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9.3: The Post-War West- Expansion, Incorporation, and the Persistence of the Local, 1860-1900

  • Page ID
    215492
    • Angela L Miller, Janet Catherine Berlo, Bryan J Wolf, and Jennifer L Roberts
    • Washington University in St. Louis, University of Rochester, Stanford University and Harvard University

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    Figure 9.21: ANDREW J. RUSSELL, East and West Shaking Hands at Laying [of] Last Rail, 1869. Albumen print. Union Pacific Historical Museum, Omaha, Nebraska.
    Figure 9.21: ANDREW J. RUSSELL, East and West Shaking Hands at Laying [of] Last Rail, 1869. Albumen print. Union Pacific Historical Museum, Omaha, Nebraska.

    In 1876, the West offered an escape from the pressures of the moment. But it also occupied a new place of importance in the life of the nation. The driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869, an event documented by the photographer Andrew J. Russell (fig. 9.21), is emblematic of the double-edged nature of post-war progress. Commemorating the completion of the transcontinental railroad with the meeting of its two halves- west to east and east to west- the event quite literally bound together with iron rails a nation once sundered by civil war. With the movement of commerce, industry, and large-scale settlement, as settlers, businessmen, and industrialists went west, they trespassed on Indian lands. Just beyond the margins of Russell's celebratory image were the Chinese laborers who played such a central role in the industrialization of the West.

    The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 was more than a triumph over the vast distances of the new continent. It was also a symbolic moment holding the promise that eventually all of this land would be incorporated and its raw materials transformed into resources of the nation-state. Yet, while being a symbol of renewed national hopes and opportunities, the West was also the home of Plains, Navajo, Pueblo, and Hispanic peoples who were struggling to preserve their identities in the face of white expansion. The emergence of a national market for industrial goods inspired a backlash, as these cultures resisted consolidation, holding fast to their own traditions, values, and forms. In the East, local cultures posed little resistance to nationalizing energies. The situation was different in the West, where these cultures had existed outside the nation-state much longer.

    Landscape Art, Photography, and Post-War National Identity

    From the sixteenth century through the nineteenth, the way west had offered the promise of wealth and new opportunities for gain to European adventurers and later to white entrepreneurs. To settlers migrating from the east, it promised new beginnings. Yet the vast natural resources of the region opened to industry and settlement after the war also unleashed ruthless ambitions. The post-war colonization of the West opened up very different visions of the region's future, pitting the quest for private wealth against the public trust, and challenging older myths about the West as a place of personal and social redemption.

    The West was colonized by the eye as much as by the rifle. From John White's watercolors of the first colony in Virginia to the United States Geological Surveys of the West in the late nineteenth century, artists assisted explorers and scientists in their efforts to map, publicize, and colonize lands unfamiliar to European travelers. These images of first encounter in the far West tend to fall into two categories: "booster artwork" and "disinterested" documentation.

    "BOOSTER ARTWORK": YOSEMITE AND THE SIERRA NEVADA. "Booster artwork" rendered new lands in exotic terms and cast them as the answer to social ills back home. Often overtly propagandistic, such images encouraged colonization-and, gradually, tourism-by contrasting the richness of the new lands with the economic hardships of home.8

    Following the trauma of war, the heroic wilderness landscape of the antebellum years-large-scale, exotic, and full of promise-had tremendous appeal. Yosemite Valley in California's Sierra Nevada range was one such landscape. At once pastoral and sublime, the valley itself is surrounded by towering rock walls, a natural paradise sealed off from history. This protected condition was further guaranteed by the popular movement to establish a system of national parks, beginning with Yosemite in 1864, as "public" space "inalienable for all time," wilderness, primeval and untouched.9

    Figure 9.22: CARLETON WATKINS, Yosemite Valley from the Best General View, 1865. Albumen print. American Geographical Society Collection, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Library.
    Figure 9.22: CARLETON WATKINS, Yosemite Valley from the Best General View, 1865. Albumen print. American Geographical Society Collection, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Library.

