeds of life and death. The former were sown 
for you; the latter sprung up in the path of the simple native. Two 
hundred years have changed the character of a great continent, and 
blotted forever from its face, a whole, peculiar people. Art has 
usurped the bowers of nature, and the anointed children of educa 
tion have been too powerful for the tribes of the ignorant. 

"Here and there, a stricken few remain, but how unlike their 
bold, untamed progenitors. The Indian of falcon glance and lion 
bearing, the theme of the touching ballad, the hero of the pathetic 
tale, is gone ! and his degraded offspring crawls upon the soil, where 
he walked in majesty, to remind us how miserable is man, when 
the foot of the conqueror is on his neck. 

"As a race, they have withered from the land. Their arrows 
are broken, their springs are dried up, their cabins are in the dust. 
The council-fire has long since gone out on the shore, and their 
war-cry is fast fading to the untrodden west. Slowly and sadly 
they climb the distant mountains, and read their doom in the 
setting sun. They are shrinking before the mighty tide which is 
pressing them away ; they must soon hear the roar of the last wave, 
which will settle over them forever. 

"Ages hence, the inquisitive white man, as he stands by some 
growing city, will ponder on the structure of their disturbed re 
mains, and wonder to what manner of persons they belonged. They 
will live only in the songs and chronicles of their exterminators. 
Let these be faithful to their rude virtues, as men, and pay due 
tribute to their unhappy fate, as a people." 




> i 



THE RKD MAN 




THE North American Indian has a 
strong personality; an individuality 
peculiar to himself. He is in most 
characteristics entirely different from 
the aborigines of any other country. 
Our Indian tribes may differ in de 
tails of habits, but they are remark 
ably alike in general. The men 
greatly dislike manual labor, or any 
thing else that savors of drudgery. 
They are combative, the warrior in 
stinct being strong in all of them. 
To become a war-chief was the high 
est ambition of the young man : to be 
recognized as a great warrior, the 
highest ambition of the war-chief. 
Their war-songs took precedence 
over all the weird and uncanny vocal demonstrations that we call 
Indian song. To put on war-paint, and dress in the paraphernalia 
of war, was the highest gratification of their sense of barbaric pride. 
Their legends of battle, and of the victories won by their prowess, 
are among the more important of their stories ; and they now tell 
us with great gusto of the brave deeds done by their people "long 
time ago." 

Fond of the chase, our Indians are hunters of wild game almost 
by instinct. The "cunning of the fox" is met by the craft of the 
hunter, and to the weak trait in the habits of animal or bird appeal 
is made to the best advantage in effecting its capture. When PCS- 



FIGURE I ;: "in most characteristics 
entirely different from the aborigines of 
any other country" 



18 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

sible, they seek timbered and well-watered regions as places of 
abode, and are cunning in woodcraft. The "four winds," or the 
four quarters of the compass, they know from the incline of the 
oak, or by the moss upon the rocks. They are not noted for ideal 
domestic virtues, and regard their women as of value only in pro 
portion to the amount of manual labor they perform to the extent 
that they lighten the burdens of their lords. 

Indians are faithful friends, but implacable enemies ; and are 
imitative of the white man chiefly in adopting his vices. While 
not disposed, as a general rule, to be truthful, they can be depended 
upon to lie to a white man who has lied to them. On the other 
hand, a white man who has dealt only in truth and fairness in his 
intercourse with them, may depend upon their integrity in all things. 
Therefore the white man s influence over them, is in proportion 
to the reputation he has established with them for regarding truth 
and honesty. It may be stated as a rule that if they are untruthful 
or dishonest themselves, they never fail to respect truth and honesty 
in others. They are in no sense emotional, and anything like senti 
ment is entirely foreign to their nature. Stoical to an exasperating 
degree, they will often persist in wearing a stolid, unchanged 
expression during one s efforts to amuse or abuse them. This is 
further illustrated by their temperate manifestations of either joy 
or sorrow, and the heroic fortitude with which they endure torture 
or other physical suffering. 

All of them have some form of religion ; its expression being 
the worship of natural phenomena. They worship the elements; 
the wind and the whirlwind; the gentle rain and the mountain 
storm; the storm clouds, the lightning and the thunder; the stars, 
the sun, and the moon. Birds and animals are also objects of 
adoration, but more often are regarded as means of communication 
with the elements, rather than as creatures to be directly worshiped. 
They bow in suppliant mood before idols of crude figures of stone 
or clay, or rude wood carvings. Their altars are often decorated 



THE RED MAN. 19 

with the feathers of birds, and with plumes of grass surmounting 
"sand paintings;" and surrounded by baskets of sacred meal and 
corn. Each uncouth figure represents the element with which they 
desire to communicate. They invoke these dumb gods, but beyond 
the mere figure, they see and invoke the element it represents. 

For instance, the Pueblo Indian s God of Rain may be an ugly 
mass of sunburned clay, representing a human figure holding an 
olla, or water jar. While they pay tribute to it and ask that rain 
may fall upon their sun-scorched lands, they really look beyond the 
image, and fix their attention on the clouds from which they hope 
rain will come; and beyond the clouds to the governing Power 
of the universe. 

The popular idea of the Indian s worship of idols is not entirely 
correct. He does not worship the idol, but that element in Nature 
represented by the idol. We venerate the cross, not because it has 
any power for good or evil, but because it is the emblem of the 
crucifixion. From a view-point of broad charity, we cannot deny 
the Indian s idol a place among the emblems of a world of wor 
shipers. Who is competent to say that the Indian s worship of 
the grandeur of the firmament in which he sees and recognizes the 
power of an Omnipotent, is not as proper for him, as our worship 
is for us in any of the many ways enlightened people do so? The 
Indian has many idols : we have many forms. Read Prescott s 
"Conquest of Mexico, "and then say by what human right the Span 
ish murderers of the peaceful Aztecs tore down their idols, and in 
their stead erected the cross literally stained with the blood of men 
who died defending their homes, and with the blood of helpless 
women and innocent children. If the broad mantle of charity be 
needed to cover the errors of the Spanish invader or those of his 
victims, let it be cast over the former. 

While the Indian is not an ideal being, he is not lacking in 
many good qualities. Stolid, because he does not readily compre 
hend our ways, he really possesses a strong mentality, and under- 



THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

stands natural phenomena better than we. He is not given to much 
talk, but that is not because of mental weakness. His memory is 
excellent, but he may often seem to forget, when it is not in his 
interest to remember. If he really does not understand, he is apt 
to attribute it to the supernatural. To him, everything in Nature 
partakes of the sacred; every element has a soul. The medicine 
man is his preacher, and his seer, or prophet; and is expected not 
only to cure disease, but to guard against it and against all other 
forms of evil; to ask favors of the supernatural, and to advise and 
direct in the forms of worship. Witchery is recognized, and con 
sidered a black art, and condemned to the extent of killing the 
witches, or of banishing them from the tribe. Some enlightened 
people possibly have set the example. We do not know whether 
the Indian believed in witchcraft before the landing of our good 
Pilgrim Fathers, or not. Let us not draw too close comparisons 
for fear of the result. 

In conclusion, let us admit that the Indian is not a particularly 
lovable being. Possibly he will be when he learns to "love his 
neighbor as himself." For many generations he has considered the 
white man as his enemy. Why ? Because he has hunted him from 
his native land ; cheated and robbed him, and while a good white 
man was trying to convert him, a bad one was plying him with 
vile whisky. Sacred promises have been broken. He has been 
confined to barren reservations, forbidden to kill game, and hedged 
about by the white man s power; baffled by the white man s cun 
ning a cunning far deeper than his own. He has no way to turn 
but toward the setting sun ; no voice to listen to but the voice of 
Fate, and that consigns him to the vale of extermination and says, 
"Good-bye!" 

"Alas for them! their day is o er. 

Their fires are out from shore to shore." 



A SUMMER DAY IN NAVAJO LAND 



"An angel, robed in spotless white, 
Bent down and kissed the sleeping night. 
Night woke to blush : The sprite was gone. 
Men saw the blush and called it Dawn." 




SLOWLY the darkness of early morn 
falls back before the shafts of a rising 
sun. The keen arrows of light pierce 
its mantle, and it is driven fleeting to 
the west. The Sun is master : his morn 
ing rays dry the earth. The vapor rises 
from the streams in the valley, at first 
in little threads of white, like smoke 
from a dying camp fire ; then gathering 
volume, it ascends until the course of 
the stream is plainly marked by a pearly 

FIGURE 2 * "where two mountains white drapery that curtains the bright- 
look at each other across a canon" r .. t , T *i 

ness of the new-born day. Lazily ex 
panding, and growing darker, the mist assumes the form of threat 
ening clouds, and these float up the canons and brush against the 
mountain sides, spraying the verdure with diamonds of dew, and 
baptizing it in the name of the glorious Orb of Day, the Indians 
"Father of All." Then they whiten again as they are bleached by 
the sun ; and, stirred by the breeze, go tumbling over the mountains 
like great fleecy sheep at play. Beautiful in contrast with the 
purple haze of the ranges, the azure of the sky, and the light of 
the morning, yet they soon separate into slender strands of mist 
which wander off into space and are lost. 



22 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

And now, everything is bathed in golden sunshine. The snow 
glistens on the peaks; the odor of pine and of cedar fills the air; 
the pure ozone tempts the lungs to full expansion. The world of 
wilderness is awake! 

And this is Morning in Navajo land. 

As the noontime approaches, the sun seems to pause overhead, 
where, in a dome of purest blue, it glows and burns, and parches 
the earth; but, under its influence, the valleys have revealed their 
wealth of wild flowers, cactus, sage and bright-leafed shrubs, that 
rival the barbaric colors of oriental drapery. The mountains with 
their gleaming caps of snow stand out in strong relief, in blue and 
gray and purple tints, and in ever-shifting lights and shadows. An 
eagle slowly and in great circles soars high in the blue sky. A 
coyote calls to his mate across the miles between mesa and mesa; 
or, in the shade of a cedar naps or idles the day away a lazy vaga- 
l)ond, waiting for the night. On a distant trail, a Navajo on horse 
back, watching his sheep, shades his eyes and looks across the valley 
into the vast expanse of light; and in the distance he can see the 
smoke from the hut he calls home. He looks at the grandeur of 
the whole scene through the rarefied air of an elevation of more 
than a mile above the sea; through an atmosphere which, acting 
like the lens of a telescope, brings far-distant objects within easy 
range. The great panorama of mountain and plain, of mesa and 
valley, of arroya and canon, shaded here and there by pine and 
cedar, dwarfs every living thing. The stillness is the stillness of 
solitude ; the beauty, the beauty of Nature undefiled. 

And this is Mid-day in Navajo land. 

As the afternoon grows old, the glare fades; and the sun, 
touching the rugged horizon, casts long shadows across the plains ; 
and then, like a blazing meteor, drops out of sight behind the snow 
capped mountains. 

Now, turn your eyes to the west and look upon the glorious 
beauty of a sunset in this strange land. The peaks stand out like 



A SUMMER DAY IN NAVAJO LAND. 25 

sentinels guarding the retreat of day, and a blaze of light whitens 
the sunward side of those to the right and to the left. Fragments 
of gathering clouds, floating above in a sea of azure in which are 
blended tints of gray and green and yellow, are rich with the colors 
of red and gold and scarlet and purple which shift and change 
before our gaze as the misty masses drift with the evening breeze. 
Through this wealth of brilliant colors and mingled hues and tints 
the sun projects its rays in fan-like form far into space, the shafts 
and beams of light illuminating the whole, and completing a rare 
picture of magnificence that inspires feelings of reverence and 
humility in those who look upon it. You close your eyes, and 
wonder if anything else that is of this world can be so beautiful. 
The fiery glory behind the mountains dies down, but twilight lingers 
long as it slowly yields its beauty to the gathering shades of night. 

And this is Evening in Navajo land. 

One after another the stars appear; slowly and shyly at first, 
one here and one there; "then springing into myriads all at once." 
The rising moon is hidden by the mountains, and her soft white 
light, reflected on the clouds that float around and above the peaks, 
transforms them into masses of white and gold. As we stand in 
the deep shadow, the mountains are outlined in frosted silver by 
the light of the moon that we cannot see, and with this and the 
hues of the illuminated clouds before us, the grandly beautiful scene 
is like one we associate with the work of enchantment a most 
wonderful combination of moonlight effects in the mountain regions 
of the Navajo land. As she rises, the moon s rim comes into view 
where two mountains look at each other across a canon (Figure 
2) ; and, peering through this notch in the range, she seems to be 
asking: "Is it night? May I come?" But without awaiting our 
bidding she presents herself in all her splendor; and the mountains 
and cliffs and valleys all the wide landscape around us, are flooded 
with her light and do homage to Her Majesty, the Queen of Night, 
the Indians "Mother of All Mankind." 



26 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

The soughing of the pines as they are stirred by a rising breeze, 
is like the murmur of a distant sea, and warns us that the Storm 
King has had his battle array of thunder-clouds hidden behind the 
mountains. Now, as he leads them over the range, the wind rushes 
down the gorges, whirls around the foot-hills, and sweeps across 
the mesa and through the canons, raising great billows of dust. 
The air is "tremulous with the energy of an approaching storm." 
Suddenly, all is quiet; but soon the great rain-drops begin to fall 
big warm tears of the clouds. Thicker and faster they come until 
the land is drenched, and new-made rivers roar in the canons, and 
flood the arroyas with their turbid waters. The clouds have swept 
over us, and in the silvery light that fills the night, we watch the 
retreating storm and hear the distant, sullen thunder, that rumbles 
like the cannonading of a retiring army that has spent its strength. 
Far-away dull flashes of lightning still tell of the storm that is 
gone ; but the moon and the stars seem brighter than before, though 
low in the east is a touch of the faint first glow that heralds the 
coming of another morn. 

And this was a summer day in Navajo land. 




THE NAVAJO LAND 




FIGURE 4 * "a mountain, mesa and valley country 



A LAND of desert and of 
great brown plains; of 
rugged mountains and of 
sheltered valleys; of an 
azure sky, and a soft, win 
some air that tempts one 
to rest and sleep; where 
the cold of winter is tem 
pered by the warmth of a 
southern sun, and the sum 
mer heat is fanned to a de 
lightful coolness by the 

ever-stirring breeze that comes down from snow-capped mountains, 
over the mesas and into the valleys, freighted with the breath of 
pines and cedars. 

That portion of our sunny southwest occupied by the Navajo 
Indians, and set apart by the government as the Navajo Reserva 
tion, we shall call the Navajo land. Originally these people occu 
pied a wide range of mountain and valley in southeastern Utah, 
southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico and northeastern 
Arizona. Prior to 1846, they were bold marauders and, until 
tamed by American soldiers, were a menace to the pioneer line of 
civilization. In 1867 the present reservation, located in northwest 
ern New Mexico, and northeastern Arizona, with a small area in 
southeastern Utah, was assigned them. While this reservation does 
not nearly cover the original area occupied by the Navajos prior 
to 1863, it is entirely within the lines of their first occupation. The 
reservation contains 12,000 square miles, or 7,680,000 acres, equnl 



28 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

to the combined areas of Massachusetts and Connecticut, or of New 
Jersey and Connecticut. 

If this great tract of land were fertile, or outside the arid 
region, it would not be an Indian reservation. As it is, the sun 
shine, temperate climate, and grandeur of scenery, constitute nearly 
all the measures of value the region now possesses. The Tunicha 
range of mountains cuts the country in two from the northwest to 
the southeast, and the Cariza spurs to the north add to its mountain 
area ; the range and the spurs attaining an altitude of from 8,000 
to 9,500 feet. Outside the mountain districts there are broad mesas, 
or table lands, and great valleys; the mountain sides being covered 
with growths of pine, cedar and spruce. The northern portions of 
the Navajo land, especially in the high or mountain altitudes, is 
cold in winter and cool in summer ; while the lower jx:>rtion is 
extremely hot in summer, and mild in winter. The migratory 
habits of the Xavajo enable him to conform easily to climatic con 
ditions, and therefore he will usually be found in the most comfort 
able part of his domain in summer or in winter. The ranges break 
down toward the valleys and plains on either side, and are seamed 
with many canons, that give rise to numerous small streams. The 
canons furnish nearly all the tillable land in the mountain region, 
and the streams the water for the irrigation of crops. 

This country was inhabited before the advent of the Navajos; 
and by a people of superior intelligence, and far more peaceful and 
civilized than their successors. The valleys produced means of sub 
sistence, and that they were cultivated long before the coming of 
the Xavajos is shown by the remains of ancient reservoirs and well- 
planned irrigating canals; the Navajos not yet having undertaken 
anything of this kind in as scientific or practical a manner as their 
predecessors. The canons were fertile, sheltered and watered, the 
great walls of sandstone affording opportunity to cut homes in the 
rock; or offering cliff-covered terraces upon which to build homes 
that were at once safe retreats from the elements and from enemies. 



Pl " r 0ne -hH uaw-drws," ,f the 

iiid 1860. 




THE NAVAJO LAND. 29 

In this region we find many of the ancient cliff dwellings, relics 
of a mysterious race of men. The Navajo land is peculiarly rich 
in these monuments of a lost people; a large number of the more 
remarkable ruins being found in the central part of the reservation. 
The modern Indian has no traditions to enlighten us as to the kind 
of people who preceded him in the occupation of that country, and 
who lived in the great communal houses that line the canons ; neither 
stories nor legends that throw any light upon the time these Cliff 
Dwellers lived, or tell us who or what they were. He is but little 
interested in these ruins of the homes of people who were gone 
centuries before Columbus embarked upon unknown seas to find a 
new world, and pays scarcely more attention to them than to the 
rocks upon which they stand, or to the cliffs that rise above them 
like silent sentinels keeping guard over the deserted homes of a race 
whose work throws only a dim shadow upon the mists of an 
tiquity. 

That the Cliff Dwellers had disappeared long before the advent 
of the Navajos is also quite evident. If the latter had found the 
Cliff Dwellers occupying that field, there would have been war for 
supremacy, and the story of battle would have been handed down 
for many generations ; legends of war being the most enduring of 
any subject with which an Indian mind has to deal. 

Moreover the relics of these prehistoric people are evidence 
that they were much further advanced in the domestic arts than 
even the Navajos of the present time. It is not the nature of man, 
even savage man, to retrograde, and it would seem that the Cliff 
Dwellers had also advanced to a condition of peaceful life. The 
many implements of domestic use and of agriculture found in the 
ruins, and the absence of weapons of war, indicate this. 

When white men first came in contact with the Navajos, they 
found them far behind the condition that had been attained by the 
Cliff Dwellers, as told by the mute eloquence of the work left behind 
by the earlier people. The Cliff Dwellers were weavers of cloth, 



;ft) THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

fine specimens of cotton weave having been found in the older ruins ; 
some in symbolical figures in colors that vie with the present Navajo 
blanket. The Navajos did not learn to weave until comparatively 
recent times; indeed, they did not spin a thread nor do any weav 
ing until long after the occupation of the southwest by the Span 
iards; and although they have dwelt in their present land for cen 
turies, their period covers only a step backward toward the age in 
which these prehistoric people of our southwest lived. 

Major \V. H. Emory, of the United States army, who appears 
to have been the first American who visited this region of ruins 
and intelligently observed and described them, said in his "Notes 
of a Military Reconnoissance," under date October 28, 1846: 

"Red cedar posts were found in many places, which seemed to 
detract from their antiquity, but for the peculiarity of this climate, 
where vegetable matter seems never to decay. In vain did we 
search for some remnant which would enable us to connect the 
inhabitants of these long deserted buildings with other races. No 
mark of an edge tool could be found, and no remnant of any house 
hold or family utensils, except the fragments of pottery which were 
everywhere strewed on the plain, and the rude corn-grinder still 
used by the Indians. So great was the quantity of this pottery, and 
the extent of ground covered by it, that I have formed the idea it 
must have been used for pipes to convey water. There were about 
the ruins quantities of the fragments of agate and obsidian, the 
stone described by Prescott as that used by the Aztecs to cut out 
the hearts of their victims. This valley was evidently once the 
abode of busy, hard-working people. Who were they? Where 
have they gone? Tradition among the Indians and Spaniards does 
not reach them." 

This Navajo country has been the home of the Indian so long, 
that it is without doubt entitled to the distinction of presenting 
evidence of the longest continuous occupancy by that race of any 
portion of our territory ; and therefore the land of the Navajo lends 



THE NAVAJO LAND. 



31 



interest to the story of the Navajo. A great portion of the Navajo 
country was originally a vast table-land underlaid by deep strata of 
sandstone. The warring elements of thousands of years have 
grooved it with valleys, gorges and canons, leaving flat-topped 
mesas and perpendicular cliffs. 

