From the arrival of Spanish settlers in the mid-1500s to their forced move to reservations in the 19th century, the Navajo people have a long history of adapting their resources and practices to changes in their environment. The practice of weaving, in particular, has been an important part of Navajo identity since its introduction by their Pueblo neighbors in the 16th century. This historic art form has survived many changes in Navajo life. The Navajo people adapted the art of weaving, both in design and materials, in order to better suit their needs.
Woven Splendor showcases 17 rugs and five chief blankets from the Museum’s permanent collection, dating from the late-19th to the mid-20th centuries. The chief blankets represent designs popular before American traders established trading posts as the main public outsource of Navajo textiles. These “blankets,” worn by Navajo men and women, were also traded to neighboring tribes and Spanish settlers, who considered them symbols of high status. After the arrival of American traders, the chief blanket was replaced by the rug, which was highly desired by the American market on the East Coast. The variety of rugs shown in this exhibition depicts a small selection of the vast array of designs that the Navajo people created for their new Anglo-American customers.