    In paintings and photographs-created for a public eager to consume images of the "golden West"-Yosemite was depicted as pristine and uncorrupted by human contact. Carleton Watkins (1829-1916), who had moved to California as a young man, found steady employment from the railroad and mining industries. But he was also a commercial photographer with a studio in San Francisco, who appealed to local and national pride by promoting Western scenery. Watkins presents the West as a sublime spectacle. His Yosemite Valley from the Best General View of 1865 (fig. 9.22) frames the valley as a series of receding planes, atmospherically muted. This method of composition derives from landscape painting, and presents the view aesthetically. The foreground tree not only provides scale and drama to the image, but acts as a surrogate for the viewer, as if the tree, too, were merely a traveler pausing to absorb the scene. Viewed from a height, and rendered in panoramic scale, the monumentality of Yosemite is cast in an easily readable form, a readymade memory for the tourist or occasional visitor.

    Cultural Contexts

    Circulating the West

    UNLIKE EARLIER DAGUERREOTYPES, which produced only a single image at a time and did not allow for serial printing, the new process of wet-plate photography permitted many images to be printed from a single glass plate. These large format cameras, though still cumbersome and labor intensive, made possible the widespread distribution of photographs of the West. The photographs, in turn, were often reproduced through other media: lithographs, engravings, book illustrations, and, later, rotogravures. The photographic historian Martha A. Sandweiss estimates that the Pacific Railroad survey report-issued in large numbers as a multi-volume illustrated set-produced a combined number of approximately 6,660,000 total images, roughly one for every five Americans. The audiences for such images ranged from "congressional subcommittees to would-be immigrants, from wealthy private patrons to large crowds of entertainment seekers." 10 The cultural impact of such widely circulated images of the West was immense.

    As documents, photographs sometimes obscure other forms of truth. In Yosemite, for example, Indians had regularly set fires to the underbrush and saplings of the valley for centuries, in order to maintain their hunting trails. The process had allowed an unusually large number of black oaks to mature over time, resulting in landscape that accorded with European American traditions of the picturesque. The Yosemite that photographers like Watkins captured was not the primeval landscape that viewers-and Congress-took it to be, but an ecosystem altered by centuries of input from humans. Yet Watkins's photographs banish all signs of an indigenous population and make the landscape an emblem of the nation: innocent, uncorrupted, eternal.

    Figure 9.23: ALBERT BIERSTADT, Donner Lake.from the Summit, 1873- Oil on canvas, 72½ x 120 in (184 X 304 cm). New-York Historical Society.
    Figure 9.23: ALBERT BIERSTADT, Donner Lake.from the Summit, 1873- Oil on canvas, 72½ x 120 in (184 X 304 cm). New-York Historical Society.

    This vision of primeval nature also obscured another process transforming the West: the industrial extraction of natural resources. Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), for example, adroitly reconciled an idealized image of the West with the realities of a land undergoing radical environmental change. Bierstadt's Donner Lake from the Summit (fig. 9.23) acknowledges the industrial infrastructure, framing it, however, within the broader myth of a land of beauty and natural plenty. Nestled in the shadows of the Sierra Nevada, and barely visible in Bierstadt's painting, the railroad brought intense economic competition to California, cost many lives in its construction, and gave the state's "Big Four" industrialists-Crocker, Stanford, Huntington, and Hopkins-enormous power over its future. Bierstadt's sungilt landscape, its blue lake mirroring the heavens, glosses over the environmental toll, the lives lost, and the concentration of capital and power, capturing instead a powerful sense-still strong today-of the West as a place apart.

    "DISINTERESTED KNOWLEDGE": YELLOWSTONE AND OTHER SURVEYS OF THE WEST. A second mode of "first encounter" images sought "disinterested" knowledge of the territories that opened up after the war. Though these images were always part of a larger effort to colonize the landscape and exploit its economic potential, they expressed these ends through the language of science. They illustrated the geological formations, the local fauna and flora, and, occasionally, the native populations that lent the lands of the West their strange aura. In the Centennial years, the preferred medium of scientific encounter was photography, which possessed the authority of objective truth.