The wonderful Canon de Chelly is in the heart of the Navajo 

country ; a deep, broad fis 
sure in the table- and 
mountain-land, walled on 
both sides by great masses 
of red sandstone. The 
walls vary in height from 
twenty feet at the mouth, 
where the mountain- and 
table-land slope to the 
plain, to 800 feet where 
the canon penetrates the 
range. Within a distance 
of some twenty miles, 
which is nearly the length 
of the canon, there are 
about one hundred and 
fifty cliff-dwelling ruins. 
Several smaller canons di- 

FIGURE 5* * "A Cliff Dweller s Sandal; upper and verging from the main 
lower sides. More than 1,000 years old. -11.1 r* j 1 

one, notably the Canon del 
Muerto, and Monument Canon, also contain many ruins. 

The pottery and other articles of domestic use found in the 
homes of these ancient people would indicate that they were the 
remote ancestors of the Pueblos; but how remote? "That s the 
question." 

It is reported by very good authority that whole ears of carbon 
ized Indian corn have been found embedded in lava; the lava-flow 





;tt THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

containing this curious evidence of the long time ago of the Cliff 
Dwellers having been later covered deep with debris. Charred roof 
timbers with burned clay adhering to them, and many articles of 
domestic life in close proximity, further indicated that these people 
were there at the time of the last volcanic eruption in that country. 
Calcined Indian corn has also been found on the floors of some of 
the old dwellings, but having no ashes or cinders near to indicate 
that it had been burned in an ordinary fire. The theory is becoming 
popular that the grain was calcined by volcanic heat that raised w the 
temperature of the atmosphere above the scorching point, and 
destroyed all life. Great basins, formerly the beds of lakes, are 
now filled with lava, and ruins of the abodes of men are found at 
the edge of these lava beds in such position that they appear to 
have been at one time on the shores of the lakes. 

What of the theory that a great population was destroyed sud 
denly by the fervent heat and poisonous fumes from molten lava? 
The recent eruption of Mt. Pelee, and consequent destruction of 
human life, helps us to believe it possible that the Cliff Dwellers 
were destroyed in like manner. Implements of domestic utility are 
found in great abundance, and which these people certainly would 
have taken away with them if they had departed leisurely; while 
the number of human remains discovered in and about the ruins 
indicate a great and sudden fatality. Many writers have advanced 
the theory that they were driven away by more warlike tribes, but 
the skulls show no evidence that the people were killed in battle. 
That was the age of the war club, and stone battle axe, and if the 
people were slain by enemies, there would be many crushed skulls 
among the remains; yet, as a matter of fact, a broken skull is 
rarely seen. 

It is probable that no single agency was responsible for the 
abandonment of this region by these strange people. We can 
readily l>elieve that the land was once very fertile, and that a gradual 
change from humid to arid conditions shortened the food supply. 



THE NAVAJO LAND. 33 

and that this, together with increasing numbers, compelled many to 
abandon their homes and seek productive valleys to the south; 
and that subsequent great convulsions of nature causing volcanic 
eruptions completed the work. These would be followed by a long 
period of desolation; and thousands of years may have elapsed 
between the departure of the Cliff Dwellers and the restoration of 
that region to conditions fit for the habitations of man. Gradually 
the country recovered, and the soil, enriched by a long period of 
rest, stimulated the growth of grass, shrubs and trees; and finally 
the Navajo pilgrim from the north came in and took possession. 

In the valleys, along the rivers, and near the foothills, but on 
level ground, we find a class of ruins that we must believe are older 
than the cliff dwellings. Great communal houses they were, some 
isolated, some in scattered village form, but each individual house 
presenting evidence of having sheltered a large community. We 
find in each living rooms, prison cells, and estufas or places of meet 
ing and worship, and can still trace the canals that brought water 
from the river to each communal palace. There is evidence shown 
by old lines of irrigating canals and ditches, that the valley all 
around for miles was once cultivated by these people. 

The more interesting of this class of ruins are found near 
Aztec, N. M. There is one principal ruin that commands the most 
attention. Many of the walls are still standing, at a height of forty 
feet above the level of the surrounding country. The walls average 
two and one-half feet in thickness, the outer and inner layers being 
of dressed stone, and the center filled in with cobble laid in mortar. 
As the pile appears now, it has a ground area of 300 by 400 feet, 
and judging from the heaps of debris around, it must have been a 
building 250 by 350 feet. Estimating the amount of debris that has 
fallen from the walls, and calculating how much of the present 
wall it would duplicate, we have a building seven stories high. 
The rooms remaining are small, and it is not guess-work to assign 
100 to each story, or 700 rooms to this great communal palace. 



34 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

Within a short distance are two more ruins of the same general 
character, but smaller. 

The quarry from which the flat stones of the outer parts of 
the walls were brought is about three miles away. A wide trail 
from which the cobble-stones have been removed, can still be traced 
from the ruins to the quarry. As the Cliff Dwellers had no beasts 
of burden, nor mechanical means of transportation, the millions of 
pieces of stone required to build these great edifices must have been 
carried by men, women and children. Either great numbers enabled 
them to do the work in a few years, or it took generations of time 
to transport the material and complete such a pile of masonry ; 
though it is not likely that any others than those of the single 
community that was to occupy it were engaged in its construction, 
which was such that each story could be occupied when finished. 
The walls are not all exactly alike in construction, and this suggests 
that different masters, at different periods, may have superintended 
the work, and therefore that perhaps a century elapsed between the 
beginning and the completion of the building. An interesting fact 
noted is that the beams forming the ceiling of each room, and sup 
porting the adobe floor of the room above it, are of cypress, and not 
cedar as is generally believed. The cypress long since became 
extinct in that region. Cedar beams are found in similar buildings 
in the valleys, and also in those in the cliffs. Many of these are 
long, straight trunks from twelve to fifteen inches in diameter. But 
no cedars that would make such beams are now to be found in 
that country. Whether cypress or cedar, the trees from which 
these timbers were obtained must have grown either hundreds of 
miles away, or at a time when local climatic conditions were en 
tirely different from what they now are. 

But two of the rooms have been excavated, and in these a 
number of mummified skeletons were found, together with many 
pieces of pottery, and other relics of domestic life, such as beads, 
stone implements, needles and awls of bone. With relation to the 



THE NAVAJO LAND. 35 

mummified skeletons, it must not be inferred that they are anything 
like the mummies found in Egypt. In consequence of the dryness 
of the atmosphere, the bodies do not decay, but the flesh shrivels 
upon the bones, form and features in many instances being well 
preserved. As all these relics are found duplicated in the ruins of 
the cliff dwellings, there is little doubt that the older buildings were 
inhabited by the same race of people ; and therefore it is fair to pre 
sume that these valley dwellers were driven from their homes and 
compelled to establish new and safer ones in the fastnesses of the 
canons and mountains because of the persecutions of hostile and 
more warlike tribes. 

In that country well-informed people to-day call the valley 
dwellers "Aztecs," and the mountain or cliff people "Cliff Dwellers." 
Call them what we will, Aztecs, Cliff Dwellers, or Cave Dwellers, 
they were evidently of the same race. This is shown not only by 
the similarity of their relics, but by conformity in stature, and in 
form of skulls, of the remains of the people found in all the ruins. 

People in other lands question the age of these buildings and 
relics on the score that they would long since have crumbled to 
dust if they were as old as claimed. But we must remember that 
many of these homes are chiseled from the solid rock. Others are 
built under overhanging cliffs and are never reached by a drop of 
moisture, while the remains of the valley communal houses are 
protected from the elements by heaps of debris. All are built at 
a great altitude, many of them more than a mile above the level 
of the sea ; and in an atmosphere so rare and dry that it is in itself 
a preservative. In addition to these conditions, we must consider 
that it is an arid country where the rain fall is very slight. In 
such a climate and at such an altitude, there is seemingly no limit 
to the length of time a cedar beam, for instance, would be preserved 
if sheltered from the elements. 

Of the age of these old communal buildings we can only guess. 
We know that they were crumbling in ruins long before Columbus 



36 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

landed on our shores, from the fact that some explorers and investi 
gators in their excavations have discovered old foundations upon 
which later buildings, now in ruins, were erected. Therefore it is 
not difficult to believe that these people may have occupied that 
country even before the Chrisitan era. 

We know the Cave, or Cliff Dweller is gone, and the Navajo 
is there occupying the same region, but absolutely refusing to live 
in any of the old houses, no matter if, as is sometimes the case, 
they are quite accessible and could easily be made far more comfort 
able than the rude huts in which he now lives. Many of the ruins 
have served as burial places for the Navajos for a long time. The 
Navajo burial cists are frequently found in them, some showing 
evidence of having been constructed many years ago. The Navajo 
burial cist is generaly a dome-shaped structure of stone, usually 
circular, although some of them are oblong in form, with a square 
hole left in the top for ceremonial purposes. The hole not being 
large enough to admit a human body, we infer that the body was 
laid on the ground and the cist or tomb built around and over it. 
Ruins favorably located are also used by the Navajos as granaries 
for the storage of wheat and corn, and as shelters for their flocks 
of sheep. 

The Navajo land is an arid country. Excepting at higher 
altitudes in the mountain ranges, where the rainfall is greater, 
crops do not thrive without irrigation. There is evidence that the 
Cliff Dwellers cultivated a much greater area of the mesa and 
canon lands than is now tilled by the Navajos. That the former 
did not cultivate by irrigation all the available land is evident from 
the fact that the remains of irrigating ditches and reservoirs are 
not found in number and extent sufficient to have furnished water 
for all the land, under present conditions. It is possible that differ 
ent climatic conditions then prevailed, and that there was sufficient 
rain to enable them to cultivate many tracts that are now entirely 
arid. If this were not the case, it is a wonder how the swarms of 



THE NAVAJO LAND. 39 

people who once occupied the thousands of communal houses man 
aged to exist. 

To-day all the arable land in that country, even if supplied 
with irrigating ditches wherever water could be conveyed, would 
not support one-tenth the population that once flourished there. 
The relics of these ancient people indicate that they were not great 
hunters, but were of a rather peaceful nature, largely devoted to 
agricultural pursuits. Great quantities of corn are found in the 
ruins, and but little evidence of any means of subsistence excepting 
grains and fruits. 

The Navajos have not made much of a success of their civil 
engineering, and the few irrigating canals they have are illy con 
structed and not laid out on approved lines. Wheat is grown to 
some extent, but the fields are small, and all the work of harvesting 
is by hand, the cutting being done with knives. Grain is threshed 
in the old way, by placing the sheaves on the ground inside an 
inclosure, and then turning in a flock of goats and driving them 
around over the sheaves until the grain is threshed out. It is win 
nowed by pouring it from a wide shallow willow basket, usually 
upon a blanket spread upon the ground. After winnowing, it is 
washed and then dried in the sun. There are two reasons for this : 
the first, to thoroughly clean it, and the second, to make it softer, 
so that it can be more easily ground by hand in the rude stone 
"metate," which is still used, as it has been used by the Indians 
of the southwest for hundreds of years, as the only means of 
grinding their grain. Indian corn of a small flinty variety is grown 
to some extent, but the cold nights and the high altitude are not 
favorable to successful corn culture. 

The peach is their favorite fruit and practically the only one 
receiving very much attention. Peach trees were introduced into 
New Mexico by the Spaniards at an early day, and in every sheltered 
nook in the canons of the Navajo country, peach trees are found 
growing without culture, apparently in a wild state ; but in fact 



40 THK NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

young trees and peach pits were planted there by the Xavajos. 
When the peaches ripen it is a holiday time in the Navajo land, 
and all who can be spared from tending the flocks gather at the 
orchards and gorge themselves with the lucious fruit, which reaches 
a high perfection of quality in these sunny gardens of Nature. The 
peach orgie continues until all the fruit is eaten; as none is taken 
away, nor preserved in the dried form. 

They also grow apples, melons, squashes, pumpkins, onions and 
beans, all of which thrive remarkably well under irrigation. Irish 
potatoes are grown in the mountain regions and are of excellent 
quality. Wild cherries and plums, different species of wild cur 
rants and gooseberries, and wild blackberries and raspberries, 
flourish to some extent. The fruits do not appear to receive any 
attention in the way of cultivation, further than to plant the trees 
or seeds, which are then left to do the best they can. 

In spite of this, magnificent crops of peaches and apples are 
grown, the soil in the canons seeming just fitted for them, there 
being sufficient moisture there to bring them to perfection ; while the 
climate and bright sunshine combine to make the Navajo fruits 
of delicious quality. 

The Navajo land is a mountain, mesa and valley country 
(Figure 4), with the mountains predominating. A country of 
cliffs and canons, presenting many difficulties to travel, which is 
almost entirely over narrow trails, either on foot or horseback. 
Of the rock formation, the most conspicuous is the bright red sand 
stone that the elements have carved into many irregular and pictu 
resque shapes. Often in the distance a mass of rock will appear 
like a house or castle, and sometimes a spire, reaching high above 
the surrounding rocks, seems to be surmounting a cathedral. These 
scenes occur so often and appear so vividly real that they will for 
ever remain a striking feature of the magnificent landscape that 
makes the Navajo land a marvel of scenic beauty and grandeur. 



THE NAVAJO 



THE Navajo has long been a conspicu 
ous figure among the Indians of our 
southwest. Strong, and made self- 
reliant by many years of successful 
warring upon neighboring tribes, he 
had become imbued with his own im 
portance, and therefore held aloof 
from the advances of the white man 
until long after nearly all the neigh 
boring tribes had laid down their 
arms. He was among the last to leave 
the war-path of offense or defense, 
and finally, when conquered, was 
among the first to become self-support 
ing ; though he still retains much of his 
wild nature, and has absorbed fewer 
of the white man s vices than have the 
adjacent tribes J 

The Navajos are descended from the great Athabascan family 
of Indians which formerly occupied a large portion of British 
America. The word "Navajo" was derived from the Spanish 
"Navajoa," applied to a district on the San Juan and Little Colo 
rado rivers; and as the Navajos occupied that region, the Spaniards 
styled them "Apaches de Navajoa." They were not for from right 
in claiming them as Apaches, as there is good authority for saying 
that the latter were~Hescended from the same Athabascan stock. 
The Navajos, however, do not recognize the name thus applied to 
them, but call themselves Tinnai or Tinneh, meaning "the people." 




FIGURE 7 * "he struts and poses in 
great style until he scents his mother- 



42 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

Some authorities claim that these people entered their present 
country in the Thirteenth Century, while others say they came in 
the Fourteenth or the Fifteenth Century; but there seems to be no 
basis but that of speculation upon which to attempt to determine 
the period of their coming. \ The home of the Athabascans was far 
to the north, and it is likely that by slow movement the Navajos 
traveled south by easy stages, along the eastern ranges of the Rocky 
Mountain region until they reached the great area of mountains 
and plains in southern Colorado and Utah, and in northern New 
Mexico and Arizona, in which they established themselves^ 

They have may mythical stories of their origin. One is to the 
effect that they came across a narrow sea beyond the setting sun, 
and landed on the northern shore of this country. There they were 
persecuted by enemies, and finally, in desperate straits, invoked 
the Great Spirit, who sent them a great ship of rock upon which 
they were safely carried high in air, and brought to their present 
land. 

The ship rock" of the Navajos is known to all travelers in 
the southwest. Rising from a level plain, about thirty miles west 
from Farmington, New Meixco, it stands out in strong relief from 
whatever direction it may be viewed, and in its weird loneliness and 
grandeur seems a fitting subject for an Indian legend. The Navajos 
consider the rock sacred. 

Another story is that the ancestors of the Navajo tribe were 
brought from the far north on the back of a great bird ; and still 
another, that they came up from the center of the earth. Their 
legends differ as to the means of transportation, but, with the excep 
tion of the idea that they came up out of the earth, they generally 
agree that they came from the far north. The most acceptable of 
their stories is that they were guided by a messenger from the sky, 
and after a long journey, and much suffering at the hands of 
enemies they met on the way, they were finally directed to their 
present country. There is also a vague tradition among them that 



THE NAVAJO. 43 

they came by water. But, about the only things we certainly know 
of their history is their Athabascan origin, and that they have been 
in our southwest for a long time. 

The Navajos are much attached to the region in which they 
live, and often refer to it as "our Mother land." They tell us that 
the Apaches were once Navajos, and that they came "long time 
ago," before the time of four old men ancestors of the present 
Navajos father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great 
grandfather; and to this they add another story that "long time 
ago" whole bands of Pueblos ran away from the Spaniards and 
joined their people. They also tell that the Cliff Dwellers were 
carried away by a "bad wind" long before the Navajos arrived; 
which is probably a mere attempt of theirs to account for the de 
serted and ruined buildings. 

The land was not entirely the Navajos ideal, the climate being 
far milder than that of their original home in the north. Shelter, 
mountains, water and pasture were there, but at the time of their 
arrival pasture was not of direct value to them. Wild game was 
not as plentiful as farther north, and there was much arid land. 
We do not know why they concluded to occupy such a country, 
but it is probable that, expecting to find a better region, one better 
suited to them, by going farther, they were halted in their march 
south by the power of numbers of the Pueblos, whose northern 
borders they had invaded. 

At this time the Navajos were not a great Indian nation. The 
tribe was small and, from the best evidence we can now obtain, 
was not of a warlike disposition. They were not noted for success 
in hunting wild game, and subsisted very largely upon nuts and 
roots, clothing themselves with the skins of such animals as they 
killed. They soon began to receive recruits from the Apaches, and 
other neighboring tribes, which accounts for their present com 
posite or mixed character as a race; but prior to 1680, they were not 
strong enough to engage in anything but a predatory warfare with 



44 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

neighboring 1 tribes. They have always been known as "field" or 
"plains" Indians, to distinguish them from the habitually sedentary 
tribes, like the Pueblos. 

The industries of an aboriginal people are shaped by their sur 
roundings and the character of the country in which they live. 
The climate, soil, forests or plains, adaptability for agriculture, and 
game for the chase, all help to determine how they can best sustain 
life; and when this is decided, their habits will be found to reflect 
their environment. 

The Xavajos are sedentary only to the extent that they have 
for a long time occupied about the same region. Within this im 
mense area, they have been restless, wandering shepherds, without 
permanently fixed habitations. CSoon after 1662, by pillage or 
barter, they secured a few sheep from the Pueblos who, in turn, 
had obtained them from the Spaniards. This acquisition had much 
to do with changing their mode of living; and as they learned the 
art of weaving, it marked the beginning of an important epoch in 
their tribal history.^ 

The Navajo country is not adapted to extensive agricultural 
operations, and probably was not well supplied with game even in 
the earlier times; but if it had been, it would not have taken many 
years for its new occupants to destroy the wild animals to the 
extent, at least, of making them a precarious dependence as a source 
of food supply. { The climate demanded clothing far beyond the 
supply of the skins of wild animals, and some industry had to be 
found suited to their environment, or the people must migrate again. 

Fortunately, the pasture land helped them to solve the prob 
lem, and the Navajos turned out to be good shepherds. Their 
flocks increased until, for a number of years, they have counted a 
half million sheep as their own. This influenced their destiny, and 
has transformed them from fierce marauders into comparatively 
peaceful pastoral people. Nearly every family owns a flock of 
sheep and goats; the flesh of the latter being more generally used 




I 



< K 8 NAVAJOS WORSHIPING THE ELEMENTS 
(From tht fainting by V. P. Sauirwtn) 



THE NAVAJO. 47 

for food than that of the sheep. With a population of 20,000, their 
herds would have an average of twenty-five sheep to every man, 
woman and child. The tendency of the flockmaster of the west 
is toward wealth, and the Navajos have proceeded far enough in 
that direction as to be beyond want, while many of them are rich. 
It is to be remembered that what would be good pasture land in 
the Navajo country, would be thought barren waste in the east, 
or in other lower altitudes. It requires about six acres to feed 
properly a single Navajo sheep, and as water is scarce and found 
only at long^ intervals, the shepherd must keep his flocks moving 
constantly. 

/ ^^/ 

CjThe whole family moves with the sheep, and lives practically 
out of doors; or, at best, in hastily constructed shelters made by 
throwing up a circle of brush, and covering it, or not, as material 
may or may not be at hand, ; These changes from one pasturage 
to another, often take a family over hundreds of miles, and during 
this migratory life the spinning and weaving go on, the simple 
machinery required for the industry being a part of every camping 
equipment. As winter approaches, they turn toward sheltered 
places, but may or may not return to the abode of the previous 
winter. 

In a particularly rich region well supplied with water, a number 
of families will remain in close proximity to one another, but they 
are usually held together by family ties, rather than by a com 
munity of interests. It is a singular fact that, notwithstanding 
accessions from the Pueblos, who were essentially village Indians, 
there are no villages of Navajos. Their dwellings are not built 
in conspicuous places, but seem to be located rather with a view to 
concealment. The springs, rivers and other watering places, are 
by the tribal laws considered common or public property, but tillable 
lands are subject to individual ownership; such ownership, however, 
is established only by priority of occupation, and can be retained 
only so long as the land is being tilled. 



48 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

The Navajos are communal in their form of government and 
customs, particularly as relates to the grazing lands, which are, as 
a general rule, common property; and the cutting of timber, or 
use of water, and the harvesting of peaches or wild fruits that 
grow in the canons are not restricted on account of any individual 
claims of ownership. There is a head chief, who owes his position 
to election; but, with one exception, none of these chiefs has ever 
achieved great fame as a leader in warfare, or great reputation as a 
wise or sagacious ruler; and none has stood out as a prominent 
figure in war or peace. The exception, and the only one of whom 
we have a record, who made a reputation among his people as a 
wise ruler, was Manuelito, born in 1821, elected chief in 1850, 
and who served until his death in 1894. His rule was of an advis 
ory nature, rather than arbitrary, which no doubt accounted for his 
popularity while living. 

