Tag Archives: Indian

Pendleton Chief Joseph Blanket

The Chief Joseph blanket is the most enduring of the Pendleton blankets today.  The Chief Joseph blankets were introduced in the 1920’s and is still being woven today.  The blanket pays homage to one of the Northwest’s Nez Perce most famous warriors Chief Joseph.

Pendleton Chief Joseph Blanket

Pendleton Chief Joseph Blanket

The Nez Perce occupied 7.7 million acres of US reservation land which spread across the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. These lands were granted to the Nez Perce by the US government in 1855 and encompassed much of their traditional land including Chief Joseph’s Wallowa Valley.

By 1863 an influx of minors and settlers caused by the gold rush prompted the government to call a new council with the Nez Perce chiefs. At this council  the government offered the Nez Perce a much smaller reservation (760,000) acres situated near Lapwi a village in Idaho. In exchange the government would provide schools, hospitals and other necessities. Two of the chiefs accepted these new terms but Chief Joseph and a couple of other chiefs refused to sign the agreement.

The signers of the treaty moved all of their people to the new reservation in Idaho while those that did not sign remained on their traditional lands. A new tension existed between the two groups of Nez Perce, the signers and the non signers.

By 1873 Chief Joseph had negotiated a settlement with the government which granted him and his people the right to stay in Wallowa Valley. Four years later the government rescinded this agreement and sent General Howard to remove Chief Joseph and his people from their homeland. After meeting at Fort Lapwi General Howard gave the Wallowa band 30 days to move to Idaho. Chief Joseph plead for more time but Howard would not budge on his demands.

While his people were preparing to move Chief Joseph held council with the chiefs of the various bands of Nez Perce. Chief Joseph pushed for peace during these councils but many of the chiefs urged for war. During one council it was discovered that four young warriors had killed a group of white settlers and now the future had been cast.

Chief Joseph led his band to the Crow Indians in Montana hoping to find rescue there but the Crow people did not oblige. With General Howard in pursuit he led his people north hoping to find sanctuary with Chief Sitting Bull and his people who had moved to Canada in 1876.

He led Howard on a trek of 1170 miles utilizing tactics which commanded even Howard’s respect. After 3 months and only 40 miles from the Canadian border Chief Joseph surrendered to General Miles but this was only after a 5 day battle. Out of food, blankets and with the major war leaders dead Chief Joseph had no other choice.

During his surrender he is generally credited with what is now this famous quote:

“From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

Native American Jewelry – Definitions

Here are a some of the most common terms that you will run into when shopping for or reading about Native American Jewelry.

Annealing: Tempering or softening metal by heating it and then rapidly cooling it. In American Indian jewelry they would use this process to soften coins enough so that they could be formed into the desired form.

Applique: A decorative item which has been soldered to the final piece of Native American jewelry.

Turquoise Bracelet

This bracelet features bossing, applique and bent wire techniques

Bent Wire: Thin silver wire which has been bent to form circles or half circles and then appliquéd or soldered to an element of jewelry.

Bezel: Thin wall of silver which surrounds a stone and anchors it in place.

Boss: A raised ornament which is either solid or possibly repoussed.

Boulder or Ribbon Turquoise: Boulder Turquoise is when turquoise is cut to include the host rock or vein rock within which it occurs naturally. The trick to this presentation is to cut in such a manner as to include just the right amount of turquoise along with the host rock. Much of Boulder turquoise comes from the Royston and Pilot Mountain mines in Northern Nevada but it can actually be found at most turquoise mines where the turquoise occurs in veins.

NKRB-002a

Necklace featuring Boulder Turquoise.

Butterfly: In Navajo jewelry in particular this design consists of a center element flanked by two wing shaped elements. This shape is often used on Concho or Concha belts in between the large oval or circle pieces. The reference to butterflies was started by early traders and does not have carry this meaning traditionally among the Navajos.

butterfly2

Picture of a typical Native American butterfly design.

Cabochon: Usually standard size cut stones which have a flat bottom and smooth rounded top. Cabochons can be cut and polished into many different shapes and are not faceted normally. Below you will see cabochons cut into non-standard sizes.

turquoise cabs

Free form turquoise cabochons, please note the lower right stone is overturned to reveal the backing.

Casting: Process by which molten silver is poured into a mold to create the shape desired. Tufa, a light porous stone was one of the first methods used to create jewelry and is referred to as Tufa Casting. Sandstone was oiled and also used which is called Sand Casting and now centrifuge casting machines can be used which is called spin casting. There is a limit to the number of times that a sand or tufa cast can yield.

Chalcedony: Quartz that is either bluish or greenish gray and is sometimes polished and used in Southwestern Indian jewelry.

BRWRB-025bX

Channelwork or channel inlay: The setting of turquoise or another stone separated by thin strips of silver. This method requires precisely cut stones and very detailed oriented silversmithing.