    Between 1867 and 1879, a series of geological surveys first civilian, later military-used their photographic documentation of the West to advance the political goals of publicizing and funding their research. The Ferdinand V. Hayden expedition of 1871, for example, was assigned the task of separating fact from fiction in reports describing the Yellowstone region. A silvery lake high in the Yellowstone Mountains, for instance, had been rumored to flow all the way to the Pacific ocean. Hayden, head of the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, appointed the photographer William Henry Jackson to accompany the expedition. Though they failed to find the legendary river, they produced such spectacular images of the Yellowstone region that Congress enacted legislation the next year to establish Yellowstone National Park.

    Figure 9.24: THOMAS MORAN, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1872. Oil on canvas, 84 x 144 in (213 x 266 cm). National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
    Figure 9.24: THOMAS MORAN, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 1872. Oil on canvas, 84 x 144 in (213 x 266 cm). National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

    Thomas Moran's (1837-1926) Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone of 1872 (fig. 9.24) commemorated the Hayden expedition, which he joined at his own expense, in the process launching a lifelong career producing dramatic Western landscape art. Capitalizing on the growing interest for views of the West, Moran, like Bierstadt, recomposed his raw material for heightened effect. Lacking the documentary authority of the photograph, Moran's painting persuaded through a combination of scientific and aesthetic strategies. The painting is breathtaking not only in size-more than 6 by 12 feet-but in its complex mastery of geological detail, suavely integrated into a panoramic unity.

    At the base of the great V-shaped composition formed by the shadowed foreground and the sunlit distance stand two tiny figures, a survey scientist and an Indian in ceremonial dress. The Indian faces us, while the scientist turns toward the landscape. Following his look, the viewer's eye is plunged into the deep space of nature, where it encounters a grand white column of spume exhaled by the Yellowstone Falls. In these two figures Moran conveys past and future: the moment when guardianship of the vast and wondrous beauty of the West is transferred from native dweller to survey scientist, who represents the interests of the newly powerful nation-state.

    Moran's scene of peaceful transfer disguised a more contentious truth. By 1879, seven years after the Yellowstone region had been designated a national park, a system of military defense was in place to protect the newly created wilderness against the Indians who had previously made their home there. The park system-designated "uninhabited wilderness" -coincided with the removal of Native people from their traditional homelands, and the creation of the federal reservation system (begun in 1867-8) to manage and contain those who had been displaced. Though valued as symbols of America's western wilderness, the day-to-day presence of indigenous people in the national parks of Yosemite, Yellowstone, and elsewhere was an unwelcome reminder that the nation's self-appointed guardianship of the West was not cost-free.

    The story of Yellowstone contains a second paradox. Moran's paintings and watercolors of the region focused attention on the natural wonders of the West. Yet this vision of majestic, untamed wilderness also drove a growing industry of tourism, promoted by the new railroads that first opened the region to mass travel-an industry that commodified the exotic West through easy access, mass circulation photographs and posters, and the middle-class ritual of "nature worship."

    Figure 9.25: TIMOTHY O'SULLIVAN , Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada, 1868. Albumen print, 7⅞ X 10¾ in (20 X 27.3 cm). Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
    Figure 9.25: TIMOTHY O'SULLIVAN , Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada, 1868. Albumen print, 7⅞ X 10¾ in (20 X 27.3 cm). Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

    Timothy O'Sullivan's (1840- 82) survey photographs- done for Clarence King's Fortieth Parallel Survey in 1868 through Nevada-draw their power from the sublime contrast between the vast emptiness of nature and the more diminutive signs of human presence. They exist at a far remove from Watkins's commercial photography, which domesticate the West for aesthetic consumption. O'Sullivan's Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada (fig. 9.25) measures human endurance against nature's overwhelming indifference. The horses and wagon add a poignant note: they will soon be gone, their tracks covered up by the sands. In fact, both horses and wagon belonged to O'Sullivan, who needed them to haul his camera and over 400 lb. of photographic supplies. The footsteps visible in the sand record O'Sullivan's trek from the wagon to the point from which the picture was taken. The image thus takes on a self-reflexive character. Nature's forces are defeated by the photographer's capacity to frame and order, and human impermanence is redeemed by the camera.

