Pendleton Blankets: What are They?

Among our most popular products at Indian Traders are our Pendleton blankets – from wool blankets to Pendleton throws, these are a unique addition to your home decor and a nod to the Native Americans who inspired them.

Language of the Robe

1980 : From “Language of the Robe,” courtesy of Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma library)

What are Pendleton Blankets?

Pendleton blankets are commercially-produced, machine-woven blankets first created for the Native American trade market from 1895 in Pendleton, Oregon. These blankets replaced the hide and pelt robes the Native Americans wore and used pre- European-settlement, and quickly became integral to the tribal everyday and ceremonial culture. (They replaced fur robes in the same way that glass beads traded with Europeans replaced raw materials like porcupine quills used for decorative purposes. From these glass beads, traditional Native American beadwork was born.)

The Indian Blankets produced by Pendleton Mills were based on a significant study of the design and color preferences of the Native Americans of the Southwest.  Trade of these blankets expanded from the Nez Perce locals near the Pendleton Mills to the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni nations, who wore the blankets as clothing as well as using them for ceremonial purposes and for trade and credit amongst themselves.

Chief Joseph wears a Pendleton blanket in 1901.

Photo by Major Lee Morehouse, courtesy of Bob Kapoun, via “Language of the Robe.”)

The Native American Blanket Trade dates to North America’s earliest days after European settlement. Before the time of Columbus, native peoples’ blankets were made from animal pelts or hides sewn together or woven with wool, down, bark, leaves, cotton, and feathers.

Europeans arrived and bartered goods with the native peoples, and European machine-woven wool blankets had a very high value to the natives – and were exchanged for items of great value such as silver jewellery. The Native Americans preferred vibrantly-patterned blankets with sharp details and specific colors, and these came to be integrated into tribal life for ceremonial uses, gift-giving, as part of a dowry, in memorials, weddings, and more. These blankets could be pawned for a lot of money if necessary, and they were almost always reclaimed as quickly thereafter as possible.

Today, these blankets and Pendleton throws are used by the Native American Indians for commemorating important milestones, to honor others, and they are prized gifts. They are given as an important acknowledgement of respect, friendship, and gratitude.

Though actually European in origin, these blankets and throws are intrinsically “American Indian”; these trade blankets have evolved in terms of the Native American Nations and cultures for which they were specifically produced.

Pendleton blankets and throws are top quality, durable, and uniquely beautiful. Offering superior warmth, they are ideal for use in the home as well as for outdoor activities including camping and picnics. Get yours today with us online – we ship all over the world!

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