Traditional colors in Navajo or other Native American Weaving

Hello- My name is Laurie, and I am new to the group.  I live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.  I'm a fine artist, spinner, weaver, knitter, etc.  Out of several of the things I currently do, I'm heading toward focusing mainly on Navajo-style weaving.  Some of you may know me from recently joining the backstrappers group at Yahoo.

I am part Poospatuck Tribe (only a 1/16th part) - a tribe from Long Island, New York that has been greatly reduced in size over the years.  I am following in my great-grandmother's and great-great grandfather's foot steps in my journeys in weaving.  The Poospatuck Tribe has a website that isn't active yet, and I did speak to one elder a few years ago, but it is difficult to simply "find a Poospatuck member" to ask questions of.   :)

My first question about Native American or Navajo weaving is color use, and that was what I had been trying to ask the elder of the tribe.  Does anyone have the "basic" or general definitions of the color meanings for: Black, Blue, Red, Yellow, Green, and White.  I believe there are differences from tribe to tribe, but I thought there might be a general sense to each color.  I have the book "Navajo Weaving Way", but I couldn't find specific color definitions.  I may have missed it as I haven't read the whole book yet.

 

Thank you in advance.

 

Laurie

Comments

Posted on Sun, 04/18/2010 - 17:31

Hi Laurie,

Welcome to the group.  I do not know if there are other members who share your heritage on Weavolution.  There are many resources in the current Navajo community for discussion of color and design, but that tribe is a long way from Long Island (I grew up on LI and my nanny was 1/4 Native American, I will have to look up the name of her Grandfather's tribe).

BTW, did you also join the Backstrap group here?  There are lots of tutorials and pictures that may be a bit easier to access than those in Yahoo. 

So, enjoy and happy weaving,

Claudia, Weavolution co-founder

Posted on Sun, 04/18/2010 - 21:17

Hi Claudia- Thanks for the response and the welcome.  Maybe someone will post some other tribe's basic color definitions.  I just need a starting point if possible.

I did in fact, also join the Backstrap group here on Weavolution, but have not had time yet to go through many of the threads.  There is a wealth of information here on the site and thank you again.

 

Laurie

Posted on Sun, 04/18/2010 - 23:51

Hi Laurie.  I dug out my copy of Indian Blankets and their Makers -- The Navajo, by George Wharton James (1927) and found this:

RED -- the color of sunshine, use of red pays a subtle compliment to the gods

WHITE -- symbolic of the East

BLUE -- symbolic of the South and female

YELLOW -- symbolic of the West

BLACK -- symbolic of the North and male

RED on a BLACK background -- sunlight on the back of a cloud

YELLOW with eight BLACK lines crossing -- rain in the evening

A RAINBOW is shown as a five-striped bar (white blue white red white) -- each stripe represents an individual goddess

Not much detail I'm afraid.

Bonnie.

 

 

 

Posted on Sun, 04/18/2010 - 23:56

 Hi Laurie,

You might want to contact Kathe Todd-Hooker with this question.  She has a native American background, although not the same as yours.  However, she's done quite a bit of research about many things related to your question.  She owns Fine Fiber Press, which you can find by a Google search.

Cordially,

Tommye Scanlin

Posted on Mon, 04/19/2010 - 10:35

Hi Bonnie and Tommye -

Thanks to both of you for the answers.  I'm going to look for a copy of that book Bonnie - I have several books on Native American History, but I haven't seen that one, and if it has those color references in it, it's worth having.

Tommye- I had just been reading Kathe Todd-Hooker's blog the other day - I'll go look at it again, and thanks!

 

Have a great day!

 

Laurie

Posted on Wed, 11/24/2010 - 22:37

Hi Laurie,
I too am keen on keeping with traditional color meanings in my works. Though, I am 1/16th Cherokee and have no elder to go to for my information and only guessing that I'm apart of the Wild Potato Clan since its where most of my family is from. Anywho, I thought I'd post a list of the meanings of my tribe colors incase theres other Cherokee's out there that might want to start using more meaning in their colors as well, these I know for sure are the right meanings..

Most common colors:
Red - East; Success, Triumph
Blue - North; Defeat, Trouble
Black - West; Death
White - South; Peace, Hapiness

Occasional colors:
Yellow - Up/Above
Brown - Down/Below
Green - Center

Posted on Sat, 12/04/2010 - 12:13

Hi,laurie

I recently found this article. It is about colour use of native American Indians. It even mentions plant dyes that are used.

http://www.colourlovers.com/blog/2008/11/26/color-design-american-indians/

There was also a beautiful legend about the rainbow.

 http://www.colourlovers.com/blog/2010/11/25/an-american-indian-color-legend

It thought it would be nice to read. 

greetings 

jeannine

Posted on Thu, 12/09/2010 - 04:59

Hi Laurie,

I did a little research in my books on the Navajo way as I am Navajo Indian and this is what I came up with as the meaning of colors for the Dine'!

4 Sacred Mountains of the Dine' & their color

Blanca Peak - East - White - protector/bear; Mount Taylor - South - Turquoise - cougar; San Francisco Peak - West - yellow - wolf; Mount Hesperus - North - Black - procupine.

This is for the Navajo belief of colors.

Posted on Thu, 12/09/2010 - 08:04

Hi Laurie,

the book, Bonnie mentioned, can be read here: http://southwest.library.arizona.edu/inbl/

Unfortunately, the pics aren't coloured.

For I am intensily involved in shamanism (especially the use of textile objects), and wish to compare my findings with the knowledge of other cultures, I would be very happy if you could share your discoveries with me - either here or in private email-conversation. And thank you all for your information. They are very valuable to me. :-)

@craigeann:

Do you know more about the meaning of the procupine for a Dine?