    Figure 9.26: TIMOTHY O'SULLIVAN, Ancient Ruins of the Cañón de Chelly, New Mexico, in a Niche 50 Feet above Present Canyon Bed, 1876. Albumen print, 7⅞ X 10¾ in (20 x 27.3 cm). Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
    Figure 9.26: TIMOTHY O'SULLIVAN, Ancient Ruins of the Cañón de Chelly, New Mexico, in a Niche 50 Feet above Present Canyon Bed, 1876. Albumen print, 7⅞ X 10¾ in (20 x 27.3 cm). Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

    In Ancient Ruins of the Cañón de Chelly (fig. 9.26), the "ancient ruins" refuse to tell their history; they are as speechless as the desert that engulfs them, both part of a mysterious nature. At the same time, they radiate an almost metaphysical resistance: their very survival testifies to the ingenuity of their human makers. In these haunting images, we find an impulse quite different from the desire to colonize the unknown. O'Sullivan's photographs express instead the intractable strangeness of Western nature and history.

    New Mexico and Arizona Territories: Local Cultures and Expanding Markets

    In communities throughout the United States and its territories, the post-Civil War decades were a time for taking stock of tradition, responding to the threats of encroachment, and struggling to preserve identity in a time of dynamic change. Among the Pueblo and Navajo people of New Mexico and Arizona, and the Hispanic villages of northern New Mexico, local resistance to national incorporation took form in diverse artistic and religious practices.

    At the conclusion of the Mexican-American War in 1848, New Mexico and Arizona became territories of the United States. This region had carried on trade with its northern neighbor since Mexican independence from Spain in 1821, but the pace of exchange accelerated sharply with the arrival of the railroad in the 1880s. The emergence of a national market in these territories furnished new opportunities to extend and vary traditional forms. The railroad expanded the range of available raw materials and consumer goods. It also offered distant markets for goods produced by local craftspeople.

    Despite the expansion of trade, these territories remained regionally distinct. This distinctiveness attracted tourists who could travel by rail, and the burgeoning tourist economy would shape the identity of the region in the twentieth century.

    PUEBLO POTTERY AND CARVING. In the decades after the Centennial, middle-class Americans began collecting Navajo rugs, Pueblo pottery, and other Native arts as well as sepia-toned photographs of Native peoples by Edward Curtis (1868-1952), a photographer based in Seattle, Washington. By the turn of the century, the popular interest in Native cultures was at a peak, offering an expanding market for Indian goods.

    The pueblos along the Rio Grande and Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico, as well as the remote Hopi villages in Arizona, produced remarkable pottery and figural carving in the second half of the nineteenth century, much of which is preserved in museum collections today. The Spanish early on recognized the fine quality of the painted pottery made in the pueblos. One observer wrote in 1581, "These vessels are so excellet?-t and delicate that the process of manufacture is worth watching, for they equal and even surpass the pottery made in Portugal." By the time of this observation, Pueblo women had been making fine pottery for nearly a thousand years, though almost no examples exist today from the colonial period.

    The nineteenth century saw a great flowering of the Pueblo potter's art. When the first expeditions from the Smithsonian Institution traveled to the Territories in the 1880s, they purchased several thousand pottery vessels at Zuni, a village of just a few hundred inhabitants. These works had not been made for the market; they comprised the painted pottery of previous generations of women that was valued and kept within households. By this process, the artistic legacy of several generations of Zuni potters left the village in the course of just a few years.

    Figure 9.27: UNKNOWN ARTIST (ZUNI), Polychrome jar, c. 1825-40. Clay, 11¾ in (29.8 cm) diameter. Taylor Museum, Colorado Springs.
    Figure 9.27: UNKNOWN ARTIST (ZUNI), Polychrome jar, c. 1825-40. Clay, 11¾ in (29.8 cm) diameter. Taylor Museum, Colorado Springs.

    Some of the adornment of this historic pottery involved fine-line geometric-style painting with yucca twig brushes, closely paralleling that done in the eleventh century C.E. (see Chapter 1). Other pots featured parrots, floral motifs, and other curvilinear embellishments adapted from the furniture, architectural paintings, or embroidered altar cloths of the churches of Northern New Spain. By the early nineteenth century, the distinct village styles of pottery that we recognize today had taken shape. It is possible to chart a system of aesthetic preferences consistent in Zuni pottery painting for two centuries. The pottery vessels, long considered among the finest in the Southwest, especially in terms of their surface design (fig. 9.27), were conceptualized as two distinct design fields: the "neck" and the "stomach." This analogy with the human body transformed the vessel from an inanimate object to something with presence, a personal existence. When the anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing (see fig. 11.16) studied at Zuni in the late nineteenth century, he reported that after a woman built, polished, and painted a vessel, she referred to it as a "Made Being."