There are many sub-chiefs, whose jurisdictions extend over 
only small areas of tribal territory; and upon them devolves the 
local execution of the few lightly-resting tribal laws they have. 
These executives do not occupy their positions by hereditary right; 
neither are they always elected. Oftentimes, in consequence of 
superior intelligence or tact, thy grow into their places, as it were, 
and their influence is, as a rule, in proportion to their ability as 
diplomats. The usual method of "appeal" from the unsatisfactory 
ruling of a local chief is by disregarding it, and there is no court 
by which he can compel obedience. 

The Navajos have some little industries, aside from their gen 
eral one of blanket-weaving. The women knit stockings, using 
four needles in much the same manner as the whites, but do not 
seem to be able to learn to form the heel or toe. Although the 
knitting needles they now use are procured from the whites, they 
are no evidence that the Navajcs learned the art of using them 
from the whites, as we find knitted leggings made from human 
hair or the fibre of the yucca, as well as the bone and wooden 




PLATE II An old example of Navajo work in "pink bayeta," native 
wool and native dyes, made about 1850. 



THE NAVAJO. 49 

needles used in making them, in the ruins of the cliff dwellings 
in the Navajo land. The Pueblo women, from whom the Navajos 
learned blanket-weaving, were also knitters. The Navajo women 
are quite skilful basket-makers, but confine their work principally 
to sacred baskets used in the marriage and other ceremonies. Only 
the old women, who are familiar with the rites of the medicine 
men make these baskets. 

Baskets needed for domestic use are procured by barter 
from their neighbors, the Apaches, who are skillful basket-makers ; 
and in like manner, they procure pottery from the Pueblo Indians. 
The Navajos are expert in tanning buckskin and making it into 
moccasins, leggings and other garments, but the bead work on 
these articles is done by the Utes, who also tan buckskin and make a 
great variety of ornamental bead work. 

The principal tribes of the southwest, the Navajos, Apaches, 
Utes, and Pueblos, are each celebrated for some form of handi 
craft, and as one does not encroach upon the work of the other, 
it leads to much trading between the tribes, each desiring to possess 
articles made by the others (Figure 9.) The Navajos weave 
blankets and make ornaments of silver. Each of the four divisions 
of the Apache tribe the Mescalero, Pima, Jacarilla and San Carlos 
Apaches, makes baskets, differing slightly, but strongly character 
istic. It is only a few years since the Shoshone Indians, of Idaho 
and Utah, made long pilgrimages to the south for the purpose of 
trading with the Navajos, the Shoshones being celebrated for their 
fine buckskin garments and other articles, beautifully ornamented 
with beadwork. 

In late years many fine blankets of Navajo weaving, from 
twenty to forty years old, have been found among the Shoshones 
of Idaho and Utah. Mrs. A. L. Cook, of Pocatello, Idaho, has a 
good collection gathered in that vicinity, which the Shoshones 
probably could not have procured in any other way than by barter 
with the Navajos. 



50 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

The Pueblo women are celebrated for pottery of rough, highly 
ornamented, and unique patterns. In this work they are artists; 
the scrolls and figures with which their pottery is decorated, nearly 
all being symbolical, and to a great extent form the basis of Navajo 
symbols and patterns. 

The Navajo is not a lazy Indian, but is willing to work at 
anything remunerative; and in this he is an exception among red 
men generally. He herds sheep and cattle, and does all the farm 
work, and is ready to serve the white man at any kind of labor. 
He is also a silversmith, and is quite skilful in hammering and 
engraving buttons, buckles and discs for belts. These latter are 
from three to four inches in diameter, and round or oval in form, 
roughly engraved, and of pure silver of value in weight of from 
one to two dollars each. 

The early Spanish invaders found very skillful workers in 
metals among the Pueblo Indians. As we shall see later on that 
the Navajos learned the art of weaving from the Pueblo Indians, 
it is reasonable to assume that their first knowledge of working in 
metal came from the same source. The Pueblo Indian, on account 
of his permanent abode, has better facilities than the Navajo, but 
in spite of his disadvantages, the latter is the most skillful. 

The Navajos metal-working equipment consists of a rude and 
temporarily constructed forge, charcoal, crucibles of clay, molds 
of clay or sandstone, a blow-pipe, tongs, and such requisites as he 
can get at the trading posts emery paper, files, and so forth. The 
anvil is any piece of iron of sufficient weight that he can find a 
piece of railroad rail, or the butt of an ax, a wedge, or a heavy bolt. 
One of Goodman s photographs (Figure 10) shows a Navajo 
silversmith at work, and illustrates the crude facilities he has at hand. 

Belts and necklaces of silver are their pride, and are worn 
more by the men than by the squaws. The material used is either 
Mexican or American silver dollars, or bars of silver which they 
procure from the traders. They are so skillful and patient in ham- 



THE NAVAJO. 



51 



mering and shaping that a fairly good-shaped teaspoon is often made 
of a silver dollar without melting and casting. As they are able 
to procure and learn to use better facilities, their work is growing 
better ; the ornaments they make now being superior to those made 
a dozen years ago. Some of their patterns are beautiful, though 




FIGURE 9 NAVAJO INDIANS TRADING 

(From the fainting of F. P. Sauerwen) 



entirely original. One buckle in my collection, so far as artistic 
design is concerned, might have been made by Tiffany. Weaving 
is, however, their principal and most attractive industry. 

The Navajos should give their women credit for the wide and 
distinctive reputation their tribe has achieved solely from the 
Navajo blanket. Possibly the men are willing to concede this, 
which would largely account for the social independence of the 



52 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

Navajo squaw as compared with the women of adjacent tribes. 
She certainly occupies a higher plane than is common among 
women of the North American Indians. 

The Navajos have many songs illustrating their tribal myths. 
Songs for the storm, rain and wind ; songs of peace and war ; songs 
of love and hatred, joy and sorrow. Strangely enough the Xavajo 
women do not join in any of the songs. Her neighbors, the Pueblo 
women, sing with the men in songs of ceremony; and the "Metate," 
or corn-grinding, song of the Zuni women, is peculiarly weird and 
musical. The Navajo woman is songless : her art being spinning 
and weaving, to which she devotes her life. Silently, almost sadly, 
but all the while devotedly, she toils, and is an example of patient 
industry and love for the work in which she is engaged. 

The Navajos have a few fetiches or talismans, supposed to 
possess mysterious power, and to be the habitations of deities from 
which aid may be expected. These are generally represented by 
an animal; the horse and sheep being prominent as such fetiches. 
The horse fetich is carved from white limestone, and usually the 
work is done by a medicine man. It is carried in a medicine bag 
on occasions of the hunt, or of any important undertaking or jour 
ney, and as they depend upon the endurance of their horses in 
nearly everything they udertake, this fetich is to insure the strength 
of the animal. ^ The sheep fetich is carved from white spar, and 
usually is finishecl with eyes of turquoise. These are carried by 
the shepherds to insure the fecundity of their flocks, to protect 
them against disease, and guard them against animals of prey. 
These two charms cover the most important two possessions of the 
Navajos the horse and the sheep, and are the only ones now in 
use of which I have any certain evidence. 

The Navajos have many superstitions, and believe in witch 
craft, and that sickness and death are caused bv a "Chinde" or 
devil. The antidote for witchery is singing and drumming over 
the patient by friends or relatives, and if this does not effect a cure. 



THE NAVAJO. 53 

the "Shaman" or medicine man is called in. They believe that at 
the ends of a rainbow they will find messages from the Great 
Spirit; and anything bright and beautiful, is to them a harbinger 
of good. 

Early travelers in the Navajo land detail the story of an old 
Navajo sorcerer, or wizard, who, having been suspected of prac 
ticing the "black art," confessed it, seemed proud of his pretended 
powers, and told his people that by charms of human hair and flesh, 
powdered wolves teeth, and dried and powdered lizards, he could 
destroy the whole Navajo nation. He was tied, shot with arrows, 
and asked why he did not kill his captors; but he died without 
having injured any of them. He was probably a crazy old man, and 
because of his delusions was murdered by his superstitious people. 

The Navajo goddess is "Assunnutli" (the woman in the sea). 
This goddess is reputed to be of double sex, and has dispensed many 
favors to the Navajos; having, among other gracious acts, sent 
blue corn to the men, and white corn to the women. When property 
is stolen they sing to "Assunnutli" to ascertain the identity of the 
culprit. 

Like all Indians, the Navajos are inveterate gamblers, and 
will wager everything they possess, even to the clothing on their 
backs. They are fond of foot-racing and wrestling, and horse- 
racing is also very popular with them. 

Not being the most mighty of modern Nimrods in the chase, 
a favorite hunting plan of the Navajos is to build two long con 
verging lines of brush and stones, ending at an enclosure, into 
which the animals are driven to be slaughtered. All animals of 
prey are killed, but in case of game animals, such as antelope, or 
deer, some are allowed to escape, partly on account of superstition, 
and partly to avoid exterminating a valuable food supply. 

To the Navajos the bear is a sacred animal, and probably be 
came so in the early years when they had no weapons with which 
to successfully combat him; the idea of sacredness arising from 



54 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

the ability of the bear to win in battle with them. A respect for 
strength and invulnerability, rather than regard for sacred things, 
mav thus have given Bruin a place among their deities. 

They will not catch nor eat fish. When the white men first 
invaded their country they found the mountain streams fairly alive 
with trout, which would not have been the case if the Indians had 
desired them for food ; as they had sufficient cunning to have de 
pleted the streams if they had so used fish. They believe that the 
spirits of their dead enter into the fish, and are fond of relating 
the fable that long time ago" their people killed a great number 
of their enemies in battle and threw the bodies into the river, and 
that the bodies turned into fish. 

Believing that the wind gives them life, they often go at night 
to some high place during a storm and there worship the elements 
(Figure 8). The heavy rain they call the male rain, and the light 
rain the female rain ; believing both to be necessary for the proper 
maturing of their crops. 

The Navajos have a horror of the dead, as well as of any 
habitation in which a person has died; and as many of the old 
cliff ruins contain the remains of the people who once lived in 
them, they will not under any circumstances use them as a place of 
residence. The nearest they come to this is that oftentimes they 
carry away stones from the ruins to be used in building dwellings 
for themselves. 

From the Conquest of Mexico, up to 1821, the land of the 
Xavajos was a part of the Spanish territory. In 1821 the people 
of Mexico threw off the Spanish yoke and established an inde 
pendent government. Beginning about the year 1750, and during 
all the subsequent time of the Spanish and the Mexican rule, the 
Navajos were on the war-path. They made frequent raids into 
the country south of them and occupied by the Pueblo Indians and 
Mexicans, and ran off cattle, sheep and horses, and carried away 
such grain and forage as they could transport. In retaliation, the 



THE NAVAJO. 55 

Mexicans made many counter expeditions into the Navajo country, 
which became the scene of continual warfare. 

Lieutenant Pike, writing- from New Mexico in 1808, in speak 
ing of the "Nanahaws" (Navajos), states: "The Nanahaws are 
situated to the northwest of Santa Fe, and are frequently at war 
with the Spaniards. They are supposed to be two thousand warriors 
strong, and are armed with bows and arrows and lances. This 
nation, as well as all others to the west of them bordering on Cali 
fornia, speak the language of the Apaches and Lee Panis, who are 
in a line with them to the Atlantic." 

Major Emory, in his "Notes of a Military Reconnoissance" 
in the summer of 1846, writes as follows of Las Vegas, New 
Mexico : 

"The village, at a short distance, looked like an extensive 
brick-kiln. Approaching, its outline presented a square with some 
arrangements for defense. Into this square the inhabitants are 
sometimes compelled to retreat, with all their stock, to avoid the 
attacks of the Eutaws [Utes] and Navajos, who pounce upon 
them and carry off their women, children and cattle. Only a few 
days since, they made a descent on the town and carried off 120 
sheep and other stock. As Captain Cooke passed through the town 
ten clays since, a murder had just been committed on these help 
less people." 

Major Emory quotes the address made by Colonel Kearney 
to the Mexicans at Santa Fe, August 15, 1846, which was as 
follows : 

"Mr. Alcalde, and people of New Mexico: I have come 
amongst you by the orders of my government, to take possession 
of your country, and extend over it the laws of the United States. 
We consider it, and have done so for some time, a part of the 
territory of the United States. We come amongst you as friends 
not as enemies ; as protectors not as conquerors. We come 



56 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

among you for your benefit not for your injury. Henceforth I 
absolve you from all allegiance to the Mexican government, and 
from all obedience to General Armijo. He is no longer your gov 
ernor. (Great sensation.) I am your governor. I shall not expect 
you to take up arms and follow me, to fight your own people, who 
may oppose me ; but I now tell you, that those who remain peace 
ably at home, attending to their crops and their herds, shall be 
protected by me, in their property, their persons, and their religion ; 
and not a pepper, not an onion, shall be disturbed or taken by my 
troops, without pay, or by the consent of the owner. But listen! 
He who promises to be quiet, and is found in arms against me, 
I will hang. 

"From the Mexican government you have never received pro 
tection. The Apaches and the Navajos come down from the moun 
tains and carry off your sheep, and even your women, whenever 
they please. My government will correct all this. It will keep 
off the Indians, protect you in your persons and property; and, I 
repeat again, will protect you in your religion. I know you are 
all great Catholics; that some of your priests have told you all 
sorts of stories that we should ill-treat your women, and brand 
them on the cheek as you do your mules on the hip. It is all false. 
My government respects your religion as much as the Protestant 
religion, and allows each man to worship his Creator as his heart 
tells him is best. Its laws protect the Catholic as well as the 
Protestant; the weak as well as the strong; the poor as well as 
the rich. I am not a Catholic myself I was not brought up in that 
faith ; but, at least one-third of my army are Catholics, and I respect 
a good Catholic as much as a good Protestant. 

"There goes my army you see but a small portion of it; there 
are many more behind resistance is useless." 

This was upon the first entrance into Santa Fe by the United 
States troops. On September 30, 1846, writing of the mountain 
country northwest of Santa Fe, Major Emory says : 



THE NAVAJO. 59 

"I saw here the hiding places of the Navajos, who, when few 
in numbers, wait for the night to descend upon the valley and carry 
off the fruit, sheep, women and children of the Mexicans. When 
in numbers, they come in day-time and levy their dues. Their 
retreats and caverns are at a distance to the west, in high and inac 
cessible mountains, where troops of the United States will find great 
difficulty in overtaking and subduing them, but where the Mexicans 
have never thought of penetrating. The Navajos may be termed 
the lords of New Mexico. Few in number, disdaining the cultiva 
tion of the soil, and even the rearing of cattle, they draw all their 
supplies from the valley of the Del Norte." 

This conditon continued, and for many years after the United 
States government became dominant in New Mexico and Arizona 
the Navajos persisted in their depredations, robbing and plundering 
from the Mexicans and Pueblos, and from our own people as well. 
An expedition was organized in 1863 under the direction of Kit 
Carson, which was successful in capturing the Navajo leaders and 
compelling a general surrender. The prisoners were then taken 
under military guard to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, where they 
were held until 1867, when, upon their promise to be good, they 
were returned to their old home, the present Navajo reservation. 

At that time there were about 8,000 in captivity, but this num 
ber did not, however, represent the full strength of the nation. 
Many had hidden in the fastnesses of the mountains, and others 
had deserted to other tribes rather than go as prisoners of war to 
Fort Sumner. As near as can be ascertained, they numbered at 
that time about 13,000 all told, but they have since steadily in 
creased, and now aggregate somewhere near 20,000. Upon their 
return to the reservation the government paid them four annuities, 
and in 1869 distributed among them a large number of sheep and 
goats. Since that time they have been self-supporting, excepting 
in the winter of 1894-95, when, on account of a severe drought 
in the preceding summer, their crops had failed, and therefore 



60 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

the government had to distribute sufficient rations to prevent suf 
fering. 

The Navajo is quite free from the signs of physical degeneracy 
so apparent in neighboring tribes. He is a robust Indian, but his 
type is not a fixed one. While his remote ancestors were of Atha 
bascan stock, and much of the stalwart figure of the true Navajo 
is traceable to that origin, the numerous accessions from other tribes 
of differing physical contour, have produced a decidedly composite 
physical condition which is noticeable in difference of stature, in 
facial characteristics, and in general personal appearance among 
different members of the tribe. It is likely that this mixture of 
the blood of various adjacent tribes with that of the original 
Xavajos, has had much to do in bringing about their present su- 
l>erior physical and mental condition as compared with other tribes 
in that region. As a rule, they are intelligent above the average 
North American Indian, which is demonstrated by the advantage 
they have taken of really unfavorable conditions to become inde 
pendent of help from the government and, in a way, to become rich. 

Their marital relations are peculiar to themselves, and a Navajo 
may take, not as many wives as he can support, but as many as he 
can manage; and having reached this limit, the wives do much 
toward supporting the husband. The men are the herders of the 
sheep and cattle, hunt wild game, build the dwellings and, as a 
rule, till what little land is cultivated. 

The lineage of the Navajo is traced through the female line. 
The woman may, and often does, own the flocks of sheep, and as 
owner of the home her word is law in all that pertains to domestic 
affairs. She must, however, prepare the family meals, bring the 
wood and water, and work all her spare time at spinning and weav 
ing. She has absolute control of her children, and her husband 
may not even discipline them without authority from her to do so. 
The only exception to her authority over the affairs of her offsping 
is when a daughter reaches marriageable age, when the bargain 



THE NAVAJO. 61 

or sale to a suitor for her hand must be made with the father. 
If, upon trial, a wife proves unsatisfactory, and the husband can 
not bring about a trade with another Indian who is in the same 
trouble, he may return the wife to her parents; but the purchase 
price need not be returned to the dissatisfied husband. The women 
do not consider this an indignity. If a Navajo woman is fond of 
her husband, her conduct is usually such as to merit his approval ; 
but it is quite likely that if she rebels, or becomes unsatisfactory, 
it is because she wishes to be traded to some one she likes better, 
or returned to her home to await a new matrimonial venture. 

Their food is of the simplest. The meat most generally used 
is mutton and the flesh of the goat, which are stewed; a pot for 
the evening meal being kept on the fire most of the day. This, with 
bread and coffee, constitutes the supper, with the exception that 
when pumpkins, potatoes or onions are in supply, they are usually 
stewed with the meat. They have no tables nor chairs, the stew 
being placed on the earthen floor in a big dish, where the family 
gathers around it, taking out the food with the fingers. They 
always eat everything in sight; nothing is left, no matter how 
much is cooked. As a rule there are only two regular meals, 
breakfast and supper ; the breakfast being the simpler meal of the 
two. If meat is used at all for breakfast, it is fried in a skillet, 
and eaten with bread and coffee. 

Even the permanent dwellings are almost devoid of furniture 
without tables, chairs or bedsteads. They have plenty of blankets 
and undressed sheepskins, and when an Indian gets sleepy he rolls 
himself in a blanket and lies down upon the floor anywhere that 
suits him best. They do not use pillows. The only article of fur 
niture common in all Indian homes of the southwest is a pole sus 
pended from the ceiling along one side of the room, which does 
duty as a wardrobe. 

As relates to dress, the woman is the more barbaric in her 
fancy. Gaudy calicos and bright red woolen cloths are used for 



02 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

skirts which, with sashes or belts of bright color, beads, silver and 
copper ornaments, and fancy beaded moccasins and leggings, con 
stitute her chief desires; and in these, she dresses herself as occa 
sion may require. The working dress of a squaw is usually a loose, 
ill-fitting garment of calico reaching to the knees ; the legs and feet 
being incased in buckskin leggings and moccasins without orna 
mentation. She cares nothing for a head-dress of any kind, except 
ing a careless arrangement of the long, thick, jet-black hair Nature 
gave her, which is parted in the middle, and either allowed to hang 
at will, or gathered or tied in a knot, or made into a long braid. 

The marriage ceremony seems to have no fixed form, the rite 
usually consisting of eating in some manner, and is quite simple. 
Sometimes a cake or loaf, prepared by the medicine man, is placed 
on the ground, and at other times a pudding is used ; either of 
which the medicine man marks off in lines and spaces, for a reason 
we do not understand. The prospective bride and groom are 
seated beside the food, and at a signal they eat the man beginning 
and the woman following taking the food from along the lines 
marked out. When the circuit of the cake, or loaf, or pudding, is 
completed, they stand up and are pronounced man and wife. After 
the ceremony the squaws prepare a feast, and singing and dancing 
are kept up until all are tired out. In some instances the medicine 
man pours water upon the hands of the bride and groom just before 
eating begins, and at other times they go together to a spring or 
stream and wash each other s hands prior to the ceremony of eat 
ing. There are other unimportant variations in the ceremony, but 
the above will convey a general idea of the marriage rite. 

