The Navajo made this blanket at a time when they were being forced onto reservations and in danger of losing their cultural heritage. The blanket was clearly for someone important since they used their limited resources to make it.
This Navajo chief’s blanket is a traditional wearing blanket. It dates somewhere between 1870 and 1900. Wearing blankets are often mistaken by non-native people as rugs, especially since Navajo weavers were and still are so well-known for their exquisite weaving techniques and the rugs that they produce.
These blankets were often worn on the shoulders of a male tribal or clan leader. They were woven with horizontal stripes and geometric figures primarily in red, white and black, colors that are highly symbolic in the Navajo culture. The blue color that is sometimes used is called cochineal blue. This dye is derived from the cochineal bug, a scale insect. It is very difficult to process and therefore very expensive. Any material colored with this dye, for example wool or silk, was used to make apparel for high-ranking individuals only. Wearing blankets were considered to be a very distinguished blanket to own and display.
This chief’s blanket is part of the Pearsall Collection. This collection represents a very important donation in the history of the Florida Museum of Natural History, as it convinced the National Science Foundation to support the construction of Dickinson Hall.
Florida Museum of Natural History
Chief’s Wearing Blanket
Made by Navajo people, Southwestern U.S.
Dates to 1880-1890
From the Leigh Morgan Pearsall Collection