    In Zuni pottery, the neck and the body or stomach are painted in different ways. The base is unpainted. The transition from neck to stomach is accentuated by a continuous line around the pot, deliberately left open at one small place. This line break holds symbolic significance, referring to the sipapu, or place of emergence from the underworld, and by analogy, the human birth canal. Potters still talk about this opening as a way to keep energy or spirit from being trapped. Zuni pottery painters have favored a balance of white ground and painted forms, and a dynamic asymmetry in which similar designs repeat or alternate, but without too much exactitude. Everyday arts such as pottery-made for daily use and for sale-also contain a spiritual dimension. The seemingly abstract design of the vessel above may refer to elements in Zuni cosmology: the step fret recalls the cloud motif evident in Pueblo-built churches such as that at Laguna Pueblo (see fig. 2.34), the spiral a streamlined Horned Serpent, and the design on the neck an abstract bird.

    In the Pueblo world, the forces of nature-including plants, animals, and aspects of the weather-are embodied in supernatural beings known as Kachinas or Katsinas. Human beings, too, upon their deaths, join the world of the Kachinas. These ancestor and spirit beings are thought to influence the affairs of the living and to visit the village during performances by male members of various Kachina societies. Hundreds of different Kachinas appear within the Pueblos in sacred masquerades; only men make and wear the masks that allow the gods to become manifest. Pueblo people believe that the masks worn in those ceremonial dances should not be displayed in museums or illustrated in books. Lifeless and devoid of ceremonial context, such displays are regarded as a profanation of religious knowledge intended only for the initiated.

    Figure 9.28: UNKNOWN ARTIST (HOPI), Palhikwmana-Kachina tihu figure, Arizona, 1901. Wood, textile, 16½ in (41.9 cm) high. Berlin Ethnological Museum.
    Figure 9.28: UNKNOWN ARTIST (HOPI), Palhikwmana-Kachina tihu figure, Arizona, 1901. Wood, textile, 16½ in (41.9 cm) high. Berlin Ethnological Museum.

    Over the past hundred years, many depictions of Kachina dances have been painted by Pueblo artists, and wooden replicas of these spirit figures, known as Kachina dolls or tihu, are carved by men not only for Pueblo children, but also as a major category of art made for sale. This tihu (fig. 9.28) represents "corn grinding girl." Her face is painted in conventionalized geometric designs and her oversized wooden headdress features step-fret cloud motifs. She wears the traditional dark dress and one-shoulder cape of a nineteenth-century Hopi woman. Unlike the sacred masks, tihu are not spirit beings themselves, but rather gifts from the supernaturals to educate children. (In fact, Hopi do not customarily say that someone has carved a doll but rather "the Katsina gives it.")

    Painted stone effigies from the prehistoric era suggest that the making of tihu has a long history (see p. 2, ritual figures). Their increasing realism and three-dimensionality may be a result of the influence of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Spanish friars who employed Native artists to carve statues of saints for the mission churches. Since the late nineteenth century, Kachinas have worn clothing, and have been given movable arms. These modifications, along with their more naturalistic depictions, point to Hispanic influence, and recall the naturalism of clothed saints in the Catholic churches of New Mexico and Arizona.

    Nineteenth-century observers describe dozens of tihu hanging from the rafters in Hopi houses. In the last quarter of the century, hundreds were bought by traders and anthropologists who gained greater access to the Hopi villages when, in 1882, the railroad came through Holbrook, Arizona, only seventy miles south of Hopi. Tihu were perhaps the first Hopi items to be commodified; since then they have enjoyed a big market among art collectors, museums, and tourists.

