Native American Crafts and Rugs of the Navajo People

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Some people (wrongly) consider all Native American tribes to be the same. Even those who know a little about the different tribes in different geographical locations can make the mistake of generalizing the people or their craft. Take, for example, the largest tribe of Native Americans; the Navajo of southwestern USA, one must consider that these people grouped into their own societies hundreds of years ago, before anyone had the ability to travel great distances. Therefore, dozens of different groups of the Navajo people lived not far apart in today’s perspective, but far enough away back then to maybe never encounter one another. The art and crafts that they produced were similar in as much as being necessities and items that could be found on their land and/or traded. Items such as jewelry and clothing were popular, and still are today. In addition, Navajo rugs, woven mainly by the women, are beautiful, well-made and can be used or displayed by people in the 21st century.

The more than a dozen trading posts set up well over a century ago can help one to differentiate between the different styles of the Navajo rugs. The designs, colours and weaving methods are the best clues to know where each rug was created.

There are a few similarities between the neighboring weavers’ Klagetoh rugs and the Ganado rugs of the Hubbell trading post, which was founded in 1876 in Arizona, although there are plenty of differences, too. The Klagetoh rugs used larger areas of red and long thin diamond shapes, sometimes with a hook. The slightly different Ganado rugs were inspired by fifty paintings given to Lorenzo Hubbell for his weavers to work from. A bold cross design and lots of vibrant reds are synonymous with Ganado rugs.

Twenty years after the Hubbell trading post was founded, J B Moore founded the Crystal trading post in western New Mexico. The rugs from this area are quite different, yet still beautiful and extremely high quality. They are almost Persian-looking and use black, gray, white, brown and red. Another difference is the way in which they were promoted. J B Moore created catalogues containing 32 designs and sent these catalogues out three times over a period of eight years at the beginning of the 20th century. The method was successful and his rugs were well-received.

TeecNos Pas rugs are quite different again. They include up to fifteen colors and their intricacy and expression helps them to be sold for much higher prices than many other Navajo rugs.

Rugs from the Two Gray Hills area are also very special. The women there raise their own sheep for the wool and have the most complex designs and highest warp counts. The colors are more natural than some of the others in this part of the USA. Although the individual rugs woven by an older weaver can fetch high prices, there are also plenty of more affordable rugs available.

The weavers of Chinle rugs in the second decade of the 20th century were encouraged to omit borders and use local plants for their dyes. This resulted in more pastel-like colors.

Finally, there were transitional rugs woven in the 19th century. These were larger and thicker than regular rugs and also more puffy. Most of them were woven in the Ganado style.

So, one can now see that among the Navajo people there were many different designs in the art and craft especially in Navajo rugs. The trading posts gave them opportunities to exchange their work for necessities, and this practice still continues to the present day.

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