An unfortunate feature of Navajo domestic life is the common 
aversion of the husband to the wife s mother, but there is no 
mother-in-law interference in domestic affairs. After marriage 
the husband will not look at or speak to his mother-in-law, and 
must have no communication with her under penalty of some 
blight upon his life. They believe that if a husband gazes upon 



THE NAVAJO. 03 

his mother-in-law he will lose his eyesight, or that some other 
terrible calamity will happen to him. It is the duty of the mother- 
in-law to announce her approach, so that the husband can conceal 
himself until she has gone. 

The case of Pablo, a Navajo singer, whose picture appears in 
Figure 7, is a present example in point. He puts on his best and 
struts arid poses in great style until he scents his mother-in-law, 
when he disappears into hiding, a sneaking coward until she is gone. 

As the Navajo 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 Navajo land. 




HABITATIONS 




FIGURE u * "may be almost anything that can be 
considered a shelter" 



THE habitations of a prim 
itive people are of especial 
interest because they are 
always typical ; each order 
of rough architecture be 
ing in harmony with the 
type of man who built it, 
and in keeping with his 
manner of life. As in in 
fluencing his industries, 
climatic conditions, the 
general character of the 
land on which he lives, mountains, plains, or forests, will modify 
to some extent his methods of providing shelter. But as a rule, 
the changes will not show marked departure from the general type 
evolved and long followed by a primitive tribe of people, unless 
there has been something like a revolution in modes of living. 

Such a revolution befell the Navajos, and brought about a 
corresponding change in the forms of their abodes. As already 
related, prior to the time that they became possessed of sheep, cattle 
and horses they lived in the open field, and as plunderers of their 
neighbors. In no sense an agricultural people and without fixed 
habitations in that period of their career, the change from a con 
dition of continued nomadic warfare to that of a pastoral life, was 
a very great one. 

The Navajo is not a dweller in tents, wigwams or tepees, as we 
know these forms of habitations. Long use of a word often leads 
to the belief that the word was coined because it so fitly described 



M THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

the object. \Ye think a wigwam is named just right to describe 
that kind of a structure; long association of the word with the 
object having been the means of such perfect reconciliation. The 
Xavajo house is a "hogan," and, although the name is a compara 
tively new word, it seems to fit. The original Navajo word is 
"qugan," early converted into the popular name hogan, by which 
his home is known wherever the Navajo Indian is known. An 
expression made by a friend of mine when he first saw a Navajo 
home "Well, it is a hogan, sure enough," illustrates the fitness of 
the name, which is applied to the two distinct forms, the winter and 
the summer hogan. From a little distance the winter hogan looks 
like a rough conical mound of earth, with an opening into darkness. 

The Navajo hogan (Figure 12), at Putnam Springs, New 
Mexico, is typical of the winter habitation. The photograph was 
taken during a time of drought, when the structure was deserted ; 
which accounts for the absence of a blanket from the doorway. 
This is an old hogan, showing many repairs by additions of branches 
of trees to secure the earth covering, and of the gnarled cedar trunks 
supporting the door-frame. Unsightly and unshapely as it may 
appear, it is built according to rule ; a rule so rigid as to be almost 
a religious ceremony, and requiring every detail to be strictly 
carried out. 

When a winter hogan is to be built the site is usually chosen 
in a secluded or sheltered spot ; the choice always being such as 
will permit the door to face the east. The ground is leveled, and 
then a circle is drawn of the desired size ; there being no general rule 
as to the diameter or height of a hogan. From about a foot inside 
this circle the ground is dug out to a depth of twelve or eighteen 
inches, and the bottom of this basin-like excavation is the floor of 
the hogan, to reach which a downward step or two must be taken; 
the foot or so of undisturbed soil left around it, and concentric 
with the circle, forming a circular seat or bench that encompasses 
the depressed floor. \Yhen this floor is smoothed and stamped until 




1 An old blanket of" native wool in natural 
colors and native dves. 



HABITATIONS. 67 

it is level and hard, the foundation is considered complete. Usually 
the builder of such a home calls to his assistance a number of his 
friends, and the building is completed in one day. Men are first 
sent out for the principal five timbers or poles. Each of three of 
these must be forked at one end, and of such shape as to firmly 
interlock when placed in position; the other two, sticks for the 
doorway, should be straight poles ; all being trimmed and the bark 
taken off as a rough finish. The forked poles are laid on the 
ground, the forked ends together, and with the butts so arranged 
that each is outside the circle; one at the north, one at the west, 
and one at the south. The two straight poles are then laid with 
their butts to the east, and with the tops just inside the forks of 
the other three, and far enough apart to leave the desired space 
for the doorway. The timbers or poles used are usually from 
eight to twelve inches in diameter and from ten to twelve feet long. 
In rearing the framework of the edifice, the three forked tim 
bers are raised upright and then leaned toward the center until 
the forks lock. The poles for the doorway are placed at the same 
ground distance from the center as the others, and leaning inward 
and converging until their tops rest on each side of the apex; say, 
one foot apart at the top, and spreading to about four feet apart 
at the base, leaving an opening from the outer circle of the base 
to the center of the house. Two posts with forked tops are then 
planting upright between the door-poles at their base, standing about 
:ive feet high, and across these a lintel is placed in their forks ; this 
arrangement forming the doorway, proper, over which a blanket 
is usually hung. The space between the top of this vertical door 
frame and the leaning door-poles behind it, is levelly roofed over 
until it comes in contact with the two converging door-poles, and 
at the inward end of this bit of flat roof an opening is left through 
which smoke may escape. The sides of the structure are now filled 
in with smaller poles, the butts resting on the circle, with their 
tops reaching to the apex. After these poles are placed as closely 



68 



THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 



together as possible, cedar boughs are woven in. and if convenient, 
the whole is covered with pine or cedar bark. The entire edifice 
is then further covered with earth to a depth of from four to eight 
inches, and the house is complete. A hogan from sixteen to 
eighteen feet in diameter averages about eight feet in interior height 
above the center of the floor. 




FU;I;KK 12 A NAVAJO WINTER HOGAN 

Colonel Cecil A. Deane writes me as follows concerning some 
hogans of peculiar form observed by him : 

The hogans I refer to I have seen only at one place, and I 
think they have never been described in government reports nor 
by any writer. On the little-traveled road leading in a southwest 
erly direction from the great ruins on the Charco to Gallup, N. M., 
about ten miles northeast of the Continental Divide, and thirty 
miles northeast of Gallup, we find a group of eight hogans at a 
place called Tigue (pronounced Togay). The peculiar location 



HABITATIONS. 69 

of these hogans is worthy of notice. At some remote period of 
time, a lake, comprising perhaps 2,000 acres, covered the present 
site of the hogans. Either because of the breaking of its retaining 
boundary, or because of evaporation, or both, the lake became dry, 
leaving a perfectly level surface even now wholly devoid of vege 
tation. Near the east margin of the lake bed are numerous springs, 
a few of which discharge tepid water. Around each spring is 
found a circular deposit of dark sedimentary matter of perhaps three 
or four feet in height, which has been left by the overflowing 
waters, none of which is fit for use. Right in the midst of these 
miniature geysers, we find a large spring of clear, cold water, which 
is enclosed with walls of stone brought from the adjacent bluffs, 
and near it are the eight hogans I have referred to. They are 
circular in form, each about fifteen feet in diameter and eight feet 
at their greatest height. The walls are made of rough-dressed 
cedar or pinon logs, laid horizontally, having half-locking mortices 
at either end, and of such length as results in a nearly vertical wall 
to a height of about four feet, when their length is gradually re 
duced till the apex is reached, where an opening is left for the 
escape of smoke from the fire which burns in the center of the 
hogan. The doorway is, as in all instances, on the east side, which 
is closed by a blanket suspended from a horizontal lintel. The 
space between the logs is filled with small blocks of wood, and 
clay mortar, and the exterior surface is plastered with that ma 
terial. No part of the floor is sunk below the general level, as I 
have observed in hogans of other types, and the obtuse angle formed 
where the walls meet the floor is used as a place of storage for 
the cooking utensils, blankets, etc., usually found in a Navajo 
home. When I visited these hogans in the spring of 1900, all were 
occupied, but I was informed through my interpreter, that the 
greatest number of their owners were more or less distant with 
their flocks of sheep or goats. As I was informed that this spring, 
which supplies water for the occupants of these hogans, is the only 



70 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

spring of living water within a radius of about fifty miles, we may 
reasonably infer that the permanency of the water is the cause 
of the permanent character of the hogans." 

A Navajo summer hogan is a structure altogether different 
from the winter home, and may be almost anything (Figure n) 
that can be considered a shelter. A circle of pine or cedar boughs, 
either planted in the earth or piled up three or four feet high, is 
one form. In this an opening is left in one side, the one most 
convenient, and without regard to points of the compass which 
are so important in the case of the winter hogan. In the center of 
this a fire is built, blankets are thrown over projecting branches 
for shade and cover, and in the enclosure the household labors and 
other duties are carried on. The family eat and sleep, the squaw 
sets up her loom, and weaving and other work go on just as regu 
larly and as industriously as in the more pretentious home. 

The house just described is the Navajos rudest or simplest 
form of construction. There are degrees of betterment according 
to the length of time the shelter is expected to be used, or to the 
facilities or material at hand for construction. An excavation in a 
hillside, covered and sided with poles and brush, but with the entire 
front left open, is another form. Rough w r alls of stone, two or 
three feet high, arranged in a semi-circle and covered with any 
handy material is still another. A perpendicular wall of rock is 
sometimes utilized as a support for a "lean-to" constructed 
against it. 

A rather picturesque summer hogan is the one shown in 
Figure 3, which is from a photograph by Goodman, of Bluff, Utah. 
It is simply a frame of small trees, with the front entirely open ; 
the roof and three sides being lightly covered with branches of 
cottonwood and willow trees with the leaves left on them. 

So the forms vary as conditions of occupation, location and 
materials vary, or as the industry or ingenuity of the builders 
differ. Occasionally a rich Navajo will build a hogan of logs or of 



HABITATIONS. 71 

rough stones laid up without mortar, and covered with timbers 
and earth ; and he may also be ambitious enough to add a window, 
but if he does so it is never opened. 

This form of winter hogan is shown in Figure 13. The pic 
ture clearly exhibits the method of construction, and also the forms 
of "Hostine" (Mr.) Joe, and the old medicine man who owns the 
outfit; the former on the left, and the latter on the right. So 
great a departure from the usual type of winter hogan is very 
modern, and is prompted by a desire to imitate the white man. 

It will be noted that Navajo habitations are not, as a rule, of 
a very permanent character. A home that may be built and dedi 
cated to use in a day, is not of great value, and may, for good 
reason, be abandoned at any time. For this, ill luck, sickness, or 
death may be sufficient cause, and therefore we find many deserted 
hogans that are in fairly good condition for occupation. As a 
strong superstition forbids further use of a hogan in which a person 
has died, often it is then destroyed; as no one of the tribe can be 
persuaded to enter it, much less live in it. 

Of late years, if the owner of a hogan considers it of more 
than ordinary value, or is too lazy to construct a new one, he sees 
to it that the sick person is carried out, so that if he dies, he must 
die out of doors, and thus save the good reputation of the house. 

Another quite common structure, and well distributed over 
the entire area of Navajo territory, is the "sweat-house." This is 
a miniature hogan, capable of accommodating only one person, 
who is required to take a lying or sitting position in it. It is freely 
used by the sick, and often by the well ; and is one of the medicine 
man s "strong cards" for the cure of disease, and for the casting 
out of evil spirits. After stones have been heated and placed inside, 
the patient crawls in, the opening is closed, and he is soon in a pro 
fuse perspiration. When he has cooked long enough, he is taken 
out and rubbed dry wfth dry sand. The results as described by 



72 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

the Navajos are much the same as those from our more elaborate 
Turkish baths. 

In Figure 6 is shown a sweathouse covered with a Navajo 
blanket to retain the heat better; the remains of the fire in which 
the stones were heated appearing in the foreground. A patient was 
inside undergoing the sweating ordeal when the photograph was 
taken ; and to obtain the privilege of taking it Mr. Matteson was 
required to negotiate satisfactorily for a buckskin the attendant 
Indians desired to sell. 

When a Navajo hogan has been completed, it must be dedicated 
by a ritual ceremony. The woman first clears the house of all 
rubbish accumulated in building, whereupon the husband builds 
a fire directly under the smoke hole. He then rubs the timbers 
with white corn meal, and also strews some of it in a circle around 
the fire, while repeating in slow, measured tones, the ritual of dedi 
cation. All the neighbors are then invited in and the ceremonial 
songs are sung, by which evil spirits are frightened away, and 
happiness, health and good luck invoked for the occupants. 

As their hogans are not as a general rule built in the open, 
but concealed among the pines and cedars, or in the canons, no 
definite idea can be obtained of the population of the country by 
merely passing through it. In recent years the common Sibley 
tent has been used in summer to some extent, as it is less work to 
take it down, move and set it up again, than to build even the 
simplest summer hogan. 

The medicine lodges are built much after the style of the 
hogans, but usually much larger. In these the medicine men live, 
and nearly all the ceremonial religious rites are celebrated in them. 
Most authorities agree that the Navajo is not a particularly religious 
Indian, for the reason, I suppose, that he does not make much ado 
about it. He has no public snake dances nor other ceremonies that 
are likely to attract the attention of a casual visitor; nor does he 
set up totem poles or idols in his public places. His only conspicu- 



THE NAVAJO. 75 

ous appliance of worship is the altar in the medicine lodge, which 
is hidden from the sight of white men, excepting those who are 
in very great favor . 

These altars are fantastically ornamented with feathers, stalks 
and tassels of corn, grain, grasses and the like, and on the floor in 
front of the altar, are strewed strange symbols in colored sand 
sand paintings," as they are called by white folks; and over these 
the incantations are made, prayers are said and songs are sung, 
to invoke happiness, and success in their every undertaking. 

Their songs of ceremony are according to long established rule, 
and are known only to the medicine men. The medicine men 
always demand pay for interceding with the gods, and a song or 
prayer commands a price commensurate with the importance of the 
case and of the assistance asked; and also with the ability of the 
applicant to pay. In this, as in many other things, our Navajo 
friend travels on lines parallel with those followed by many of his 
more enlightened white brethren. 

Professor George H. Pepper relates that an old medicine man 
told him that he "often used colored clay and stones, but that they 
did no good the patient only thought so ; which was one way 
of saying that it was simply mind cure. I was glad to hear this 
from an old medicine man of good standing, for it served to show 
how readily they would accept a new regime in the medicine 
world." 



THE BEGINNING 




FIGURE 14 * * "familiar landmarks today, but which 
were far more populous then than now" 



THE Spaniards thirst for 
gold stirred them to 
undertake the most haz 
ardous and difficult ad 
ventures. They had con 
quered Mexico, laying 
waste the fair land of the 
Aztecs; and in doing so 
they disregarded all hon 
orable rules of conquest. 
They burned and pillaged 
and murdered, until the 
admiration that was excited by their ambition and valor, was lost 
in the shame of the civilized world for the barbarous warfare they 
had waged against the peaceful and civilized Aztecs. 

After they had established themselves in New Spain the 
territory now known as Mexico they began at once to plan ex 
plorations to regions of the north, about the wealth of which they 
had heard fabulous tales ; and were particularly anxious to penetrate 
as far as the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola, having heard especially 
remarkable stories of their opulence. 

The first expedition was that of Coronado in 1540, but was 
without any very important results. In 1582, General Espejo or 
ganized and led another expedition, and as early as 1600 the subju 
gation of the natives was practically completed, and the Spanish 
colonization of New Mexico had begun. The subjugated people 
were forcibly converted to the religion of the invaders, and then 
enslaved. 



7- THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

The Pueblo Indians Great Deity was the God of Nature ; their 
Creed, peace and harmony. The white man s God of Revelation 
brought to them the example of carnage, oppression and slavery; 
and they endured the indignities put upon them by inhuman 
masters, until even patient Pueblo human nature could endure it 
no longer. Among the traditions preserved by the present clans of 
this once numerous and powerful tribe, is one to the effect that the 
culminating cause of their ancestors rebellion against their cruel 
enslavers was that several hundreds of their people had been 
smothered in mines in which they were compelled to work. 

Lieutenant Pike s narrative of events in New Mexico, written 
while he was at Santa Fe in 1808, shows that the cruelties practiced 
by the Spaniards prior to the insurrection in 1680, were continued 
up to the time of his visit. The retribution he invoked came with the 
Mexican War : 

"The civilized Indians of the Province of New Mexico con 
sist of what were formerly twenty-four different bands, the several 
names of which I was not able to learn. But the Keres were one 
of the most powerful ; they form at present the population of St. 
Domingo, St. Philip s and Deis, and one or two other towns. They 
are men of large stature, round, full visage, fine teeth, and appear 
to be of a gentle, tractable disposition ; they resemble the Osage 
more than any nation in my knowledge. Although they are not 
the vassals of individuals, yet they may properly be termed the 
slaves of the state ; for they are compelled to do military duty, drive 
mules, carry loads, or in fact perform any other act of duty or 
bondage that the will of the commandant of the district, or any 
passing military tyrant, chooses to ordain. I \vas myself eye 
witness to a scene which made my heart bleed for these poor 
wretches at the same time that it excited my indignation and con 
tempt, that they should suffer themselves with arms in their hands 
to be beaten and knocked about, by beings no ways their superiors, 
unless a small tint of complexion could be supposed to give that 



THE BEGINNING. 79 

superiority. Before we arrived at Santa Fe, one night we rested 
near one of the villages where resided the families of two of our 
horsemen. They took the liberty to pay them a visit in the night. 
Next morning the whole were called up, and because they refused 
to testify against their imprudent companions, several were knocked 
down from their horses by the Spanish dragoons with the butt end 
of their lances ; yet with the blood streaking down their visage, and 
arms in their hands, they stood cool and tranquil ! Not a frown, 
not a word of discontent or palliation escaped their lips. Yet, what 
must have been the boiling indignation of their souls, at the insults 
offered by the wretch, clothed with a little brief authority. But 
the day of retribution will come in thunder and in vengeance." 

In the year 1675, under crafty leaders, the Pueblos began 
plotting rebellion, and all the tribes in central and northern New 
Mexico soon joined in the determination to drive the Spaniards 
from their land. From Pecos on the east to Moqui on the west, 
from Taos on the north to Isleta on the south, the seeds of rebellion 
were sown. They took deep root in the hearts of the zealous 
devotees of the religion of the Indian, and were stimulated by hatred 
of the religion or Christianity of the Spaniards. The villages of 
Taos, San Ildelfonso, Isleta, Laguna, Acoma, Zuni and Moqui, 
most of which are familiar landmarks to-day (Figure 14), but" 
which were far more populous then than now, all joined to free 
their land from the hated Spaniards; and they were successful. 

In the year 1680, their victory was made complete and not a 
Spaniard was left alive in all their territory, over which Spanish 
power had ruled so unwisely. 

During that period of affliction the peaceful nature of the 
Pueblos had greatly changed. The reader will remember that in 
all their narratives the Spaniards mention the Pueblos as "civilized" 
Indians ; even before they had succeeded in occupying their terri 
tory. The white man had taught them the beauty of conquest and 
carnage, and they had acquired the taste for human blood. 



80 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

As the Spaniards retreated, the Indians first gave way to re 
joicing; then to destroying everything that reminded them of Span 
ish rule. The churches were burned, as were all official documents 
relating to Spanish government, and the priests were subjected to 
great indignities. Their robes were worn in mockery, then torn 
to shreds and burned, that there might be no relic left of a religion 
that had been so closely associated with Pueblo misfortunes. Those 
of the tribe who had been baptized, were washed in public places, 
to cleanse them of what they thought to be evil influences. Then, 
being their own masters again, they were confronted with a problem 
more difficult than they had anticipated the problem of self- 
government. 

During the period of Spanish domination, such tribal laws as 
the Pueblos had had before the coming of the Spaniards had been 
almost forgotten by the old, while the young had never personally 
known them. Hating bitterly the laws and the rule which they 
had overthrown, freedom was accompanied by extremely diversi 
fied sentiments among the people, and therefore they soon found 
the problem of self-government a difficult one. An attempt was 
made to unite all the tribes under the direction of a single ruler, 
but there were, however, too many conflicting interests; too many 
village clans ; too many ambitious chiefs ; too many crafty, design 
ing medicine men ; and not sufficient knowledge of even the simplest 
tribal laws to stem the current of dissention that finally arose. They 
began fighting among themselves, and civil strife destroyed the 
power of numbers. 

The Spaniards took advantage of the situation, and by 1694, 
just fourteen years after the insurrection, General Vargas had re 
conquered the whole field, and his people were again in full pos 
session. 