    NAVAJO WEAVING AND WORLDVIEW. The ancestors of the Navajo migrated from the interior of Alaska and Northwest Canada, arriving in the Southwest some time after 1200 c.E. The distinctly Navajo culture that evolved there is an amalgam of artistic, religious, and intellectual traits adapted from their Pueblo and Hispanic neighbors from the fifteenth through the eighteenth century, and the materials and markets provided by eastern Americans in the nineteenth and twentieth. Having learned weaving from Pueblo people before the seventeenth century, Navajo women transformed this craft into their own distinctive art form.

    The Navajo initially found a market for their blankets among Pueblo and Plains Indians, and Hispanics. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the New Mexican representative to the Spanish parliament, Don Pedro Bautista Pino, described Navajo weaving as the most important product of the province of New Mexico. While early sources characterize Navajo weavings as technically superior to those of Hispanic New Mexican weavers, Navajo artists did adopt certain principles from the Hispanic style. When the U.S. government forcibly relocated the Navajo from their vast desert home to Bosque Redondo (Fort Sumner, in eastern New Mexico) during 1864- 8, it issued them with thousands of Rio Grande blankets made by Hispanic weavers. The serrated diamond motifs with enframing borders (which the New Mexican Hispanic weaver, in turn, had learned from the finely woven Saltillo serapes of Northern Mexico) became part of the Navajo design vocabulary.

    When the Navajo were allowed in 1868 to return to their homelands in northeast Arizona and northwest New Mexico, they endeavored to reestablish their traditional ways. But life was in flux. Shortly thereafter, the transcontinental railroad came through the Southwest, bringing new goods and visitors, and taking Navajo weavings to an even larger market. The government issued annuity goods that included commercial wool yarns and chemical dyes. All of this helped change the face of Navajo weaving. Historically, "wearing blankets" were traded throughout a region that reached from Northern Mexico to the Great Plains. In the late nineteen_th century, rugs began to be collected by anthropologists and tourists, and circulated nationwide by traders and other middlemen.

    Figure 9.29: UNKNOWN ARTIST (NAVAJO), "Chief's Blanket," c. 1880. Handspun wool and four-ply commercial Germantown yarn, 63 x 54½ in (160 x 137.7 cm). Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico.
    Figure 9.29: UNKNOWN ARTIST (NAVAJO), "Chief's Blanket," c. 1880. Handspun wool and four-ply commercial Germantown yarn, 63 x 54½ in (160 x 137.7 cm). Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico.
    Figure 9.30: UNKNOWN ARTIST (NAVAJO), Navajo pictorial rug, c. late 1880s. Germantown yarn and aniline dye, 46 x 25½ in (117 x 65 cm). Denver Art Museum, Colorado.
    Figure 9.30: UNKNOWN ARTIST (NAVAJO), Navajo pictorial rug, c. late 1880s. Germantown yarn and aniline dye, 46 x 25½ in (117 x 65 cm). Denver Art Museum, Colorado.

    Weaving is not only an important source of income; it is a sacred activity and a paradigm for womanhood. To every Navajo who follows traditional ways, it is imperative to live one's life by creating hozho (beauty or harmony). One might do this by living in a ritually correct manner, or by creating beautiful works of art on a loom. Such objects may conform to a set pattern (see fig. 9.29), or they may be completely original and idiosyncratic (see fig. 9.30). What is most important is the act of their creation.

    The two textiles pictured here demonstrate the range of styles in Navajo weaving. The "Chiefs Blanket" (fig. 9.29) demonstrates the weaver's bold, graphic experiments in color and geometry. As valued items of trade throughout the West, chiefs' blankets were high-status attire for nineteenth-century Plains Indians. (Indeed, Karl Bodmer's watercolor of the Piegan man Kiasax, see fig. 7.7, depicts the Plains warrior wrapped in a Navajo chiefs blanket like that in figure 9.29.) In the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century, Navajo weavers favored broad bands of stripes sometimes augmented with large-scale diamonds or crosses. In this late example the bold dark stripes and vivid red crosses are balanced by the delicacy of the small serrated designs within each cross.