Zuni Turquoise Channel Inlay bracelet

Zuni Turquoise Channel Inlay bracelet

Chasing: The use of a hammer and a chisel to decorate a silver surface.

Chased-Silver

This bracelet illustrates the chasing technique of adorning silver. The diagonal lines you see on each side of the bracelet were chased. The half moon shapes in between were stamped impressions.

Concha: Describes a round or oval shape of with a central design element with radiating designs extending to the edge. The concha shape is used primarily as a method to decorate
belts but can also be used in bolos, rings and bracelets.

Typical Navajo stamped concho with single turquoise setting

Typical Navajo stamped concho with single turquoise setting

 

Dapping: Creating a shape with silver by forcing it into the bottom of a mold usually with a punch and hammer. Dapping blocks are made in both wood and metal and help to shape sheet metal into a form such as a dome.

This is an example of a metal dapping set, wood is also used.

This is an example of a metal dapping set, wood is also used.

Heischi: Describes any shell or stone which has been fashioned into disc or tube shaped beads. These beads may graduate in dimension or all be the  size. These heisci beads are generally strung on a cord or wire and worn as a necklace. The Santa Domingo and San Felipe peoples were the first to master this technique in the southwest.

Turquoise Heishci Bracelet

Turquoise Heishci Bracelet

Hopi Silvercraft Guild: The guild is a cooperative established in 1949 which exists to promote and market Hopi art as well as provide support to emerging Hopi artists. Unfortunately through a series of bad investments the guild is not as vibrant as it once was.

Hubbell glass beads: These were imported glass beads from Italy, Bohemia and finally Czechoslovakia that were sold at trading posts in the Southwest. The color of the beads were turquoise and were meant to be a substitute for real thing. While they are called Hubbell beads there exists no information that would confirm that Hubbell ever actually imported these items. Today almost any glass bead that mimics turquoise is called a Hubbell bead. The bracelet below contains to light blue Hubbell beads.

Native American Jewelry - Hubbell Glass

Two triangular shaped Hubbell Glass beads are used in this early Navajo bracelet

 

Jacla: Originally made and worn by the Pueblo peoples it also became popular amongst the Navajo people through trade. Jacla is actually a Navajo word meaning ear wire. The Jacla are usually a 4”-6” loop consisting of turquoise heische with colored shells highlighting the center of the drop. The jacla were usually worn on or tied to the ear lobe but can also be found on the ends of turquoise necklaces.

Turquoise beads with jacla. Native American Jewelry

Turquoise beads with jacla.

Tufa Casting: The method of  pouring melted metal into a form or mold created out of tufa stone. Tufa stone is a soft rock formed out of volcanic ash. This technique is one of the earliest methods used by Navajo silversmiths and continues to be used today.

BRWTU-055c

Side view of a tufa-cast bracelet. Note the small imperfections you can still see on the back side of the bracelet. These imperfections mimic the surface of the original tufa mold.

Native American Jewelry in the Southwest

While there exists no known written record of the emergence of native silversmithing in the US southwest it is generally believed to have been sometime after 1850. In 1854 at Fort Defiance, agent Dodge hired George Carter, a blacksmith, and Juan Anaya as an assistant, a Mexican silversmith to teach the local Navajos the art of metal smithing. While records show they produced bridles, bridle bits, rings and etc., it should not be forgotten that a Mexican silversmith was an assistant to George Carter.

The Navajos were clearly making some items of silver jewelry by the early 1850’s. Several drawings exist showing Pueblo and Navajo wearing silver buttons on their pants as decoration. Written descriptions of Navajo dress also include leather belts with silver ovals attached.

The Navajo continued their almost constant raiding of the Rio Grande valley during the early 1860’s. The raiding had provided them with livestock, slaves and European ornaments. This raiding resulted in the Navajo campaign circa 1863-1864 which was led by Kit Carson. The Carson led campaign destroyed crops and orchards until they were able to defeat the Navajo and march them to Bosque Redondo. Located in southeast New Mexico near Fort Sumner Bosque Redondo was to be the Navajos home until 1868.

During their time at Bosque Redondo the Navajo appear to have honed their silver working skills. Some of the Navajo who were being instructed in metal working during this time apparently picked up the ability to make stamps and dies. The government used to issue metal ration tags which controlled the amount of food distributed. History indicates that the Navajo smiths were able to counterfeit the ration tags resulting in the government issuing cardboard ones instead.

By the time the Navajo returned to their reservation in 1868 they possessed a growing skill in silver smithing. Having learned to make stamps and dies they began to duplicate on silver the patterns seen in Mexican leather work. Those that worked for the government began to demand their pay in silver, which was later turned into items of decoration.

By 1880 silver smithing was pervasive throughout the Navajo reservation. Federal agents had encouraged the process by providing smithing tools and encouraging the sharing of techniques. Herding sheep, making blankets and silver smithing provided the Navajo with a reasonable economic foundation going forward. To be continued,,,,,