All this was in the interest of our friends, the Navajos, who 
had taken no part in the insurrection of 1675-80, and had not aided 
the Pueblos against the second coming of the Spaniards. As either 



THE BEGINNING. 81 

the Pueblos or the Spaniards presented an unprotected point, they 
took advantage of it to rob and plunder, and in this way accumulated 
stores of food, secured many sheep, and grew stronger while the 
Pueblos were growing weaker. Upon the return of the Spaniards 
many Pueblos had joined the Navajos, preferring to become even 
Navajos rather than again to live under Spanish rule. The deserters 
from the Pueblos were in sufficient number to add materially to 
the strength of the Navajos, and from that date the latter began 
to rank as the most powerful of the southwestern Indian tribes. 
In the foregoing some of the historical circumstances under 
which the art of weaving was introduced among the Navajos are 
outlined. Their first step toward it was in the acquisition of wool- 
bearing sheep by their plundering raids, but their first knowledge 
and practice of it were due to the later presence among them of the 
many Pueblos who had joined them in consequence of the restora 
tion of Spanish rule in the last decade of the Seventeenth Century. 
The Pueblos, as we shall presently see, had long been familiar with 
the art, but up to that time the Navajos had known nothing of 
spinning and weaving. 




ANOTHER STEP 




FIGURE 15 "At San Ildelfonzo 
church in New Mexico" 



he built the first 



THE Spanish writers who 
dealt with early events in 
New Mexico transmitted 
to us many misleading 
statements ; but among 
their more accurate narra 
tives, and the more inter 
esting in connection with 
the present subject, are 
those relating to the intro 
duction of sheep and of 
the weaving of woolen 
cloth, in that region. 

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to enter 
New Mexico. He was the treasurer of the fleet of Narvaez who had 
been commissioned by the King of Spain to undertake an expedition 
of conquest to the mainland of Florida. Misfortune beset the under 
taking, and a part of the company, which had landed and which in 
cluded de Vaca, having lost communication with the vessels, built 
boats in which to leave Florida. These were scattered by a storm, 
and late in 1528 de Vaca and his boat-crew were cast ashore on the 
coast of Texas where all were soon made prisoners by Indians. 
After six years of captivity de Vaca and three of his men escaped, 
and set out to make their way overland to their countrymen in 
Mexico; Cortez having invaded that country in 1519. Their course 
was northwest, and they evidently proceeded as far in that direction 
as central New Mexico, whence they made their way southward 
and reached the City of Mexico in 1536. 



84 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

In his "Relacion" of his travels, de Vaca tells of having- found 
linen and woolen cloth in use by the natives, and at one place on 
his journey fine cotton shawls; all of native production. 

Friar Marcos in his account of his expedition into the Pueblo 
country in 1538 mentions the natives as being dressed in cotton 
cloth ; and says the men of Cibola wore long cotton gowns reaching 
to their feet. He further states that he encountered later great 
numbers of men and women wearing cotton clothing, and that the 
people told them that others, living farther north, were dressed 
in woolen cloth ; and also that they described a little animal which 
furnish the material of which the woolen cloth was made, 
Another report came to him of the people of Totonteac who dressed 
in woolen clothing like that worn by the Spaniards. 

Coronado s expedition of 1540 traversed the country that had 
been visited by Marcos, and also went further north, into the "land 
of gold" of which Marcos had said he had heard ; and in the account 
of this undertaking the natives are described as being dressed in 
cotton clothing. 

Reports of Espejo s expedition of 1582 tell of native people 
encountered in the vicinity of the present city of Albuquerque, New 
Mexico, who dressed in striped cotton cloth ; and say that Espejo 
received from one of their chiefs a present of 4,000 bolls of cotton, 
of which product the people are represented as growing large 
quantities. 

The chief purpose of Onate s expedition was to colonize the 
territory now known as New Mexico. At San Ildelfonzo, an 
Indian village about ten miles south of Espanola, he built the first 
church and soon after founded a convent at the same place. Upon 
the return of the Spaniards in 1692, the old village was destroyed, 
and the people then moved just across the Rio Grande and estab 
lished the village at its present location. The church built in the 
new village later is reputed to be a copy of the older one, and is 
shown in Figure 15. 



ANOTHER STEP. 85 

The Pueblo Indian villages, mentioned in the preceding chap 
ter, may not all now occupy their original sites, and they were 
known under entirely different names. The Spaniards gave them 
new names when they first occupied that region, and they are 
known to us only by the Spanish names. A majority of the villages 
are, however, located just as found by the invaders, and many of 
the buildings are known of record to be more than 300 years old, 
and it is not improbable that some of them have been in existence 
for at least 500 years. The walls are entirely of adobe, and the 
buildings are roofed with pine and cedar timbers covered with the 
same material as that of the walls. Comparing the present good 
condition of these mud buildings with the now dilapidated stone 
structures of the Cliff Dwellers, we have further evidence of the 
great age of the latter. In Onate s time the people living in this 
village were engaged in growing cotton and weaving cotton cloth. 

Other Spanish adventurers tell of trading with the Pueblo 
Indians for sufficient cotton and woolen cloth to replace the worn 
out clothing of their soldiers. 

There is no doubt that cotton flourished in New Mexico at the 
time mentioned. Recent experiments in the Territory demonstrated 
that it can now be grown there, and probably with profit. The 
weaving of cotton cloth by the Pueblos certainly was practiced long 
before the Spanish invasion, and as they had had no communication 
with any Europeans prior to that time, their art, unless inherited, 
must have had an independent origin and development among them. 

The fact that cotton cloth of good weave and texture had been 
found among the older relics of the cliff people, throws the practice 
of the weaving art among races in, or that have been in, our south 
west, far back into a very remote period. Accepting as possible, 
or even probable, the proposition that the Cliff Dwellers were the 
far-removed ancestors of the Pueblos, it would seem that the latter 
had inherited their knowledge of weaving, and had been weavers 
from an unknown time in the past. An especially fine specimen of 



THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

the Cliff Dwellers weaving may be seen in the American Museum 
of Natural History in New York. This very interesting- pre-his- 
toric textile fabric is a cotton blanket, that was originally about 
three by five feet in size. It was woven in colors, and has designs 
similar to those on pottery found in the cliff dwellings; the designs 
bearing some resemblance to those now used by the Xavajos, but 
which they derived from the Pueblos. In color and general appear 
ance this ancient cotton blanket also presents some resemblance 
to Navajo work, but nothing very definite. 

I have some specimens of the Cliff Dwellers weaving that have 
no designs and are without colors, made of a mixture of cotton 
and yucca fibre. Cotton and yucca yarn and rope have also been 
found along with the articles above mentioned, buried in the sand 
in burial trenches, and in the buildings, sometimes deep down under 
the debris now forming the floors. 

In my collection of Cliff Dwellers sandals, which includes both 
the plaited and woven forms, six different methods of making them 
are to be seen. Most of them are rough plaiting in many instances 
the different forms of basket weaving being illustrated. A few, 
however, show evidence of great skill. The one illustrated in 
Figure 5 is a rare and interesting member of the collection, one of 
the pair of engraving showing the top, the other the bottom of the 
sandal. In this sandal appear designs in colors which are almost 
in form with those found in some old Pueblo weaves and also similar 
to figures in later work of the Navajos. The designs show plainly 
on the upper side of the sandal. The lower side is remarkable in 
the fact of having delicate raised zig-zag lines in the perfect pattern 
of the Navajo lightning emblem. The weaving is very skillfully 
done, and would be a credit to an artisan of the present. The warp 
is threads of yucca the woof evidently cotton, or some plant fibre 
much finer and softer than the yucca. 

That the early Spanish adventurers found, as they said, no 
raw wool in the Pueblo country, is no doubt true. No wool-bearing 




FLATF, I V A curious and rare old blanket of" sacred significance, 
\\o\rn about I Sac. 



ANOTHER STEP. 87 

sheep existed in North America until introduced by the Europeans ; 
Cortez having brought the first sheep soon after the conquest of 
Mexico. The earliest Spanish colonists in New Mexico had taken 
cattle, horses, sheep and swine with them from Old Mexico and, 
as the climate was mild and the pasturage fair, the sheep increased 
rapidly and became a great source of wealth. 

The Pueblos appear to have soon discarded the spinning of 
cotton for the easier spinning of wool, making many coarse woolen 
fabrics without any color, excepting the natural black and white 
of the wool and such shades as they could produce by a mixture 
of the two. At this time the Navajos had not become spinners 
and weavers. They made no fabrics of any kind excepting a rough 
plaiting of the leaves and fibre of the yucca and other plants. As 
they became possessed of sheep and learned spinning and weaving 
from Pueblos who had joined them, as already related, the Pueblos 
who had remained in their old homes turned their attention to the 
making of pottery as an art, and to herding cattle and tilling the 
soil as means of subsistence. Therefore the art of weaving declined 
among the Pueblos and, in the same ratio, was taken up by the 
Navajos. But some of the Pueblo women are still weavers, and 
the diagonal weaves of the Hopis are superior to any work done by 
the Navajos so far as texture is concerned. 

The Hopi Pueblos use but few colors; and such blankets as 
they weave are of serape size, and ornamented with stripes only, the 
colors being blue, white and black, with sometimes a little red. 
The yarn is coarsely spun and the weaving loosely done. Many 
blankets that are shown as of Zuni or Hopi weave are made by 
the Navajos, being woven to conform to the fancy of the Pueblos. 
The Hopi women make a good black diagonal cloth used by them 
for dresses, and which is often beautifully embroidered in patterns 
that might have come from Persia. They also weave and embroider 
the kilts and sashes worn in the ceremony of the snake dance, and 



88 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

which are made of white yarn and embroidered in black, red and 
green. 

With the exception of the two families, the Zuni and Hopi, 
none of the Pueblos now do any weaving worth mentioning. Prob 
ably, if the Pueblo Indians were shepherds, and were obliged to 
seek the most profitable disposition of their wool, they would com 
pete with the Navajos in blanket-weaving. But as they lack the 
raw material, and are not much inclined to industry, it is quite 
likely that when the Navajo squaw folds her loom, which she will 
do before many years shall have passed, blanket-weaving among 
the Indians of our country will be at an end. 

It is true that no form of primitive loom such as the Navajos 
now use is found among the Pueblo Indians, excepting with the 
Hopis and Zunis. When conditions influenced the other Pueblo 
tribes to stop spinning and weaving, the distaff and loom soon 
disappeared, for the indolent Pueblo Indian would not care to pre 
serve anything he did not need, especially if it would make firewood. 
That all of them were weavers from an early period, there is no 
room for doubt, for the stories of the Spanish pioneers in that 
country agree in testifying that these people were found well sup 
plied with woven cotton fabrics. 

But the tales about woolen cloth being in use by the Pueblos 
at that time were evidently due to lack of care in ascertaining and 
recording facts. It is, however, possible that the llama or some 
similar animal capable of affording material for a fabric resembling 
one of wool, flourished in New Mexico in early times, and that it 
was cloth made of such material that the Spaniards supposed to 
be made of wool. But as there is neither knowledge nor tradition 
of the natives ever having had such animals, it is more probable 
that the woolly hair of the buffalo which was then common in that 
country, or the fur of the rabbit which may have been the "little 
animal" mentioned by Marcos, was used to make such cloth. 

The hair of animals, and the feathers of birds, were woven 



ANOTHER STEP. 89 

into the meshes of cotton fabrics found in the cliff ruins, but no 
threads of wool. Therefore it would seem that if the Pueblo 
Indians spun the hair or fur of animals, at all, it was an industry 
handed down by the pre-historic people. 

It is interesting to note from the various relics found, and from 
accounts by the Spaniards, that some of the early native people of 
our southwest did not depend upon the skins of wild animals for 
clothing, but were spinners and weavers of such material at hand 
as could be worked into textile forms, no matter how rough or 
crude. 




THE BLANKET 




FIGURE 16 ~ x ~ "there was then, as now, a Navajo 
flock in every valley" 



THE Pueblo weaving was, 
as we have seen, the 
foundation on which the 
Navajos have built up an 
industry which has, as a 
barbaric art, assumed a 
position of considerable 
commercial importance. 
In spite of this fact, which 
has brought them into 
rather close contact with 
white men in disposing of 

their products, the native characteristics of these people other 
than their warlike traits have been less affected by associ 
ation with civilization than the large majority of North Amer 
ican Indians; and to this we may ascribe the barbaric beauty 
of their woven patterns and the harmony of bright colors worked 
into them. As soon as they are influenced by the white man s taste 
to the extent of changing their patterns and colors, the beauty of 
the Navajo blanket will be doomed. Let us hope that it will be a 
long time before such influences become apparent in Navajo 
weaving. 

It is frequently said that many of the so-called Navajo blankets 
are now made in eastern factories, but this is not true to any great 
extent. Some garish things in attempts at Navajo designs are 
so made, but the likeness is too poor to be called even an imitation; 
and no dealer with the slightest sense of honor would offer one 



02 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

of the horrid things as a Navajo blanket. Tourists have only 
themselves to blame if they are sometimes thus deceived. 

The Navajos often prefer to wear blankets made in the east, 
for two reasons: one is that they are lighter; and the other, that 
they can sell a good blanket of their own make for a sum sufficient 
to purchase a "Mackinaw." Not long ago a lady visitor saw one 
of these Mackinaw blankets on the back of a Navajo buck at 
Gallup, N. M. She immediately began negotiations, and finally 
got the blanket for about three times what is cost "poor Lo," and 
went away rejoicing, believing she had a genuine Navajo blanket. 
Why? because she had bought it from a Navajo Indian! Inci 
dents of this kind having been repeated frequently have, no doubt, 
given rise to the story and belief that a large proportion of what 
are said to be Navajo blankets are not made by the Navajos, but 
are the products of eastern looms. Nothing, however, can be 
further from the truth. A visit to the establishments of all the 
Indian traders in or about the Navajo nation, or to those in any of 
the cities of the east or west in which Navajo blankets are offered 
for sale, will fail to find a single blanket represented as of Navajo 
origin that was not made by the Navajos themselves. 

The following letter from a prominent manufacturer of 
woolen blankets explains the situation to date, and seems to settle 
beyond question that no good imitation will soon be made : 

"PENDLETON WOOLEN MILLS. 
"Fleece Wool Blankets, Indian Robes and Shawls. 

"PENDLETON, OREGON, June 23, 1902. 

"DEAR SIR We have your letter of the I7th and also the 
sample of the Navajo. We note what you say about blanket people 
saying this has never been successfully imitated. It is for a good 
reason. It is impossible with any machine yet made to get this 
effect. On our looms there are but two shuttle boxes on a side. 
Running a different shuttle in each box only allows for four colors 




PLATE V A modern rug-blanket, made in 1891, 



THE BLANKET. 93 

at a time. In this robe a certain color appears and then is cut out. 
On a machine when a color once starts across the beam, it must be 
carried clear to the other side, either on one side or the other. If 
you lose it from the top, it must appear somewhere on the bottom. 
It is necessary for it to go clear across to be able to return. In 
weaving by hand, one can simply take the shuttle out any place 
desired and lay it aside until wanted again, covering the end be 
tween the filling threads and the warp. 

"We can get this diamond pattern, however, if you think it 
would do, but cannot get the effect nor the weave as it appears in 
this robe. The Racine people are making a shawl something after 
this pattern, but can only use a limited number of colors, for the 
reasons explained above. 

"We could do this. We could get something like this pattern 
and then work with two colors for a certain width, and then change 
to two others, giving a striped effect. For instance, we could work 
with black and yellow, the diamond or pattern appearing in yellow 
and the background in black, and then change to green and red, for 
a certain width, and so on. This, however, would not produce the 
effect you are after. 

"On this kind of a proposition we can quickly tell you we 
cannot do anything except go ahead and try to get up something 
that is impossible. If you think a robe something like I have 
described would sell, let me know and we can get out some, but they 
will be far, far from the Navajo effect. 
"Yours very truly, 

"PENDLETON WOOLEN MILLS." 

I have traveled extensively throughout our southwestern coun 
try, and have examined the stocks of nearly every Indian trader 
and dealer in Navajo fabrics; and in no instance has a spurious 
blanket or rug been offered me as of Navajo make. I have not 
always agreed with the dealers statements regarding the age, com- 



94 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

position or coloring of their blankets, but I am, however, pretty 
welly satisfied that in the main they are sincere in their representa 
tions, and place their goods before their customers with the best 
knowledge they possess. Some of them have been so long in the 
business that they are authorities upon the subject. 

To know very much about the Navajo blanket in general re 
quires about the same kind of experience that a diamond dealer 
goes through before he is able to tell a genuine stone at a glance. 
Indeed, the knowledge comes only through such experience, and is 
usually attended by more or less expense; though it gives much 
pleasure, even if you do have to pay for it. 

To see your collection of blankets grow, knowing that each 
addition was made with a little better taste or skill than the preced 
ing one, is a genuine delight. 

The term "blanket" is used to describe everything of Navajo 
weave, chiefly for the reason that in the beginning, and for many 
years thereafter, the Navajo fabrics were made only in such sizes 
as could be used for a scrape, or as a covering while sleeping. As 
the demand for them increased, smaller, or rug sizes, were made; 
and now, so far as relates to these two kinds, the latter are pro 
duced in much greater numbers, and are used almost entirely for 
the purposes of rugs. It would seem proper, therefore, to call the 
smaller sizes "rugs" ; but as the term "blanket" appears to be fas 
tened upon them by common consent, it is probably better and 
perhaps more convenient to use "blanket" as a general term for 
all the Navajo products, rather than to classify them under dis 
tinctive names. 

The earliest reference to Navajo blankets, so far as I have 
been able to learn, written by any of our own people, is in Bur- 
dett s "Life of Kit Carson." In dealing with some events of the 
year 1840, he says : 

"Carson now organized a party of seven, and proceeded to a 
trading post called Brown s Hole, where he joined a company of 



THE BLANKET. 95 

traders to go to the Navajoe Indians. He found this tribe more 
assimilated to the white man than any Indians he had yet seen, 
having many fine horses and large flocks of sheep and cattle. They 
also possessed the art of weaving, and their blankets were in great 
demand through Mexico, bringing high prices, on account of their 
great beauty, being woven in flowers with much taste. They were 
evidently a remnant of the Aztec race." 

In his "Notes of a Military Reconnoissance," Major Emory, 
referring to his visit to Santo Domingo, New Mexico, in Septem 
ber, 1846, says : 

"We were shown into his reverence s parlor, tapestried with 
curtains stamped with the likenesses of the Presidents of the 
United States up to this time. The cushions were of spotless damask 
and the couch covered with a white Navajo blanket worked in 
richly colored flowers." 

It is likely that the "flowers" referred to by these writers had 
been embroidered on a white Navajo blanket by Mexican women. 

In November, 1846, Emory encountered some Indians whom 
he thought were "Pimos Apaches," but as they were in a district 
then included in the Navajo country, and were engaged in spinning 
and weaving, probably they were Navajos. Of their methods of 
spinning and of their loom he says : 

"A woman was seated on the ground under the shade of a ^ 
cottonwood. Her left leg was tucked under her and her foot 
turned sole upward; between her big toe and the next, was a 
spindle about eighteen inches long, with a single fly of four or six 
inches. Ever and anon she gave it a twist in a dexterous manner, 
and at its end was drawn a coarse cotton thread. This was their 
spinning jenny. Led on by this primitive display, I asked for their 
loom by pointing to the thread and then to the blanket girded about 
the woman s loins. A fellow stretched in the dust, sunning him 
self, rose leisurely and untied a bundle which I had supposed to be 
a bow and arrow. This little package, with four stakes in the 



96 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

ground, was the loom. He stretched his cloth and commenced the 
process of weaving." 

It is almost certain that Emory was mistaken in saying that 
the material being spun was cotton. As we have no record that 
the Navajos ever grew cotton, it is more than probable that these 
people were using wool, for there was then, as now, a Navajo flock 
in every valley. But this does not detract from the interest attached 
to this early observation of Navajo spinning and weaving. / x 

Few, if any, who read this little volume will care to engage 
in weaving blankets as the Navajo women make them. But if one 
desires to engage in the work, an educational sojourn among the 
Navajos is necessary, and therefore I shall make no attempt to de 
scribe the process in detail, such as would enable a beginner to set 
up in the business. Many months of patient study and practice 
would be required before the first and simplest step, that of spin 
ning, could be mastered; and then would come the coloring, and 
the slow, tedious work of weaving. I refer now only to the blan 
kets made from the wool of the native sheep, which is sheared, 
spun, colored and woven by the Navajo women. Simple as it may 
seem at first consideration, the process as a whole is really intricate 
and puzzling; and if we measure successful results, only, we can 
hardly realize how much toil, physical suffering, and patient, pains 
taking work is involved in producing the thousands of these blankets 
that are being made annually. 

The sheep are not washed before shearing, as is the practice 
with white people, and so there is no sheep-washing holiday among 
the Navajos. In late years they have used the white man s sheep- 
shears, obtained from the traders, to remove the fleece; but before 
these were procured, they pulled the wool from the sheep, or, by 
using a dull knife, party cut and partly pulled the wool away. The 
fleece is first tossed and shaken to remove the sand, then thrown 
over a rope or bush, and the burrs and other foreign material care- 



THE BLANKET. 97 

fully picked out. The next process is washing, which is thoroughly 
done, the wool coming out clean and white. 

