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First Phase Navajo Blanket The earliest wool shoulder blankets were white or gray with broad horizontal stripes of black and/or indigo blue. Plains and Ute men, especially chiefs and successful warriors, traded with the Navajo expressly for these finely woven blankets. Navajo women wove bold horizontal bands of natural black, brown, and indigo-dyed wool to gave the garment a striking look. The design created a balanced sensibility and likely related to Navajo concepts of harmony and beauty. T0122 File Catalog Entry: Blanket, First Phase Navajo Northern Arizona ca. 1840-60 Wool, organic dyes 64" w. x 48" l. T122 Juan Hamilton, Abiquiu, New Mexico; Gerald Peters, Santa Fe The Navajos learned weaving from the Pueblos about 1700 and they still use the traditional pueblo upright loom. Their earliest wool mantas, or shoulder blankets, were white or gray with broad horizontal stripes of black and/or indigo blue. (c.f. Wheat and Mera 1978, p.33; Wheat 1976, p.21) They were traded widely, but were especially so prized by the Ute Indians that they became known as "Ute blankets." They were the first step in the development of a style that has come to be known as "Chief's Blankets." Although the Navajos have no "chiefs," the blankets were items of great prestige and very widely traded with Plains tribes where the name may have evolved. Mantas were essential items of clothing for both men and women. Like Pueblo mantas they are wider than long and the decorative stripes and weft elements run the width of the garment. They are soft and warm and woven with fine wool yarn. This Phase I "Chief's" Blanket is woven with native white wool and bands of native black wool, possibly enriched with natural dye. The basic brown color of the wool emerges through the black and is used alone for the narrow stripes. The bright blue narrow stripes that enrich the broad central band are dyed with indigo imported from Mexico. Vincent 1995a, p.58.
length 48 in, width 64 in