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Earlist Native American Rugs

Throughout the Earlist Period, weavers have become more mobile and independent from their trading posts. They often choose patterns and motifs outside their region or combine motifs from several regions. Regional style names are used to describe common pattern types, rather than specific weavings. One of the most influential traders during this period was Juan Lorenzo Hubbell, who operated several trading posts on and around the Reservation, including Ganado and Canyon de Chelly.

Navajo rugs of 1890-1930 differed markedly from most of the weavings

The Navajo people were the first to begin weaving rugs. Their weaving style was characterized by narrow stripes and bands. The colors were natural, with rust, yellow, and green coming from vegetable dyes. They also used black and white motifs, but they were much more limited than other weavings. Their wool was also short and oily, so the quality of their rugs was greatly diminished.

Yeibechai rugs show Navajo dancers in ceremonies

A collection of four ceremonial rugs shows Navajo dancers performing Yeibechai. The first rug depicts a male Yeibichai dancer holding a gourd rattle and juniper sprig. The second is a three-quarter profile of two male dancers wearing head masks with blue faces and yellow gourd breathing tubes. The last rug depicts the Talking God leading the line of Yeibichai dancers.

Ganado regional-style rugs

The colors of a Ganado rug are rich and opulent, with black and red accents. Klagetoh rugs are also dominated by black and red accents and have grey “ground” and black stair-step designs in the corners. Both have deep red backgrounds but are distinctly different in their patterns. Often, they feature double or triple geometric borders and a black border.

Klagetoh regional-style rugs

This Navajo area rug, produced on the Navajo Reservation, dates from the 1920s. Made from homespun Rambouillet-cross fleeces in a neutral palette, it features a large elongated diamond motif with an interlocking interior motif. The outer border is plain brown with a red center, and the four corners are decorated with stepped designs. Several of the rugs in this collection are considered examples of this style.

Chief’s blankets

The Navajo women began weaving Chief’s blankets in the early 1800s. During this time, the blankets were traded throughout the Indian world, from the northern Great Plains to the border with Mexico. These blankets were woven in three phases, each increasing in complexity. The stripes of color are often horizontal, while geometric figures are outlined in black/brown. While their design varies, they are all symbolic of power and wealth.

Early examples of Navajo rugs

There are many differences between early and late Navajo rugs. These rugs have better quality wool, and the color and design of an early example may be different from later examples. The colors used in a Navajo rug can vary, but natural browns and tans are the most common. White, black, and gray are also common. Some rugs have contrasting border patterns, while others have simple designs.

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