At this juncture it may be said that that abnormal and much 
maligned creature, the "black sheep," is common in Navajo flocks 
and is looked upon with favor. Its wool is usually of a rusty black, 
but from some it is of a glossy, jet black; and this is highly valued 
on account of the saving of the labor of dyeing, and for its positive 
and enduring color. 

When the wool is thoroughly washed it is spread upon moun 
tain sage or greasewood shrubs to dry, and the next process is to 
prepare it for the cards. For a long time the Navajos have been 
able to procure from the traders the old-fashioned wire-toothed 
cards, such as were used by our grandmothers before the invention 
of the carding machine, and by which the wool was carded into rolls 
for spinning. A small handful of wool is made into an oblong form 
and then placed between the cards and rolled back and forth until a 
long, loose roll of wool is the result. 

The manner of using the cards is shown in Figure 17, which 
is from one of Professor George H. Pepper s photographs, procured 
for the American Museum of Natural History by the Hyde explor 
ing expedition. 

The Navajos have no spinning wheels, though they are abund 
antly able to purchase them; and therefore their spinning is a slow 
process. For this part of their work they refuse all innovations, 
preferring to adhere to the methods that have come down to them 
through 200 years. Spinning the yarn is done with a simple dis 
taff, which is a slender rod, about thirty inches in length and five- 
eighths of an inch in diameter, tapered to a spindle point at each 
end. It is usually made of a branch of the pinon, a dwarfish tree 
growing in the southern part of the Rocky Mountain region, the 
wood of which, when well seasoned, is as hard as oak and takes a 
smooth finish. A circular piece of wood, one inch in thickness and 
four inches in diameter, with a hole in the center, is slipped upon 



98 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

the rod and fastened about twenty inches from the spindle end 
proper. This is all there is to the Navajo spinning appliance with 
which so much is accomplished; but by long practice they become 
very skillful in twirling it and drawing out the thread at the same 
time. When the thread is drawn out a sufficient length, the motion 
is reversed and the thread wound upon the spindle, just as our 
grandmothers used to reverse the wheel for the same purpose. 
The manner of spinning, and the results of the first process, are 
shown in Figure 18, which is also from a photograph procured 
by the Hyde expedition for the American Museum of Natural 
History. 

The yarn produced by the first spinning is too coarse and too 
loosely twisted to be of any use in weaving, and therefore it is 
unwound from the spindle and spun again, and will then answer 
for the coarse woolly weave we sometimes see. But a third spin 
ning must be done before the yarn is in anything like fit condition 
to work into a fine blanket; and for extra fine blankets, or for warp, 
a fourth, and sometimes a fifth, spinning is required. From this 
the reader may form some idea of the amount of work that must be 
done by the Navajo slave of the blanket. When the yarn is finally 
spun it is washed again, as the Navajos understand as well as the 
whites that it will take color and work better if entirely free from 
dirt and from the natural grease of the wool. 

In getting ready for the work of weaving, the first step, after 
preparing the yarn, is to construct the warp frame. This is made 
a little larger than the blanket to be woven, and is of slender sticks 
lashed together at the corners. It is laid upon the ground, and 
the warp is wound upon it from top to bottom, the threads crossing 
in the center; and it is then ready to set in the frame. For this 
two posts are planted upright in the ground, and cross-beams are 
lashed to them near the top and the bottom. At the top a mov- 
abel pole is held horizontally to the upper frame timber by a rope 
arranged spirally, so that by tightening or loosening the rope, the 



THE BLANKET. 101 

pole can be readily raised or lowered. The upper bar of the warp 
frame is fastened to this pole by loops of rope, and all is arranged 
so that in starting weaving the upper end of the warp frame is 
about twelve inches below the top of the main frame. The lower 
end of the warp frame is now fastened to the lower bar of the 
main frame, the warp being thus drawn taut. The loom proper is 
now complete, the warp is in place, and everything is ready for the 
beginning of weaving. 

A stick wound with yarn takes the place of what our weavers 
call a heald. Twine is wound around it, taking in every alternate 
thread of warp, and when the heald is drawn forward it brings 
one-half of the warp threads with it, thus opening the warp for 
the more ready placing of the woof. They use no shuttle; the yarns 
of different colors being wound in balls, and these are passed back 
and forth between the warp threads in the same manner as the 
ordinary shuttle, excepting that they cannot be thrown, but must 
be slowly worked along by hand. If the reader will suspend a 
blanket of moderately intricate pattern, with the warp running up 
and down, and count across it the different colors and shades, and 
the repetitions of each, the number of the many little balls of yarn 
that were hanging on the face of the blanket while it was being 
woven will be known. The Navajo woman carries a color along ~^ 
until the pattern demands a change, when the first ball is dropped, 
after having made a loop of the yarn to prevent its unwinding, 
and the next color is taken up. This thread is drawn around the 
thread of the first color to preserve continuity, and thus the process 
goes on, back and forth, a single thread at a time passed in and out 
through the warp, the woof being laid loosely to prevent the weave 
from drawing in at the sides. As the work progresses, the yarn 
is beaten down in the warp by using a thin, hard stick as a batten, 
and the firmness of the weaving depends largely upon the use of 
the batten ; the hard, almost waterproof, specimens indicating the 
conscientious application of this implement. This manner of weav- 



102 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

ing results in a single-ply fabric; the pattern being the same on 
both sides. Figure 19 is a picture of a Navajo weaver at her 
work, and was made from a photograph by Charles Goodman, 
of Bluff, Utah. 

Sometimes the main frame of the loom is dispensed with, 
and the trunks of a pair of standing small trees are utilized in its 
stead. But this is of most primitive form, and lacks many of the 
features of an approved Navajo loom, though it serves to illus 
trate the simplicity of construction that may be made to answer 
the purpose. 

While weaving, the squaw sits on the ground and weaves 
from the bottom upward. When the work has progressed so far 
that she cannot reach it easily, the rope on the upper beam is loos 
ened, as is also the top bar of the warp frame, permitting the lat 
ter to slide down on the frame sides to the proper position. It 
is now fastened again, the warp drawn taut and the finished por 
tion of the blanket sewn tightly to the lower beam of the main 
frame. 

The reader may have often noticed the marks of this sew 
ing, for it is done so tightly, and the blanket is held so firmly in 
position while being woven, that they remain for years, and fre 
quently until the blanket is worn out. 

Weaving is carried on wherever the family happens to be, 
and in caring for their sheep they are on the move a great deal of 
the time, seldom remaining more than four or five days in a place. 
When they are moving there is often seen on a single horse, a 
mother with two or three children, a pack of wool and yarn, and 
a complete loom.^ This scene is shown in the beautiful engrav 
ing used as the frontispiece to this volume, and made from a 
photograph by Mr. Matteson, which he has named "Homeward 
Bound." 

When they stop the first thing to be done is to clear away a 
place for the loom and set it up. Sometimes in moving the woman 




I I If ib. 



PLATE VI An old specimen bearing the Head Chiefs cm 
of the period of 1865. 



THE BLANKET. 103 

will forget the idea of pattern she had had in mind for an unfin 
ished blanket, and the result is an irregular weave. In other in 
stances she may lose some of her yarns on the journey, and there 
fore must finish the blanket as best she can with the colors she 
has left. Such circumstances account for the irregularities we 
find in some really good blankets, especially among the older j 
ones. 

In considering the colors used I shall first refer to the period 
when many of the dyes were made by the Navajos themselves. 
Their first idea of high color came from the introduction of 
bayeta, a material, of which so much is and has been said and 
that is not now obtainable in the original form. It was entirely 
different from the so-called "squaw-cloth," samples of which are 
often shown as bayeta. Squaw-cloth is a coarse woolen stuff in 
many colors, and an attempt to ravel it and preserve the yarn in 
anything like a condition in which to be retwisted or respun, will 
demonstrate the fallacy of calling it bayeta, and of asserting^ that 
that material was ever used in making Navajo blankets. ^_The 
genuine bayeta was entirely of wool, dyed with cochineal, and 
presented the various shades of red natural to that dye. 

Cochineal, it is true, is a product of Mexico, but it must be 
remembered that the Spaniards had been in Mexico more than 
one hundred years before the Navajos ever possessed sheep, and 
even if Mexico was the only country producing cochineal there 
was plenty of opportunity to have introduced it into Europe. As 
it is, however, also produced in Java and in Algiers, the question 
sometimes raised, that, as cochineal was a product of Mexico, 
the bayeta brought from England could not have been dyed with 
it, is set at rest. 

Cochineal produces both a brilliant scarlet and a crimson, 
according to the manner of treatment. A fact of interest in con 
nection with this color is that a fabric dyed with it may be changed 
to an orange red by acids, and to violet by alkalis. This accounts 



104 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

for some peculiar colors in old weaves which can be accounted for 
in no other way. 

The warp and woof strands of the old bayeta were of equal 
size, and so well spun that when raveled they were strong enough 
for weaving. In the old blankets of fine texture we find evi 
dence that in many instances the threads have been respun to re 
duce their size, and in the case of heavier weave, the threads have 
been doubled and twisted. This readily explains the lack of uni 
formity we find in the weight of genuine old bayetas. 

Bayeta was originally taken from Manchester, England, to 
Spain. From there it was sent to traders in New Spain, or Mex 
ico, and by them bartered or sold to the Indian traders who had 
access to the Navajo country, where it was at first used only spar 
ingly. It was expensive, and the labor required to ravel it, and the 
great care and skill required to handle it properly, led the Nava- 
jos to make only narrow stripes of bayeta in blankets of their 
earlier weaving. 

Let us not confound the true bayeta with the modern squaw- 
cloth. The latter is now used by the squaws for dress skirts and 
by the bucks for leggings, and head-dresses and much beadwork 
made nowadays have the same cloth for a basis. 

I have heard people talk about blue, green and yellow bayeta. 
but I have never seen a sample ; neither have I been offered a blan 
ket as bayeta in which these colors appear to the exclusion of the 
red. It is, however, a rule when showing a blanket in which the 
stripes or figures are of bayeta, to call it a bayeta blanket; the 
fabric taking its name from this precious bit of woof, no matter 
how small. The other colors may be good or bad ; but that makes 
no difference. The blanket is a bayeta, as generally accepted. 
The reader may be quite sure, however, that if a blanket was made 
in the bayeta period, the painstaking skill required to treat the 
material was reflected in the spinning, coloring and weaving of 



THE BLANKET. 105 

the fabric; and if worthy to be called bayeta, it is apt to be a pretty 
good blanket all through. 

The accompanying colored plates are reproductions, in de 
sign and color, of Navajo blankets in my collection, which at the 
present time numbers about seventy-five examples that have been 
carefully selected during the last twenty years. 

Plate I shows one-half of a Navajo "squaw-dress," which 
belongs to the period between 1840 and 1860. It is a perfect 
specimen of bayeta and natural black wool, but the only symbols 
are those of mountains, in two forms. In size it is thirty-one by 
forty-one inches. 

Plate II represents a very old example of Navajo work in 
"pink bayeta," native wool and native dyes. Its symbols are 
those of mountains, as indicated by the steps in the squares, and 
of lightning, the latter appearing in almost perfect designs. Color 
and form assign to this blanket a date about the year 1850. Its 
size is twenty-eight by forty-six inches. Of pink bayeta, which 
enters into the composition of this blanket, some account is given 
on a succeeding page. 

It appears that in the primitive period of Navajo weaving 
only white wool was used in making blankets. In some later 
time the idea of stripes was suggested, and the wool from the 
black sheep was used to make narrow bands across the blanket. 
The next change was a mixture of white and black wool, mak 
ing what we call "sheep s gray," which is found in very old blan 
kets; and for many years thereafter only white, black, and gray 
appeared in the productions of Navajo looms. 

It is quite safe to say that nearly all, if not all, Navajo blan 
kets made prior to the year 1800 were without any colors, proper; 
that only undyed wool was used. The introduction of bayeta"" 
about that time, worked a change in the whole blanket scheme 
of the Navajos. They began to experiment with plants and 
roots ; and colors, proper, were found. Following the weave by 



106 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

periods, as evidenced by age and texture, we find that yellow was 
the first of their native dyes. A light yellow was produced by 
steeping the leaves of the peach, and a brighter and more at 
tractive one was made later from the flower heads of the Bige- 
lovia Graveolens, a plant with great trusses of bright yellow flow 
ers, and that grows profusely in the Navajo country. A darker 
yellow is now made from the root of a plant called by the New 
Mexicans "rabbit wood"; but I have not been able to find the 
plant, and do not know what it is. 

When the early traders learned that the Navajos were seek 
ing colors, they introduced indigo, and probably the dye-stuff 
known as Brazil wood. The latter was originally a red dye-stuff 
brought from the far east at a very early period. Later it was 
found by the Spanish General Cabral in South America, in the 
year 1500. The eastern product was called Brasil, Bresil and Bra- 
sile, names probably derived from the broken form in which it was 
first introduced. The wood was found in South America by the 
Spaniards, in the territory now known as Brazil, and this South 
American state was named by them on that account. 

Its natural color is the mahognay red, seen in some very old 
blankets, and which has been attributed to native dyes. By mixing 
it with iron a purple is produced, and a good black is made by 
combining it with acids. With these additions to their list, fancy 
for designs was stimulated and the idea of symbols began to de 
velop, but up to about 1820 there had been little attempt at symbol 
ism in blanket patterns. 

Having the blue and yellow, the Navajos learned to produce 
a green by combining the two, but there is no evidence that they 
ever made either a satisfactory blue or green of vegetable dyes 
alone. Indigo was to be had soon after they began to seek for 
colors ; but green was rarelv used in old weaves. A dull mahogany 
red found in many old blankets may be traced to the introduction 
of Brazil wood. As black became more popular on account of its 



THE BLANKET. 107 

symbolic importance they required more and of a deeper shade 
than was produced by the wool of their black sheep. This they 
were able to provide by a dye made by combining a decoction of 
the leaves of the sumac with a native yellow ochre and the gum 
of the pinon. In the very old weaves we find wHite, black, gray, 
blue, yellow and green only. 

In collections of old blankets we occasionally find some of 
the bayeta period with stripes of rose or pink, which, for want of 
a better name, are called "pink bayetas." The term is correct only 
so far as it describes a blanket, the woof or warp of which has 
been raveled from other fabrics. While such blankets were not 
made from the cochineal-dyed bayeta, it is likely that the same 
material was used as in weaving bayeta, and that the weaving 
was very similar ; but the dye was entirely different from cochineal. 
Close examination reveals the fact that at one time the color was 
a bright red, and that by long exposure to the sun and wind it 
faded or toned down to a rose or a pink hue. These blankets are 
rare, and are all in what we call "old Navajo" patterns or designs ; 
and were made earlier than 1850. The one shown in Plate II is 
a good example of a pink bayeta fabric. 

The predominating features in the pattern of Plate III are 
termed by some good judges the "Aztec Club" design; the barred 
lines being supposed to represent the war-clubs found in old so- 
called Aztec tombs. Another interpretation is that they mean a 
number of lodges, connected by ties of blood relationship; the 
central figures in white and black symbolizing an union of two 
families, with lineage running back many generations to two en 
tirely different tribes. 

This blanket is a curio. In age it antedates the use of com 
mercial dyes by the Navajos. The single strand yarn of which 
it is entirely composed shows it to be of Navajo spinning. 

The white and black, the natural colors of the wool ; the yel- 



108 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

low, no doubt produced by a decoction of peach leaves and bark ; 
the pink, some combination of vegetable dyes, not common. 

The size of this specimen is thirty-six by fifty-four inches. 

It must be remembered that bayeta was expensive, and that 
it was due to this fact that so many very old blankets, that have 
this shade of red in their composition, have been preserved. In 
proportion to the number of antiques, the percentage of bayetas is 
large. They had cost more to produce, and were therefore valued 
more highly and better cared for. 

There was no good red among the native dyes. If there had 
been, bayeta would never have been known as an element in a 
Navajo blanket. A reddish brown was made from the bark and 
roots of trees and shrubs, but no good red. Bayeta was undoubt 
edly the stimulus that led them on to other colors, and is without 
question the one thing more than all others that laid the founda 
tion for the most beautiful aboriginal fabrics of our country. 

We have now dealt only with the colors used in old blankets. 
These consisted of the imported bayeta, indigo, and Brazil wood, 
and the black, yellow, and green native dyes produced by the 
Navajos. This was in the substantial period, when coloring, 
spinning and weaving were more conscientiously done. The intro 
duction of cheap, commercial dyes is an innovation to be deplored, 
as much in the Navajo land as in Persia. Like the beautiful fab 
rics of the Orient, our own barbaric weaves have suffered by the 
introduction of these inferior mineral dyes. We are glad to be 
lieve, however, that the worst period in this respect has passed, 
as there is a tendency on the part of traders to induce the Nava 
jos to return to the old-time methods, and also to insist that 
when mineral dyes are used they shall be only of the best quali 
ties. 

Many of the innovation color effects from cheap commercial 
dyes are pleasing, but most of them are untrustworthy, and should 
have no place in a Navajo blanket. The reds are the most un- 



THE BLANKET. Ill 

reliable; and the purple, maroon, dove color, and bright orange, 
which are out of place among the colors that make a Navajo 
blanket a thing of beauty, are also the most disfiguring. If one 
is in doubt as to the stability of a color, the water test will settle 
the question. High prices are paid, as a general rule, for Navajo 
blankets, and buyers are entitled to the assurance of permanent 
colors. But the reforming influence must come from the pur 
chaser, and when he insists, the trader will soon see to it that the 
Navajos use only fast colors. It is in the interest of all, the buyer, 
the dealer, the Indian trader, and the weavers themselves, that 
this be brought about as soon as possible. 

The art of weaving is so old that history can tell us nothing 
of its origin. It was known by the inhabitants of New Mexico 
centuries before the coming of the Spaniards, and no doubt had 
"been practiced by the Pueblo Indians long before the advent of 
the Navajos, who knew nothing of it until many years after they 
had taken possession of their present country. Their first knowl 
edge of textile work followed the introduction of sheep, but not 
until after the Pueblo s insurrection, as we have no evidence what 
ever that they ever made thread or yarn of cotton or knew any 
thing about it. Soon after that time the deserters from the Pueb 
los had become well established among the Navajos. These peo 
ple had taken with them all the knowledge they possessed of spin 
ning and weaving, but the Navajos wrre slow to adopt the work, 
and appear to have made but little progress in the first quarter of 
the Eighteenth Century. So far as can now be ascertained, they 
had not become able to produce a rough weaving sufficient for 
protection from the inclemency of the winter, until about the 
year 1720. 

Then there was no sentiment, no symbolical figures, 
no color, nor beauty either in design or weave. The coarse fabric 
was made only to meet the demand for covering for their bodies. 
The Navajo squaw hacl not yet developed her artistic sense, and 



112 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

it took many long years to accomplish this. But in the evolution 
of the blanket from a coarse article of necessity to the beauty of 
barbaric fancy, produced later, her whole nature was changed. 
She had been slowly growing to be a slave of the blanket, but was 
working out her destiny without knowing it. Gradually the spirit 
of her work grew, with color and patterns springing into being- 
colors and patterns that even astonished her; and she began to 
weave her whole soul into the meshes of her work. Thus weav 
ing came to be, with the Navajos, a woman s art entirely. 

The severe plainness of the rough, early fabrics of white, or 
of white and black things of utility only and in the natural colors 
of the wool prompts us to ask what influence was at work in 
the mind of the aboriginal woman that led her up from the level of 
mere utility to the higher plane of color and pattern. It may be 
that the Indian s love of high color inspired the first departure, 
and that later on it was stimulated by a natural artistic instinct. 
But she has been, to a certain degree, an imitator. 

In many instances the designs on modern and ancient Pueblo 
pottery have a semblance of color, but the colors are onlv suffi 
cient to show what might be done in blanket colors. Possibly this 
suggestion helped, and step by steo the idea grew and took form, 
and after a century of loving labor the superlative aboriginal prod 
uct the Navajo blanket was born of a parentage of utility and 
savage love of things beautiful. The poor woman of the moun 
tains and plains must weave a blanket to sell, for she must live. 
This does not detract from her artistic sense, nor prevent her 
weaving the sad story of her life into the meshes of her work. 
No one can read that record, and it is probable that she tells it to 
no one. She lets it go out into the world, hoping, at least, it will 
fall into the hands of some one who will care for it tenderly, even 
though they do not know. 

The principal designs are emblematic. However, the weav 
ers do not feel closely bound to these conventions, but follow their 




PLATE VII A valuable old bayeta blanket, 
made about 1840. 



THE BLANKET. 113 

own fancies and conceits to the extent that each fabric holds an 
individuality. 

The Navajo squaw is not a highly sensitive being. She is 
not romantic and not keenly alive to a sense of beauty, as is mani 
fested by her lack of pride in her personal appearance, and the 
untidy condition of her house. Forlorn, unkempt, a willing 
drudge for her family, surrounded with nothing to stimulate a 
fancy for things beautiful, with not even the incentive of ade 
quate reward to encourage her, there is, in spite of her environ 
ment, manifest in her work a subtle sense of color value, a cor 
rect estimate of proper color combinations, and an artistic con 
ception of design that is wonderful. Barbaric it is, and properly 
so; even to the limit of gaudiness; but never lacking in perfect 
harmony of color. 

