Navajo Trading Post Relations

Early “Crystal” TextileEarly “Crystal” TextileNavajo, c.1910-20
Wool, vegetal dye
IAF.T697
Photograph by Addison Doty
Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research

The banded border was probably inspired by rugs from the Middle East. Rugs such as this were displayed at J.B. Moore’s trading post.
“Two Grey Hills” Textile“Two Grey Hills” TextileNavajo, c.1950-54
Wool, vegetal dye
IAF.T646
Photograph by Addison Doty
Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research
 
Early “Crystal” Textile“Two Grey Hills” Textile 

Although Navajos began to trade with Anglo-Americans around the turn of the nineteenth century, American trade influences became more pronounced after the U.S. annexed the New Mexico territory in 1846. Combined with the U.S. government’s stringent policies to deal with the “Indian problem,” including harsh military campaigns, the forced removal of Navajos from their land during the Long Walk, and increased fort construction, Navajo communities were faced with dramatic life changes.

With the establishment of the Navajo reservation in 1868, many trading posts were opened under government-licensed traders. The creation of the Santa Fe Railroad from Chicago to Los Angeles, and later the U.S. Highway Route 66 in 1926, increased the frequency of tourists to the Southwest.

“Germantown” Saddle Blanket“Germantown” Saddle BlanketNavajo, c.1885-90
Wool, commercial dye
IAF.T489
Photograph by Addison Doty
Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research

The name “Germantown” is derived from a town in Pennsylvania where traders once shipped wool to be processed and commercially dyed and resold to Navajo weavers as a way to control their “quality standards.”
Rug DressRug DressNavajo, c.1870-75
Wool, vegetal dye
IAF.T632
Photograph by Addison Doty
Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research

This Navajo weaving design is not classified as one of the regional rug styles. Rather, this rug dress was the most traditional garment for women prior to 1868.
 
“Germantown” Saddle BlanketRug Dress 

Due to this increased Anglo interaction, Navajos decreased the number of blankets made for their own use and began making rugs to satisfy Anglo decorative tastes. As John Adair notes, “Navajo rugs became the Indian’s idea of the trader’s idea of what the white man thought was Indian design.”

Many popular regional rug styles today can be traced to the design preferences of a few influential traders such as Juan Lorenzo Hubbell at Ganado, Arizona. Hubbell hung paintings of “old rug styles” in his trading post for visual encouragement. In addition, John B. Moore from Crystal, New Mexico was an entrepreneur that published Navajo rugs in mail-order catalogues. He liked geometric, Middle Eastern-inspired, and ornate designs that became the basis for Teec Nos Pos (pronounced “Tea-ss Nohs Pohs”), Storm, and Two Grey Hills patterns. Despite traders’ influences on Navajo weaving, many Navajos maintained their use of traditional designs and practices.

Textile SeminarNavajo Textile SeminarParticipants in the Indian Arts Research Center Navajo Textile Seminar, June 2009. Top row (from left to right): Roy Kady, Bonnie Yazzie, Sarah Adeky, Joann George. Bottom row: Dan Betom, Julia George Betom, Katie Henio. Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research. Photograph by Jon Lewis.Navajo Textile SeminarParticipants in the Indian Arts Research Center Navajo Textile Seminar, June 2009. Top row (from left to right): Roy Kady, Bonnie Yazzie, Sarah Adeky, Joann George. Bottom row: Dan Betom, Julia George Betom, Katie Henio. Courtesy of the School for Advanced Research. Photograph by Jon Lewis.

Today, many weavers incorporate regional rug patterns as well as other artistic inspirations into their textiles. Some prefer to weave utilitarian items such as horse implements, blankets, and clothing items that were woven before the establishment of trading posts. These woven garments may not conform to popular art market values or aesthetics but continue to have significant use and meaning within the community.

Currently, organizations like Diné be’ iiná work to revitalize the Navajo Churro breed and promote traditional and innovative fiber arts as a cultural imperative rather than in response to market demand. In 2009, the Indian Arts Research Center hosted several Navajo weavers and community members to discuss the artistic and cultural practice of weaving today.

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