Hand Woven Navajo Rugs

I admit, a few days ago, I knew nothing about Navajo Rugs but we recently purchased a large estate collection of Navajo items from the 1970s. 99% of the collection is jewelry but the rugs………well………I had to do some studying just to get a general idea of how to describe these. The family who inherited the collection graciously provided me with some information from their mother’s notes and there are tags on a few of the rugs. Also, luckily, we have some friends who have collected Navajo Rugs for 40 years and they pointed me in the right direction.

Hand Woven Navajo New Lands Rug

These rugs are from the 1970s to 1990s. Unlike most Navajo rugs which are the same on both sides, this style of the rug above has a front and back. The front has more vibrant raised outlines while the back is more subdued.

The New Lands design, also called Blue Canyon, was first seen at the trading post in Sanders, Arizona. Trader Bruce Burnham recruited dye experts to develop the colors and gave kits to local weavers to try out. The name is derived from the area around Sanders which is referred to as New Lands as many residents were relocated there from traditional homelands.

The design is a derivative of a Teec Nos Pos design but having more complexity. The pattern is enhanced with a raised outline. These are often large, expensive rugs.

New Lands patterns incorporate a combination of pastel colors similar to those in traditional Burntwater rugs. These are warm earth colors, sometimes as many as 20 colors including brown, sienna, mustard, and rust with accents of rose, green, blue, white and lilac.

Hand Woven Navajo Eye Dazzler Rug by Ella Warito

As the name indicates, an Eye Dazzler rug keeps the eyes moving over the busy, bright geometric patterns. This pattern is also called Optical Illusion and it is one of the earliest styles of Navajo weavings. Rather than being used as rugs or blankets, they were most often wall hangings, chair covers, room dividers or table runners.

Hand Woven Navajo Klagetoh Rug

Klagetoh means “Hidden Springs” and is the name of a small settlement south of Ganado, New Mexico. A Klagetoh rug is similar to the classic Ganado red rug but it has a predominately grey background. Usually a Klagetoh is an elongated diamond shaped design.

A General Pattern Hand Woven Navajo Rug by Eva Marie Brown

Hand woven in grey, red, black, gold, and white on the order of Teec Nos Pos which means ‘Circle of Cottonwoods’. There are several Teec Nos Pos designs, often using stylized arrows, feathers, lightning, squash patterns and a general pattern of zigzags.

So this time, I’m asking for feedback from any of you who are Navajo Rug experts !! Please let me know what you know !

 

 

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Native American Barrettes – Which Weight Do You Like?

When it comes to Native American barrettes, there are all styles and sizes. Many of them use a standard spring clip to fasten the embellishment to the hair. But the sterling silver barrette attached to the spring clip can vary widely in weight.

Some people like a very heavy sterling silver barrette. They might have a lot of very thick hair. Or use the barrette at the nape of the neck pulling all the hair back.

Others like a featherweight barrette. Maybe they have thin or very slick hair and don’t want the weight of the barrette to cause it to lose its grip and slip down. Or perhaps they use one barrette on each side or to just pull part of the hair back.

Whatever the reason, we all have our personal preferences and uses for barrettes and it is good to know that there are choices available. Take, for example, the popular large feather barrette.

Both of these barrettes are set on the same 2 1/2″ long spring clip.

2 1/2″ long spring clip

This substantial feather barrette, by Navajo Carson Blackgoat, is 4 1/8″ long and weighs 25 grams.

Heavy Sterling Silver Feather Barrette by Carson Blackgoat, Navajo

This lighter version by Navajo artist Milton Vandever is 3 1/4″ long and weighs 13 grams.

Lightweight Sterling Silver Feather Barrette by Milton Vandever, Navajo

Which barrette do you prefer?

Native American Terms – Fetish, Totem, Amulet, Talisman

Paula,
I wondered why in your web store you describe some Indian animal carvings and jewelry pieces as fetishes and others amulets or totems. Are they all the same thing? – Stuart

Stuart,
The terms fetish, amulet, totem and talisman are often used interchangeably to describe an object that provides good fortune and protects from evil. The exact meaning of any of these terms depend on the culture and location in which it is used. Briefly, here is how I see them:

Talisman

Alaskan Thunderbird Talisman by David Audette from Sitka, Alaska

A talisman is an object that is considered to possess supernatural or magical powers and is used especially to avert evils, disease, or death. A talisman is typically engraved or cut with figures or characters, constellations, planets, or other heavenly signs. It is often worn as an amulet or charm. From the Greek word “telein”, which means “to initiate into the mysteries”. The word talisman is often used synonymous with amulet.