The Navajo squaw is a child of nature. She follows no pat 
tern. All the figures are evolved as she works, and as she weaves 
the story of her life. In symbolical figures she shows the moun 
tains near which she was born; the river from which the water 
was taken in which her own and her Indian lover s hands were 
washed in the ceremony of marriage; the trees, clouds, rain, 
wind, whirlwind, and the lightning. She portrays the tortuous 
path man must travel to attain superiority. She knows the sym 
bols that must appear in some form to adorn the blanket of a 
chief, the robe of a bride, or the mantle of the dead. The colors, 
stripes, squares and crosses and zig-zag diamonds are not mean 
ingless designs. It is to be particularly noted that curves and 
circles are tabooed. Every design may be reduced to straight 
lines. The cross in some form is a common figure. 

This is finely illustrated in Plate IV, which represents a 
curious as well as a rare old blanket. This fabric is composed 
entirely of bayeta, native wool colored with native dyes, and the 
sheep-gray mixture of white and black wool. The narrow stripes 
of dark red indicate use of either Brazil wood, or of a native dye 



114 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

the formula of which is now lost. The letter H appearing so 
prominently is only incidental to forming the numerous simple 
crosses of red. This blanket is undoubtedly of sacred significance, 
combining the creative elements of fire and water. It was woven 
about 1845, an d in size is fifty by seventy-two inches. 

The "swastika" or ansated cross, an evolution from the 
"Greek cross," so long the emblem of the Aryan people, appears 
on some very old Navajo blankets. But in thus directing atten 
tion to it I do not wish to be understood as implying that because 
the swastika is found on old Navajo blankets its presence is direct 
evidence that the Navajo is remotely of Asiatic origin. As the 
swastika appears on pottery found in the cliff ruins, it is possible 
that the Pueblos inherited it and transferred it to the Navajos. 
Therefore he who solves the problem of the origin of the Cliff 
Dwellers may also be able to account for the adoption and use of 
the swastika by the Navajos. 

The true cross with all arms of equal length was found 
on vases and cotton fabrics of the Pueblo Indians when the Catho 
lic Spaniards first visited New Mexico. Whether or not there be 
any relation between this and the torture cross does not affect 
the fact that the native people of our Southwest paid, and still 
pay, homage to the former as a symbol of protection, and also 
when directly supplicating the Great Spirit. Each of these forms 
is found on both the old and the new blankets, but the presence of 
the torture cross may, of course, be readily accounted for by re 
ferring it to the religious influences introduced by the Spaniards. 
A cross made of very narrow lines in a blanket is usually inter 
preted as indicating that an enemy had recently crossed the trail 
of the weaver s family. 

Each of the various other figures and patterns woven into 
the Navajo blankets has its special significance. The diamond 
figure that appears in many pieces of their work distinguishes a 
page on which their tribal history is written. The wave pattern, 



THE BLANKET. 115 

easier described as following the lines of an old-fashioned rail 
fence, is one of the old symbols, and indicates the importance of 
water to animal and plant life. Squares remind us of the four 
quarters of the globe, the four seasons, and the "four winds," as 
they call the four points of the compass, from which they say the 
winds blow. These are also indicated by tassels at the corners of 
the blankets. The creative spirit in which is combined father and 
mother is shown in the colors red and black : fire, the father, in 
red; water, the creative mother, in black; and each also refers to 
the creation of the world as well as to the origin of plant and ani 
mal life. Black is also shown as the color of the north; and blue 
as the color of the south. Again, red is the male color, and blue 
the female color. A straight line with shorter bars dropping from 
each end, denotes the storm clouds; and the same figure inverted 
under it, is a mist rising to meet it. Zig-zag lines mean light 
ning, and a multiplication of these lines by intersecting them is 
known as the "rattlesnake" pattern, the snake among the Indians 
of the southwest being closely related to some form of worship. 
Lines forming steps mean mountains, and rows of little squares 
refer to Indian villages. The Aztec club pattern was once popu 
lar, being, as previously remarked, an effort to figure the Aztec 
war-club found in some of the old ruins. A border of complicated 
lines, often seen, is the rough road the Indian novitiate must travel 
before he is competent to sit with the warriors in medicine lodge 
or around the council fire. Obtuse angles, though rarely found, 
mean the sky. 

Many of the Navajo blanket symbols evidently originated 
with Pueblo Indians, as we find similar figures on pottery made 
by them before the advent of the Navajo blanket. This was due 
to the influence of the Pueblo Indian recruits; although these 
figures were not produced in blankets until long after the Navajos 
began weaving. The figures are not exact copies from Pueblo pot 
tery, but carry out the general ideas. Moreover, the emblems are 



116 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

not placed according to rule, but are varied in position and ar 
rangement to the extent that no two blankets are exactly alike; a 
fact that supports the statement that the Navajo squaw does not 
work from patterns. That she does not is evident from the sup 
plementing fact that in working she never has before her another 
blanket from which to copy. 

Pueblo Indian pottery shows many designs that the Navajos 
do not reproduce. Principal among these are circles and scrolls 
by which the Pueblos indicate the wind and the whirlwind. The 
fret is one of their oldest designs. The rectilinear fret, while 
found on many blankets, is also found on basketry older than the 
blanket age; but made by people far removed from the Navajos. 
According to the best information we can get, fret designs indi 
cate mesas and canons. Inverted pyramids are the whirlwinds 
as they descend into the canons. Squares connected by lines in 
dicate a number of families joined by ties of blood relation 
ship. 

The Navajo blanket is a gem of barbaric weaving. Of a 
startling combination of bright colors, it would be hideous except 
for the perfect harmony in the arrangement of the colors. There 
may be faults of weave, texture, or pattern, but never really a fault 
in the blending of colors. Blue, or black, and white are effectively 
used with colors in maintaining this harmony. 

Plate V is from a modern blanket that has had ten years of 
constant use on the floor as a rug. It was made in 1891 of native 
wool entirely, the colors being indigo blue, native black and ana- 
line red. Its emblems are limited to those of mountains and 
crosses, and its size is thirty-six by sixty inches. This blanket 
has been used on the porch a portion of the time, exposed to the 
sun and wind, but has not changed color, except to soften a trifle. 
It has been washed a number of times in the ordinary way of wash 
ing flannels, and, as may be noted, the red held its own, and did 
not run into the white, as would have been the case if a very good 




LATE VIII A c ( >ml>in.iri<m of" bay eta and 
Gcrmantown yarn. 



THE BLANKET. 117 

mineral dye had not been used. This is evidence that if the traders 
would insist upon the Navajos using only the best quality of min 
eral dyes there would not be much to be feared from them. 

Plate VI is from a fine old specimen bearing the Navajo 
Head Chief s emblem, of the period of 1865, made of native wool; 
the colors being- those of indigo and native dyes. These are the 
true old colors black, blue, red and white. The design is the 
Navajo Head Chief s insignia of that period intended only for 
the Chiefs, and, until recently, held sacred to their use. 

The Navajo blanket is barbaric in effects, and that is chiefly 
why we like it. In perfect accord with itself, it seems to fit in 
almost any place. The only exception is that it would not be in 
good taste to use it in elaborately furnished rooms having delicate 
shades of finishings. The coarser grades make good rugs for the 
porch, and they can also be used to good advantage for lap robes, 
camp bedding, in country clubs and country homes, and on yachts. 
The finer qualities are desirable for portieres, especially for the 
door leading to the Indian or oriental room, or den. Some are 
fit to hang on the walls as pictures as examples of the artistic 
conceptions that have been developed in the minds of untutored 
native women. As a rug on the stair landing, or on the floor of 
the hall or bedroom, as a covering for the couch or hall seat, or 
thrown over the stair railing, it seems at home; and in none of 
these places will it quarrel with its surroundings. 

Some blankets seventy-five years old, and that have been in 
constant use, seem almost as good as new. The colors tone down 
with age like those of an oriental rug, and appear more beautiful 
because of age. This is one reason why connoisseurs are search 
ing for old blankets; and another is that the weaves and colors 
of the old blankets are not reproduced in the new. Unfortunately, 
it was a custom at one time among the Navajos (but long since 
discontinued), to burn the belongings of the dead in the funeral 
ceremonies, and later to bury them with the dead ; and in this 



118 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

manner many choice old blankets were destroyed. A large propor 
tion of the really good old weaves that survive are now in the 
hands of collectors or dealers. A few may still be found among 
the Navajos, but most of these are old heirlooms that cannot be 
purchased at any reasonable price. 

For more than a hundred years the Navajos have been dis 
posing of their blankets in trade with the Mexicans and with the 
Pueblo, Ute and Apache Indians. Any one disposed to step be 
yond the traders and dealers in blankets to obtain rare specimens 
should not visit the Navajo country, but should go to the rural 
homes of the New Mexicans, to the community houses of the 
Pueblos, and to the tepees of the Utes and Apaches in almost in 
accessible places in the valleys, the canons, and in the mountains, 
where travel must be afoot or on horseback. It is in these places 
that the finest old specimens now to be had from hands other than 
those of the traders, dealers, and collectors may be bought at prices 
not unreasonable in view of the rather eager demand at present 
prevailing for them. 

With the exceptions noted above, the blankets to be obtained 
now directly from the Navajos are of modern weave. Indeed, 
most of them would be of very recent make perhaps not more 
than two years old. But I do not mean to imply by this that the 
only desirable blanket is the old one, or that the modern blanket 
of good color is at all inferior to the old for ornament or use. 
The old blankets are sought for by connoisseurs and other people 
making collections, who are willing to pay well for humoring 
their fancies. The old blankets are not cheap, but new ones are, 
if the amount of skill and labor required to produce them be duly 
considered. New blankets of to-day will be old blankets by and 
by, and if carefully selected as to weave, patterns and colors, will 
grow in value each year. My interest in Navajo work was 
awakened twenty years ago, and at that time I sought only such 
pieces as pleased my senses of colors and figures, and, as a rule, 



THE BLANKET. 121 

selected new ones, because the colors were brighter and the pat 
terns more complicated. It was several years before 1 realized 
the truth that old and sometimes tattered specimens were in cer 
tain respects more desirable and really worth more than the new 
ones, in the light of fancy as well as in intrinsic value. 

However, I have some blankets in my collection that were not 
old when purchased, between fifteen and twenty years ago, but 
which were prudently selected, that show signs of toning down in 
color ; and as the roughness is worn off, they now vie in appearance 
with the older ones, and would bring in the open market many 
times their original cost. 

Plate VII shows a valuable old specimen in excellent state 
of preservation, with colors of indigo blue, bayeta and the dull 
mahogany red of Brazil wood. It was made about the year 1840 
and is forty-five by sixty-eight inches in dimensions. 

The beautiful blai ket represented by Plate VIII is a fine ex 
ample of the combination of bayeta, native wool and "German- 
town" yarn.. The red is bayeta; the white and black, native wool; 
and the green and yellow, Germantown. Th s was made about 
1870, near the close of the bayeta period and in the beginning of 
the use of commercial yarns among the Navajos. The emblems 
signify mountain ranges enclosing many lodges protected by 
water and by the "Lightning Spirit." The blanket measures 
forty-nine by sixty-one inches. 

Good Navajo blankets, and inferior ones also, will be found 
in the stocks of dealers in Indian "curios" anywhere in the West. 
But it should be remembered that no genuine Navajo blanket is 
altogether bad. All are more or less characteristic, but some are 
coarse and loosely woven; and these are cheap in proportion to 
their coarseness. But nearly all late native-wool blankets appear 
coarse as compared with the old bayeta or modern Germantown 
fabrics. If the yarn be well spun and the weave close and firm, 
the native-wool blankets will, if used as rugs, tone down in color, 



1! THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

wear smooth with use, and increase in value for many years. As 
opportunity occurs for careful examination of the stocks carried 
by dealers, one may gradually learn the distinctive features of 
modern Navajo weaving. But if one becomes interested in study 
ing the products of different periods, visits should be made to pri 
vate collections to understand well the whole scheme of color, de 
sign or weave. 

Mr. B. G. Wilson, of Albuquerque, N. M., has a collection 
of quite wide range and which includes many rare specimens. But 
the finest exhibit within my knowledge, one covering from the 
earliest period down to the present time, and probably the finest 
collection in the world, is that of Seligman Brothers, of Santa 
Fe, N. M. My own collection of about seventy-five pieces has 
been carefully made and includes nearly the whole extent of Nava 
jo weaving; a good representation of the development of the art 
through a period of seventy-five years. 

The Navajo weaves may be divided into four general classes : 
The very old in natural colors, the bayeta, the native wool with 
native dyes, and the Germantown. By "native wool" is meant 
wool taken from the Navajo sheep; by "natural colors," the natu 
ral black, white and gray of the wool ; the term "bayeta" is applied 
to blankets in which more or less of this material is shown with 
out regard to the area of other colors ; by "native dyes" is meant 
the colors made by the Navajos without outside assistance, and as 
indigo has always been used with the colors produced by them, it 
is included among the native dyes to avoid confusion; and by 
"Germantown," blankets woven of the commercial "Germantown" 
yarn." 

The old blankets may be, for convenience, divided into the 
early and the later types with respect to their patterns, though 
the reader will remember that the first ones made were plain white 
fabrics. The early-pattern blankets have broad stripes of black 
and white only the crude, first conception of design. The sec- 




1 \ \ Navajo l.cautv, wholly oi 

\\cnt\-ruf years old. 



THE BLANKET. 123 

ond, or later, type consists of broad stripes of white, black, and 
gray; the latter having been made by mixing the two natural col 
ors of the w r ool, and thus marking the second step toward pattern- 
design. 

The bayeta blankets may also be separated into two divisions. 
The first, or older, has narrow stripes of the bayeta red alternated 
with wider stripes of the natural colors ; stripes constituting the 
entire pattern effect. In the second, or later, we have the begin 
ning and the development of complicated designs in which the 
conception of symbols made its first appearance; and from this 
beginning has grown the somewhat elaborate system of symbolical 
figures that is now established as characteristic of Navajo blanket 
designs. The bayeta went into its decline about 1860, but did not 
pass entirelv out of use until 1875. 

The native-wool and native-dye blankets originated and de 
veloped in the same period as that of the bayetas, but outlived 
them. The native-dye period continued undisturbed until the in 
troduction of commercial dyes, about 1875, and since then there 
has been no distinct class period. For some native-wool blankets 
the native dyes were exclusively used; for many others both the 
native and the commercial dyes were used; and for still others the 
commercial dyes provided all the colors employed. There are, 
also, some blankets made of a combination of native wool and of 
the ready-dyed Germantown yarns. The native-wool and native- 
dye blankets are good, both in texture and color, for when the 
Navajos went through the trouble of making the dyes they valued 
the yarn sufficiently to prompt them to great care in spinning 
and weaving it, which accounts for the finer texture of the older 
weaves. But when they later learned that they could color yarn 
with but little trouble by using mineral dyes, they became some 
what careless, both in spinning and weaving, and the result in 
many instances was a blanket below the standard acceptable to lov 
ers of barbaric art. 



124 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

The fourth, or Germantown, class is one not to be ignored. 
When introduced the fabric was called the innovation blanket." 
It is made of so-called Germantown yarn entirely, in all of the 
fanciful colors sent out by the mills, and if the colors be well se 
lected, keeping as closely as possible within the lines recognized 
as those of Navajo colors, these blankets are worth more than 
passing attention. Their bright colors and superior weave com 
mend them to all who care for decorative Navajo blankets. They 
were first made about the year 1875, but only a few had been pro 
duced prior to 1880. I have one of the older of this class and it 
has held its colors remarkablv well, toning down sufficiently to 
add much to its beauty. 

This fine blanket, which measures forty-four by fifty-six inches, 
is brilliantly represented by Plate IX, and is now of great value 
on account of its age. It was used on the floor as a rug for six 
years, and has hung on the wall the remainder of the time, but is 
now handsomer than when purchased. As a general rule, blankets 
of this class are fringed at both ends, the fringe being made of the 
same yarn and colors as appear in the blanket. The service of 
this blanket has proved the excellence of its weaving and of its 
Germantown ready-dyed yarns, and also that it is not a mistake 
to buy a thoroughly good piece of Navajo weaving of German- 
town yarns when a beautiful pattern in brilliant colors is desired 
in combination with great durability. 

In Plate X is shown another fine example of Navajo weaving 
entirely of Germantown yarn. In this the pattern follows closely 
the lightning design, but the weaver has sacrificed the symbol for 
harmony of effect, so that in this detail the work is somewhat im 
perfect ; but the mechanical evenness of the points and spurs shows 
great skill and care. The points on the sides indicate that in the 
weaver s family-clan were many lodges. She was long celebrated 
for her skill, but during the closing years of her life made only 



THE BLANKET. 125 

small specimens. This one is only twenty-seven inches square, and 
was made about 1890. 

V No blanket of Navajo weaving is fringed except the German- 
town. All others have little tufts or tassels at the corners, and it 
may often be noticed that old blankets, made half a century before 
Germantown yarn was introduced, have little tufts of that yarn 
on the corners. The old tassels having been worn away, the squaw 
replaced them immediately with such yarn as she had at hand. 
They are symbolical of the four corners of the world, and she can 
not permit the symbols to be absent from a blanket with which 
she has anything to do. 

In selecting blankets, if possession of the better grades only, 
be desired, one should guard against buying anything having a 
cotton warp. This was quite popular with the Navajos for a time, 
beginning about 1880, but the best Indian traders have discouraged 
the use of it, and the tendency now is to return to woolen warp, 
in weaving both native-wool and Germantown blankets. Many 
good-looking blankets yet in the market have this stain upon their 
lineage, but it can be detected by opening the woof sufficient to 
expose the warp. It is often the case, however, that wool warp 
is spun so hard that at first gl; nee it may be mistaken for cotton, 
and a close examination is needed to determine which is which. 
Blankets have been offered me as old ones, showing the marks of 
wear and of age, that might have deceived me only for the tell-tale 
cotton warp that places them in a later period. 

It should not be assumed that because a blanket is worn full 
of holes and has a pattern of uncertain red, that it must, of neces- 
city, be an old bayeta. Many comparatively new ones have seen 
such hard usage that they are in a sadly dilapidated condition. As 
a general rule the Navajos are not particular to take good care of 
an ordinary blanket retained for their own needs, but use it as a 
saddle blanket, or for protecting grain exposed to the elements, 
or as a covering for the earthen floors of their hogans. On the 



126 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

contrary, and as a rule, the finer ones have been carefully cared 
for, and, in many instances, laid away and kept for generations 
without being devoted to any use. This accounts for the perfect 
conditon in which we find many old specimens. I have one almost 
solid bayeta that can be traced back to 1848, and which has the 
appearance of having just come from the loom. We rejoice to 
find a pedigreed blanket. That is, one that we can trace in owner 
ship back to the time it was made, and the more distant the period, 
the more satisfactory is the blanket. There are many such, well 
authenticated, that can be traced as far back as 1825. I take great 
pride in one of mine that was brought home by a soldier who had 
served with Kit Carson in the troublous times of 1863, and kept 
by his family until two years ago. 

The sizes of Navajo blankets vary from twenty-four by 
thirty-six inches the common saddle blanket size, to fifty-four by 
eighty-four inches for scrapes. Intermediate sizes are made for 
use as rugs, and are so made only because the white man wants 
to buy them in such sizes. But some very large fabrics are woven, 
as large as eight by ten feet, in most instances to order, for covering 
a porch or a hall. They are usually thick, coarse and heavy, and 
will give good service. An interesting fact connected with these 
great fabrics is that it is safe to assume that no two are exactly 
alike. Therefore the possessor of a good and pleasing one has the 
satisfaction of being quite sure that no one else in the world has one 
just like it. 

Occasionally when a dealer has found a typical old pattern 
that he wishes to continue in the market, he sends it out into the 
Navajo country to have a number made like it. In a measure he 
succeeds in getting about what he wants, but as the weavers are not 
accustomed to working from patterns, they make some mistakes. 
Therefore while the copies as a whole are rather uniform in gen 
eral appearance, a close comparison always proves that no two are 
precisely alike. However, this is such a departure from the general 



THE BLANKET. 127 

usage, and the dealer so soon tires of seeing- a number of blankets 
around his place so nearly similar, that the experiment is seldom 
repeated. 

The Navajo "squaw-dress" is of especial interest. It is made 
in two pieces, each of which is usually about thirty by forty inches 
in size. They are sewed together on one side, the other being left 
open, and the "dress" worn wrapped around the body, with the 
open side on the right. The upper right-hand corners are fastened 
together over the right shoulder, which holds the opposite, or 
closed side, up under the left arm. The center is black, generally 
the natural black of the wool, but the ends are always woven in 
red. The typical squaw-dress has only the two colors, red and 
black, the reds at the ends of the two fabrics being ornamented with 
symbolical figures to suit the fancy of the weaver. As they do 
not make many of these now, the majority offered for sale are old 
ones, the ends of which are very apt to be bayeta. There are, 
however, a few recent ones to be had, which can be distinguished 
by the coarser yarn used in the red, and the general appearance 
of newness. 

