Sep 5, 2013 / 726 notes

Navajo Rug Auction, Totah Festival, Farmington, New Mexico

Navajo weaving is the mother of all Native American trade in the southwest.  Every year, from metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, to tiny and remote Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo artisans take part in the tradition of rug auctions.

After the failed Pueblo Rebellion against the Spanish in 1680, many Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico fled Spain’s brutal retaliation by going to live among the Navajo.  The Pueblo Indians brought with them weaving technology and sheep, specifically the Churro, a small sheep with long clean wool perfect for weaving that the Spanish had introduced.

The 1800’s brought the arrival of Anglo settlers, trading posts and the railroad to the western frontier and soon enough the rest of the world discovered the beauty and complexity of Navajo weaving.

Today the Navajo Nation can be divided into 13 weaving regions, each with a distinctive style.  Two Grey Hills rugs reflect the muted colors of the desert.  These rugs are often made with hand carded wool and dyed using local plants.  Pictorial rugs portray day to day life.  Tree of Life rugs are thought to be derived from sand paintings, and show birds perched on corn or trees.  The most widely known style is the Ganado with its red background and terraced diamonds and zigzags.

Rugs at these auctions can go from as low as 25 dollars for a small piece to tens of thousands of dollars for larger, more intricate designs.  Many people on the Navajo Reservation derive some portion of their income from the sale of arts and crafts, and these events are a direct way to expose an often geographically isolated seller with buyers from around the world.


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Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction

For the American Guide

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