Amulet

Turquoise and Sterling Silver Lucky Horseshoe Amulet by Navajo artist Wilbur Muskett Jr.

An amulet is a protecting charm – any object worn to bring good luck and to ward off evil, illness, and harm from supernatural powers and from other people. Amulets are typically carvings, stones (especially with naturally occurring holes), plants (such as sage, 4-leaf clover, shamrock), coins, and jewelry (crosses, horseshoes, gemstones).

Totem

Horse Totem on Horse Spirit Medicine Bag by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

A totem is an object that symbolizes a person’s or a tribe’s animal guide. This could be a totem pole, an emblem or a small figurine or carving. Native American tradition holds that different animal guides come in and out of a person’s life depending on the direction that person is headed and the challenges he faces. A totem animal is the one animal that acts as the main guardian spirit and is with a person for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. Traditionally, it is the totem animal, such as an eagle, wolf, bear, horse or dragonfly, that finds the person, not the other way around.

Fetish

Bear Fetish by Zuni artist Emery Eriacho

A fetish is a sacred object used in religious ceremonies, for spiritual awakening and to communicate with and direct supernatural powers. A fetish can provide protection, promote healing and ensure success in ventures such as hunting or farming. A Native American fetish is most often a carving, usually of an animal, that has some sort of power, and is sometimes decorated with stones, shells, and feathers. A carving without power is merely a carving. A person’s own beliefs determine the difference between a fetish and a carving.

So, whether an object is a talisman, totem, amulet or fetish is up to you. Just as the beauty of an object is in the eye of the beholder, so the power of an object is in the belief of the seer or wearer.

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More on Native American Prayer Feathers and Fans

Red Hawk Prayer Fan by Apache artist, Cynthia Whitehawk

Hi Paula,

I’m looking forward to receiving the prayer feather. If I’m not bothering you to ask, is there anything else you could tell me about this particular feather?

Many thanks,

Dave from Australia

Hi Dave

No bother at all. My pleasure. I posted a little bit about Prayer Feathers in a previous post.

The only other thing I can say about the feather fan you are receiving is that Alan Nash calls his smudge fans a Talking Prayer Feather which is from the Navajo.

Navajo Talking Prayer Feather

Many other artists of other tribes refer to them as Prayer Feathers.

Since using eagle feathers is illegal, artists use turkey feathers, either natural or hand painted to look like eagle feathers.

Lakota Prayer Feather

According to Navajo legends and teachings:

The Eagle was created to help the Dine’ with healing and guidance. Eagle plumes and feathers represent faith, hope, courage and strength. Individuals often receive eagle plumes as they make their journey in life. The plume acts as a shield as one follows the Corn Pollen way of life.

Lakota Prayer Feather


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Native American Spirit Dolls

Spirit dolls are ancient talismans against all negativity and evil. They embody spirits that have gone before, representing their strengths, positive energies, and beauty.

Here are some examples of specific Apache Spirit Dolls by celebrated artist Cynthia Whitehawk and what they represent.

Raven Medicine – Ravens carry great responsibility to Spirit and are the messengers of magic and healing from the universe where all knowledge waits for us. Raven also symbolizes changes in consciousness, of levels of awareness and perception.

Raven Shaman Spirit Doll (below)

 

Raven Shaman Spirit Doll

Necklace beads of sky blue turquoise, coral and sterling silver with hand painted bone raven feather pendant. She wears a genuine tiny beaded medicine bag – inside are rare Sacred Arizona Sweet Sage, Sacred Golden Tobacco, and tiny polished clear Quartz gemstones. These contents keep her energy clear, positive and powerful.

Raven Dream Keeper (below) is keeper of the eternal flame of life, Medicine Healing Spirit, Spirit of the Bird Clans

There are several Bird Clans depending on tribal affiliation. The Cherokee Bird Clan are messengers between earth and heaven – between humans and the Creator. The Cherokee Bird Clan has 3 subdivisions: The Raven, Turtle Dove, and Eagle. The Raven, a large Crow, is governed by Crow Medicine. The Crow is the power of the unknown at work – ceremonial magic and healing.

Raven Dream Keeper wear a necklace of tiny shell birds for her connectedness to the Bird Clan.

 

Raven Dream Keeper Bird Clan

Grandmother Medicine – Grandmother Shaman guides with the ancient wisdom and practical knowledge, ever the kindest of souls, ever the most helpful, a quieting and soothing presence. Her medicine bag is adorned with coral and turquoise. It contains a rich mixture of smudging herbs and resin, sage and golden tobacco with tiny clear quartz stones.