The Arizona branch of the Navajos have been sending out 
within a recent period a well-made and attractive blanket that has 
been represented to be of woven goat-hair, or of a mixture of goat- 
hair and wool. I do not know who is responsible for the deception. 
Possibly it was the dealer who first introduced and sold carpet yarn 
to the Indians ; for that is what it is. But the blanket should not 
be condemned on account of the deception, for it is a good one, 
promising fast colors and great durability; and may be classed in 
order of merit with the Germantown. 

Woven into certain old and almost priceless Navajo fabrics 
we find three colors, red, yellow and green. Judging from the 
peculiarity of texture, and of the shades of colors used, which are 
unlike anything else we find in Navajo work, these weaves and 
their colors antedate the bayeta and the yellow and green of the 



128 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

native dyes. All the colors are strong, and quite unlike anything 
found in blankets of later weaving. They are traced to discarded 
army uniforms the scarlet coat of the infantry, the yellow of the 
cavalry, and the green of the medical staff. In all countries there 
are times when army clothing is sold for anything it will bring, 
and in cases where the colors are such as to be attractive to primi 
tive people it is purchased by traders for barter. It is quite evident 
that some of this second-hand clothing was utilized by the Navajos 
in the same manner as the bayeta was treated by them later- 
raveled and worked into blankets. The supply available to them 
apparently was quickly exhausted, and it appears to have been 
soon followed by the bayeta period and the production of native 
vegetable dyes. These blankets are probably the oldest in existence 
in which high colors appear, and are exceedingly rare. In all my 
research I have seen only two, but have learned of the whereabouts 
of several others. One of the two that I have seen is valued 
at $1,000. 

We must consider any blanket woven by the Navajos as a 
Navajo blanket. To be sure there would seem to be a more correct 
sentiment associated with one the material of which was sheared 
from a Navajo sheep, the wool carded, spun and colored, and the 
fabric woven by a Navajo squaw, than there is in a blanket woven 
of Germantown or of carpet yarn, by the same squaw. But this 
is only a matter of sentiment, and leaves each of us free to be gov 
erned by our different fancies in making selections; and if each 
pleases himself, the others should rest content. 



CONCLUSION 




THE general purpose of this little 
volume has been fulfilled in the pre 
ceding pages so far as I had in view 
when it was undertaken; which was 
to give some account of the Navajo 
people, of their myths, legends, and 
traditions, of their country, their 
manners and customs, and especially 
of their exceedingly interesting prin 
cipal industry. 

Beyond presenting the substance 
of their folk-lore concerning their 
origin, history, and so forth, I have 
not attempted to deal with it as a sub 
ject, nor do I intend doing so in 
these concluding pages. But I ask 
the reader s indulgence while I refer 

briefly to some curious and perhaps suggestive elements in their 
stories of the past, and in certain of their present beliefs, customs 
and practices, the outlines of which have already been related. 

While it is evident that these have been but little affected by 
what we may call American civilization, it is impossible to de 
termine to what extent they have been influenced by the somewhat 
long-existing associations the Navajos have had with the Pueblos 
and other tribes around them ; and by the less intimate contact with 
Spaniards and Mexicans. The more potent of these influences 
probably would have come from that strange people, the Pueblos, 
of whom there are still a considerable number of decadent tribes 



FIGURE 20 * ~ :f "the young Navajo 
woman in her bridal array" 



130 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

or clans in our southwest country. We have seen that the Navajos 
derived their knowledge of spinning and weaving from them, and 
also that many circumstances suggest that it is not altogether im 
probable that the Pueblos may be far-removed descendants of 
remnants of the race of Cliff Dwellers, from whom they would 
have inherited primitive arts, beliefs and customs. Therefore any 
attempt to deal with Xavajo folk-lore would bring the Pueblos 
into the discussion. 

The intelligent visitor to the Pueblo country finds it difficult 
to avoid an impression that the objects and scenes before him have 
in them something, which he cannot define specifically, that reminds 
him of those of the Asiatic cradle-land of the human race. The 
intangible things which artists call "atmosphere," and "local color," 
are here the atmosphere and local color of western Asia ; and the 
aspects of a group of pueblo buildings (Figure 21) amid dreary 
surroundings are strangelv like those presented in pictures of life 
and places in that old land. 

The ruined buildings and minor relics of the Cliff Dwellers 
offer much evidence in support of the theory that those people w r ere 
of Asiatic origin ; and among the Pueblos are found what seem 
to be links of a broken chain that once connected them with the 
older people ; and some of which are also present among the 
Navajos. 

In the weaving done by the Cliff Dwellers, in that by the 
Pueblos, and that by the Xavajos, there is a similarity in certain 
respects, but in all there is a suggestion of Asiatic fabrics ; though 
for the purpose of such a comparison the Pueblo and the Navajo 
weaving should be considered as one. Figures delineated on the 
Cliff Dwellers pottery resemble those on ceramic objects made in 
Asia long ago, and which also appear on some of more recent pro 
duction there. The rectilinear fret that is present in various modi 
fied forms on much of their pottery, is the same as that employed 
by the ancient Greeks in detail ornamentation of their architecture. 



CONCLUSION. 131 

This fret-figure, as are others of the designs on the Cliff Dwellers 
products, is common on Pueblo pottery and in Pueblo weaving; 
and from that source it is evident that the Navajos, who use it in 
their blankets, derived it. Moreover, the familiar Greek scrolls 
and spirals are duplicated in both Cliff Dweller and Pueblo orna 
mental work. The Swastika, often figured by the Cliff Dwellers on 
their pottetry, and also by the Pueblos on their pottery and in their 
weaving, and from the latter borrowed by the Navajos, is too 
strange an emblem to have had an independent origin among 
either the Cliff Dwellers or the Pueblos. To the latter, and also to 
the Navajos, it has practically the same significance it possesses for 
the Hindu. 

Those of the Cliff Dwellers dwelling-places that were chiseled 
out of the great bluffs of rock, are significantly like the Rock 
Temples of India which were formed in the same manner; and 
their built-up structures are not without similarity to old edifices 
that survive in Asia and northern Africa. 

As were the Cliff Dwellers, the Pueblos are communal, but 
their clan-dwellings are not built in recesses in cliffs. They stand 
in the open, sometimes on top of a small mesa that resembles a 
truncated isolated hill having precipitous sides. 

Turning now to consideration of the elements in the Navajos 
folk-lore to which I have referred, we may perhaps find in them a 
drift or tendency toward implying an Asiatic origin for these people 
also. But I do not ask attention to them in the spirit of a partisan, 
nor do I place myself in the attitude of a special pleader for the 
proposition. 

In the myths, legends, and traditions of all peoples there are 
absurd tales, contradictory variations, and more or less confusion, 
which render very uncertain any result of an attempt to reduce 
them to a consistent form representing probabilities ; and, as the 
reader has seen, those of the Navajos with relation to their origin 



132 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

and to their migration to their present country are not free from 
such defects. 

The belief that their progenitors came out of the earth, if in 
tended to account for their "creation," is not inconsistent with our 
own lingering myth that man was made "of the dust of the ground," 
and implies for their theory the same Asiatic origin to which we 
are indebted for ours. The conception of the earth as the mother 
of all living things appears to be as old as mankind, but it is not 
clear that the Navajos have this in mind when they use an expres 
sion equivalent to "our mother land," as they are intruders in the 
country they now occupy. 

The belief referred to in the foregoing was common to many 
of the Indian tribes of the western half of North America, though 
some of them interpreted it as meaning that their ancestors lived 
within the earth at first, but by their skill and cunning succeeded 
in making their way out to the surface. 

The two Navajo traditions of their ancestors migration to 
this continent, one that they came by water, and the other that 
they crossed a narrow sea beyond the setting sun and landed on 
the northern shores of this country, may be regarded as one and 
the same reminiscence. If the story be entitled to serious consider 
ation it would, of course, suggest that the pioneer Athabascans, 
from whom the Navajos descended, crossed at Bering s Strait, or 
by way of the chain of Aleutian Islands. The fact that that family 
of Indians has so long occupied the western part of British Amer 
ica lends some support to this theory of their Asiatic origin. 

The myth of the "ship-rock" or "rock-ship" provided by the 
Great Spirit, and upon which the Navajos were carried high in the 
air to their present country, yields to no reasonable conception of a 
source from which it could have arisen, nor of an event which 
could have served as a basis for it. However it is possible that the 
ship idea in the story may have been suggested by some vague 
knowledge of Asiatic legends of the deluge and Noah s ark. 



CONCLUSION. 135 

The other tale, in which the Xavajos forefathers are repre 
sented as having been brought from the north on the back of a 
swift and obliging great bird, reminds us of some of the adventures 
of Sinbad as related in the "Arabian Nights" stories, and of fables 
which tell of small birds riding on the backs of large ones in certain 
emergencies in ornithological history; "as an eagle stirreth up her 
nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh 
them, beareth them on her wings." 

That these intrepid aerial navigators were guided in their 
migration by a messenger from the sky is nothing new, for there 
are other legends of primitive peoples having been so favored in 
their wanderings. Moreover were not Moses and his unruly horde 
led in the way by heavenly pillars of smoke bv day, and pillars 
of fire by night? 

While the Navajos have been, within narrow limitations, influ 
enced by contact with those who professed the Christian religion, 
their real religious beliefs are bound up in their worship of the 
heavenly bodies and the powers of Nature. Their adoration of 
these is consistent with the practices of nearly all primitive races, 
but in it are some features that would seem to be related to old- 
time faiths of western Asia and of the Mediterranean region, where 
Sabaism attained its greatest development and influence. 

One of the conceptions of the Navajos is that of the sun as the 
Father and the earth as the Mother of all life ; and this is exactly 
paralleled by an ancient Greek belief. Another, in which the moon 
takes the place of the earth as the Mother, is the same as that of 
oriental peoples of antiquity by whom the moon was regarded as 
the sun s wife. 

The most important duties of the Navajo medicine man are 
those of a priest of the sun, and in this capacity he is the "Shaman." 
An ancient Hebrew name for the sun was "Shamesh" or 
"Shemesh." Whether this consanguinity of terms and their appli- 



136 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

cation is significant in connection with what we are considering 
here I shall leave to the reader for decision. 

The requirement that the door of the permanent winter hogan 
must face to the east is plainly associated with sun-worship, but 
for this the Navajo home-builder has many illustrious examples 
among the ancient temple-builders of the Mediterranean region. 
The Hebrews of antiquity fronted their tablernacle, shrines, altars, 
and tents to the east, and the main portal of Solomon s barbarically 
decorated "house of the Lord" was illuminated by the light of the 
rising sun. 

The Navajo altar with its motley appendages and curious em 
bellishments, before which all religious ceremonies are conducted, 
may represent in some of its details the effects of modern religious 
influences, but to the Navajo mind it has a general significance 
and certain associations which would not have been derived from 
that source, but seem to be connected in a misty way with ancient 
oriental ideas. 

The close relation of the snake with the Navajos religious 
beliefs and forms of worship is another factor in the stock of argu 
ments used by those who attribute a remote Asiatic origin to these 
people. It is true that the Navajos may have adopted the Pueblos 
snake superstitions, just as we have taken over and made our own 
the old Hebrew^ version of the story of Eve s disastrous indiscretion, 
but they deny that they did so. 

When the young Navajo woman in her bridal array (Figure 
20) joins the young man not of her choice, but who has made 
a satisfactory deal with her father for her in the marriage cere 
mony of eating a cake or loaf, is there in this custom a reminiscence 
of the ancient Babylonians offerings of bread or cakes to Ishtar, 
their goddess of the planet Venus the goddess of sexual relations? 
Among the Babylonians these cakes or loaves were specially pre 
pared for her, and were called "the bread of Ishtar." 

The use of water in the Navajo marriage ceremony might be 




PLATE X Another fine example of Navajo 
ntirely o* Germantown yarn. 



CONCLUSION. 137 

referred to knowledge of the baptismal rite acquired from modern 
religious practices, were it not known that the custom antedates 
the Spanish invasion of that region. Sometimes the medicine man 
pours water on the hands of both the bride and groom; at other 
times the groom applies the water to the bride s hands ; and at still 
others they lave their hands together. But "living water" from a 
spring or running stream must be used. The conceptions upon 
which all baptismal beliefs are founded are of extremely remote 
antiquity, and the rite can be traced ages back of the period with 
which Christian people usually associate its introduction. Possibly 
the Navajos may have borrowed this custom from the Pueblos, 
but they claim it as their own from immemorial time, and I have 
not been able to learn that the present-day Pueblos observe it. 

The color symbolism of the Navajos would also seem to have 
some connection with oriental peoples, but as they derived their 
knowledge of spinning and weaving and also the principles of their 
designs from the Pueblos, it is probable that much, though not all, 
of their color-symbolism came from the same source. Undoubtedly 
the Navajos have developed and extended it, but the fact remains 
nevertheless that oriental astrological influences appear to be present 
in the associations connected with it. Red and black stand for the 
creative spirit in which is combined the father and mother ele 
ments ; red for fire, the creative father ; black for water, the creative 
mother. Each of these colors correspondingly refers, also, to the 
creation of the world as well as to the origin of plant and animal 
life. In other words there is here laid down the absolute true 
biological proposition that there must be heat and moisture in com 
bination in the production of living things. Furthermore black 
is the color of the north, and blue of the south; while red is the 
male color, and blue the female. It is difficult to believe that sucH 
conceptions, that have their counterparts in oriental astrology, had 
an independent origin among the native people of our southwest 
country. 



l. JS THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

The reader may recall a juvenile belief that beneath each end 
of the rainbow "a pot of gold" might be found buried in the earth. 
The Navajo in a less worldly, a less selfish, spirit thinks that at 
each end of the l>ow messages from the Great Deity may be re 
ceived. Did not Xoah receive a promise-message from his God 
saying "the waters shall no more become a flood," and is not the 
rainbow "the token of the covenant?" 

It is evident that the Navajos derived the foundations of their 
notions about their goddess "Assunnutli" "the woman in the sea," 
from the Pueblos who, in turn, probably had them from more 
ancient people, or directly from the Aztecs. The name is plainly 
an Aztec word, and its association with the woman in the sea would 
be improbable from a Navajo standpoint, as these people have long 
lived far inland. Crediting her with having given blue corn to 
the Navajo men and white corn to their women is probably an idea 
of their own. The double sexuality attributed to Assunnutli has 
its parallel in more than one ancient Asiatic belief, and figured in 
the primitive Hebrew conceptions of Jehovah. The Aztec name 
for the sun was Nahuiatl, and it has been supposed that Assunnutli 
was a moon-goddess; the full moon s rising as seen from the coast 
of Mexico making it appear that the goddess was coming up out 
of the sea to greet her faithful worshipers. 

The Navajo legend associated with their abstinence from fish 
as food would also seem to have an Aztec basis, upon which was 
erected the story about the bodies of enemies killed by pioneer 
Navajos having turned into fish. In the Aztec legend of the deluge 
we are told that when the sun Nahuiatl came there had passed 
away four hundred years, plus two ages, plus seventy-six years. 
Then all mankind was lost and drowned, and found themselves 
changed into fish." However when the great freshet was at its 
height, Ishtar "wailed like a child," and cried, saying "I am the 
mother who gave birth to men, and, like the race of fishes, they 
are filling the sea!" 



CONCLUSION. 139 

The Navajos veneration for birds, which is almost equivalent 
to a worship of them, and the belief that they serve as messengers 
to and from the deities, constitute a form of superstition that pre 
vailed generally among our Indian tribes. Probably it grew out 
of the mysterious power of such creatures to rise and move rapidly 
in the air which, to the untutored mind, afforded no support to 
anything having weight, and offered no resistance to a falling 
body, as when one dropped from a tree or over a cliff, which had, 
no doubt, often been demonstrated in personal experiences. Seeing 
birds soar high above the earth would naturally lead primitive men 
to the conclusion that while up there so near to the abode of the 
gods they would certainly have opportunity to communicate with 
them, and would surely do so. Possibly Navajo regard for birds 
may be imperfectly connected with the same myth that has given 
the descendants of the dove which bore to Noah the "pluckt off" 
olive branch in her mouth, something like a sacred place in our 
esteem. Moreover it would not be polite in us to smile at the 
Navajos bird-superstitions while we attribute to the piratical eagle 
virtues of which he never dreamt. 

Concerning their regard for the bear as a sacred animal, I 
have nothing to add on my own account to what has been said in 
an earlier part of this volume that it is probably due to unhappy 
consequences of attacking so formidable a beast with the ineffective 
weapons they possessed in early times. However it has been sug 
gested to me that if our Navajo friends really are of Asiatic descent, 
the sacred character they attribute to bears may be in recognition 
of the service rendered by animals of that species in avenging the 
insult twice hurled at the prophet Elisha by the little children who 
came forth out of Bethel apparently for that purpose. But I dis 
claim any share of responsibility for this theory. 

The Navajos name for their tribe, "Tinnai" or "Tinneh," 
plainly connects them with the Indians of the northwestern parts 
of North America, and some people think thev can detect in it an 



140 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

Asiatic flavor. However that may be, the word is identified easily 
with the crude languages spoken by tribes in the northwest, includ 
ing some in Alaska. Its definition, "the people," is the familiar 
one that was self-assumed by most of our other western Indians, 
also, as that of the tribal names thev bore. Egotism and self-ad 
miration persuaded each general family to believe and proclaim its 
people as "the people," in the sense of being the great people, greater 
than any other, the "chosen people" of an appreciative, and perhaps 
a partial, Great Spirit; and even sub-divisions of families asserted 
over their brethren a distinction based upon the same exalted theory. 
In holding to this complacent and perhaps inspiring belief our 
Indians were not alone among savage or barbarous races of men. 

In various minor customs, beliefs, and practices of the Navajos, 
in which are included their ceremonies in dedicating a newly-built 
winter hogan, their refusal to dwell in habitations with which death 
is associated, their sepulture in tomb-like cists and in caves which 
is attended by a purpose to preserve the bodies, and their use of 
fetiches to increase the fecundity of their domestic animals the 
latter, which is not a custom among most other tribes of Indians, 
reminding us of Jacob s employment of a fetich to bring forth, 
"cattle ringstreaked, speckled, and spotted," at the expense of 
Laban s interest in the flocks there might also seem to be some 
hazy reminiscences of ancient life in far-eastern lands. 

The conservatism and intelligence of the Navajos may entitle 
their myths, legends, traditions, and so forth to more consider 
ation than should be given those of inferior tribes, but even these 
do not serve as very satisfactory material with which to construct 
the framework of their history. As heretofore mentioned, their 
native characteristics, other than those which formerly made them 
warlike and persistent marauders, have not been greatly changed 
by their rather exclusive pastoral life. The influences of civili 
zation that have crept to the borders of their reservation have not 
seriously disturbed nor spoiled them, and notwithstanding their 



CONCLUSION. 143 

present somewhat composite physical character in consequence of a 
limited amalgamation with neighboring tribes, they have as a people 
retained to a remarkable degree their old-time mental traits and 
habits of thought they are still Navajos. 

When they first heard of the white man s railroad train it was 
hard for them to obtain even a glimmer of comprehension of what 
it possibly could be. For several years after the roads penetrated 
the general region in which their reservation is situated, a popular 
Navajo diversion was to make pilgrimages in parties on horseback 
tc gaze in wonder, from a presumably safe distance (Figure 22), 
upon the strange, dragon-like object which rushed along upon two 
narrow streaks of metal that marked a slender line across the 
country. 

It is to be deeply regretted that so much of the history of the 
native races of our country is clouded in obscurity. Indeed, we 
know very little about it. Study of our Indian people was long 
neglected, and many opportunities to do so and that probably would 
have been fruitful, were irretrievably lost. The old Indian life 
which permitted the tribes to roam at will over vast areas is a thing 
of the past in the United States, and the changed conditions under 
which these people are now living are working among most of 
them corresponding great changes in their modes of life, man 
ners, customs, beliefs, and in everything else that pertains to them. 

It is only in the broad empire of arid territory in our southwest 
that we may now find the native tribes, though restrained within 
definite boundaries, living in much the same manner, observing 
much the same customs, and following 1 much the same daily routine, 
that they did long before the reservation system had begun to hedge 
about and revolutionize Indian life and character. 

It is also in that empire of arid wilderness that exist in pro 
fusion the ruined great memorials and countless lesser relics of a 
vanished people who were as strange, if we correctly interpret the 
testimony of what they left there, as any who have lived upon this 



144 THE NAVAJO AND HIS BLANKET. 

earth; and around whose history and fate hangs a mystery as 
puzzling as any that ever shrouded a part of ancient humanity. The 
mystery associated with the Cliff people may forever remain un 
solved, but the region in which they once lived, and the peculiar 
tribes which abide now in and around it, will long afford abundant 
material for fascinating research and study to all who are interested 
in the history of the human race. 




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