Oak Creek Indian Art

History of Southwestern Native American Art

Photo courtesy of John Crossley

When the European first discovered the American Indians of the Southwest he found them wearing blankets and other garments of their own weaving, mostly made of cotton, which they grew, cleaned, carded, spun, and dyed themselves. Cabez de Vaca, in his Relacion, states that he found the natives wearing linen and woolen cloths, and at one place fine cotton shawls, all of their own weaving.

Fray Marcos de Nizza, when he made his memorable reconnoissance into New Mexico in 1538, says that the natives were dressed in cotton-cloth, and that the men of Cibola wore long cotton gowns which reached to their feet.

When Coronado reached the seven cities of Cibola (Zuni) in 1540, he found the people wearing cotton blankets. Castañeda says: "The women wear blankets, which they tie or knot over the left shoulder, leaving the right arm out. These serve to cover the body." This is an exact description of the Pueblo Indian woman's dress of today.

Later, when Don Pedro de Tobar went to explore the Province of Tusayan—the home of the Hopi—and the Indians barred his pathway, he fell upon them and vanquished them. Then they brought gifts, among which were cotton cloth of their own manufacture.

- Excerpt from "Indian Blankets and Their Makers" by James Wharton James (1920).