Weaving: Santa Fe Style II

June 27th, 2014, 10am

Note: additional photos will be added.

Of course, weaving traditions occur in many if not most traditional cultures of the world, but in Santa Fe, weaving is celebrated for at least three distinct cultural traditions: Pueblo, Spanish, and Navajo. The photo above depicts a weaving sampler hanging in the beautifully decorated little casita in which we are staying at the moment. I cannot identify from which culture this piece comes, though I am working on it.

Pueblo Weaving In 1540 Spanish troops invaded the New Mexico Pueblos, a peaceful, cultured people who lived in close relationship to the earth, honoring its natural cycles, its living creatures. The people dressed in cotton clothing of excellent manufacture. The cloth, handsomely and complexly patterned, had been woven on upright looms, following artistic traditions and weaving skills that had been developing for more than a thousand years. These Native Americans practiced intensive agriculture, had a complex socio-religious system, and were skilled in many crafts, especially pottery making, basketry, and weaving.  Spanish reports suggest that there were at least seventy villages in the mid-1500s.  The contemporary Pueblo Indians, descendants of these earlier people, live in thirty-one villages: nineteen in New Mexico and twelve in the Hopi country of northeastern Arizona.

Spanish Weaving Of course, the Spanish tell this history in a slightly different way: “Seven thousand head of livestock, among them three or four thousand churro sheep accompanied the colonists lead by Juan de Oñate when they arrived at the Tewa pueblo of San Juan at the confluence of the Chama and Rio Grande rivers in 1598. Within a few months Oñate established San Gabriel. From this flock of sheep, weaving as we know it today in the southwestern United States began. Looms have changed only slightly since their initial introduction to the Americas by the Spaniards. http://www.spanishcolonialblog.org/traditional-arts/weaving/

Spanish weaving is certainly very beautiful in its own right, and it is also true that by bringing the sheep to the Americas, they made possible the magnificent wool rugs that are woven by the Navajo.

Navajo Weaving “There is no evidence of weaving among [the Navajo] prior to 1700. Before that date, however, they were building up large flocks of sheep. With an adequate supply of wool at hand, the stage was set for their weaving. During the increasingly troubled years of the late sixteen hundreds, and particularly after the Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, indian villagers from the Rio Grande moved in with the Navajo to avoid reprisals from the Spanish authorities. … It is highly probably that the Navaho learned to spin and weave the wool of their sheep at this time. … That it was learned form the Pueblos, and not from Mexican settlers, is an indisputable fact.” from Kate Peck Kent, “The Story of Weaving” published by the Heard Museum.

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David Wade Chambers

Born in Oklahoma: 30 years in US. 6 years in Canada, 40 years in Australia. Academic field: history and philosophy of science. Currently, teach indigenous studies online at Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM) and Brandon University (Manitoba). Come visit our B&B on Australia's Great Ocean Road. Mate's Rates for Hi community! (http://www.cimarron.com.au)

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