Grandmother Spirit Keeper – Bird Clan (below)

 

Grandmother Spirit Keeper Bird Clan

The carved tiny shell birds represent the ancient following of the Bird Clan. The gourd represents the vessels made from gourd, gourds which carried water and food for life. She wears a beaded talisman/amulet which is a carved turquoise bear, silver beads and penn shell heishi.

Crystal Keeper Medicine Woman (below)

 

Crystal Keeper Medicine Woman

Her necklaces are quartz and silver beads and large natural quartz points. She wears a tiny medicine bag beaded with quartz and silver beads. The bag contains Sacred Sweet Sage, Sacred Golden Tobacco, and tiny polished clear Quartz gemstones. These contents keep her energy clear, positive and powerful.

Grandmother Shaman: Gourd Dance Clan (below)

 

Grandmother Shaman Gourd Dance Clan

Her necklace is of sky blue and coral red old glass beads, silver and a tiny gourd, which represents the rattle made from a gourd in the Gourd Dance Clan.

The Gourd Dance was given to the Kiowa in the 1700s by a red wolf when the Kiowa inhabited the Black Hills and Devils Tower area of South Dakota and Wyoming.

The dance was a gift to the Kiowa people and the songs and dances were performed by a specific society until the 1930s – with a good wolf howl at the end of each song in tribute to the red wolf.

Thankfullly, before the tradition was lost, some Kiowa elders revived the Gourd Dance in the mid 1950s and officially formed the Gourd Dance Clan.


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Lakota Ledger Art

Ledger Art evolved from Plains Indian hide painting. Traditionally Plains tribes decorated tipis, leggings, buffalo robes, shields and other clothing items with depictions of life events. The figures were usually drawn with a hard, dark outline and then filled in with color. The painting was done with bone or wood sticks that were dipped in naturally-occurring pigments.

Unknown artist Ledger Art

The women of the tribes often made designs while the men depicted scenes of war, hunting, other personal feats or historic events. Besides battles, the changing lifestyle of the Plains Indians and infusion of Euro-Americans was documented in the art – trains, covered wagons, guns, and even cameras.

Unknown artist Ledger Art

 

Ledger art began in the 1860s and continued to the 1930s and is experiencing a revival with a few contemporary Lakota artists today. It is called ledger art because instead of the paintings being on buffalo hides (which had become scarce from near extinction of the vast buffalo herds) the drawings were done on paper, often ledger book paper that was discarded by government agents, military officers, traders or missionaries. In addition to the new paper format, Plains artists also had access to pencils, pens, crayons and watercolor paints.

Ledger Paper medium


An 1884 crayon ledger drawing by Lakota artist Red Dog honoring the valor of a warrior named Low Dog.

Noted Lakota artists include Black Hawk and Sitting Bull. Black Hawk, in an effort to feed his family during the very harsh winter of 1880-81, agreed to draw a series of 76 pieces of art for an Indian trader that depicted one of Black Hawk’s visions. He was paid 50 cents a drawing. That book of 76 drawings sold in 1994 for nearly $400,000 dollars. Although not technically ledger art since the drawings were on new lined paper, not ledger paper, Black Hawk’s work are one of the finest examples of that style of Lakota art. Two examples of that series are shown below.

Black Hawk Ledger Art

Black Hawk Ledger Art

Contemporary Lakota artist Alan Monroe uses traditional ledger-style designs on rabbit skins.

Ledger-style Art on Rabbit Skin by Lakota artist Alan Monroe

 

Ledger-style Art on Rabbit Skin by Lakota artist Alan Monroe

 

Ledger-style Art on Rabbit Skin by Lakota artist Alan Monroe


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The Sacred Talking Prayer Feather of the Dine’ (Navajo)

The Dine’, more commonly known as the Navajo, is the largest American Indian nation in North America.

The Sacred Talking Prayer Feather is part of their creation stories and teachings.

 

Sacred Talking Prayer Feather by Alan Nash, Navajo

 

 

 

Feathers are beings and represent many beliefs. These beings, as birds and their feathers, are used to guide and control a person’s mind and body.

 

The eagle helps to heal and guide; the eagle’s feathers represent faith, hope, courage and strength. The eagle feather is called the Sacred Talking Prayer Feather and is used in various ceremonies for physical as well as social healing.

At one time, eagle feathers were put in a moccasin to protect the wearer and give guidance and swiftness.

 

Because it is illegal to own or sell eagle feathers, today Sacred Talking Prayer Feathers and other Native American feathers and fans are made using natural turkey feathers or white turkey feathers than have been hand painted to look like an eagle feather.

 

Hand Painted Feather Hair Tie by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

 

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