    By the end of the century, numerous trading posts were established on the reservation. White traders became the main link between isolated Navajo households and the larger market economy. Traders such as Lorenzo Hubbell, near Ganado, Arizona, and J. B. Moore at Crystal, New Mexico, were influential middlemen; they knew what was wanted by their customers in places like St. Louis, Boston, and Philadelphia: small to medium-sized rugs that looked like the Middle Eastern carpets already familiar to them. Some traders used photographs or paintings of Persian rugs to suggest new design directions to the weavers. The ever-resourceful Navajo artists complied, making rugs with design fields of complex geometric motifs and enframing borders.

    While the chiefs blanket uses a changing vocabulary of forms and colors within a rigorously geometric format, other textiles simply show off the weaver's fluency with her materials and imagination. At the end of the century, brightly dyed, finely spun yarn was imported to the reservation. This high quality material, commercially manufactured in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, began in many instances to replace the yarn Navajo women spun from their own sheep's wool. In making a Navajo rug, more than two-thirds of the time expended was devoted to the preliminary stages of shearing the sheep, and washing, carding, dyeing, and spinning the wool. So it stood to reason that if a weaver did not have to devote hundreds of hours to these preliminaries, but had the opportunity to work with fine commercially produced yarns, she could devote more time to complicated labor-intensive design patterns.

    During the two decades after large freight and passenger trains first made their way across the reservation landscape in the 1880s, many weavers incorporated images of trains into their work. In this example (fig. 9.30), the weaver has combined trains, a store, and information signs in English ("Santa Fe Route") with the finely serrated diamond-shaped designs that work so effectively in fine Germantown yarns. At a time when the railroad brought this yarn and tourists to the reservation, and carried local, Native-made goods to urban markets in the east, the Navajo weaver saw fit to comment upon this process in her art.

    Figure 9.31: CURRIER & IVES, Santo Niño de Atocha (Holy Child of Atocha), mid- to late-19th century. Chromolithograph print, 18 x 11½ in (45.7 x 29.2 cm). Taylor Museum, Colorado Springs.
    Figure 9.31: CURRIER & IVES, Santo Niño de Atocha (Holy Child of Atocha), mid- to late-19th century. Chromolithograph print, 18 x 11½ in (45.7 x 29.2 cm). Taylor Museum, Colorado Springs.

    THE ART OF THE PENITENTE BROTHERHOOD. The growing volume of trade with the United States brought an end to the classic period of domestic and village retablo production in the territory of New Mexico. The need for images of the saints was now served by naturalistic religious "chromos" by European and American firms, including Currier and Ives, produced for the Catholic population of the new territory (fig. 9.31). Both the choice of saint (the Santo Niii.o or Christ child was a favorite of New Mexico Catholics) and the hammered tin frame surrounding the image- the product of local craftsmen using salvaged tin cans from the north- framed these mass-produced commercial prints with local associations and meanings. But if local retablo production shrank, the santero tradition found new life in the production of bultos (carved images of the saints) for public festivals associated with Holy Week, as well as for the all-male religious organization known as the Penitente Brotherhood.

    Figure 9.32: ANSEL ADAMS, Penitente Morada at Coyote, New Mexico, c. 1950. Gelatin silver print. Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona.
    Figure 9.32: ANSEL ADAMS, Penitente Morada at Coyote, New Mexico, c. 1950. Gelatin silver print. Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona.

    Since the late eighteenth century, New Mexico had suffered a shortage of Franciscan priests. Taking matters into their own hands, villagers initiated self-governing religious confraternities. The most important of these was the all male Penitente, associated with the Holy Week reenactment of the Passion of Christ, which included flagellation (the ritualized scourging of the body with a whip) and other forms of self-mortification. Such practices came to Mexico from medieval Spain; but by the late eighteenth century they had been outlawed. Remote from the Catholic hierarchy in Mexico City, however, these extreme penitential practices persisted in New Mexico, going underground in the face of official opposition in the 1850s. (In 1947 the Catholic Church finally granted them legitimacy.) Their practices were centered around a building type known as the morada (from the Spanish morada, meaning "to dwell"), a long, narrow adobe building consisting of two to three rooms with few windows. In form the morada lies somewhere between domestic dwelling and church building, and it served as the meetinghouse of the brotherhood (fig. 9.32), combining social and devotional practices.

    Figure 9.33: JOSÉ BENITO ORTEGA, Jesus, Nazarene, c. 1875- 1907. Wood, water-based paints, gesso, cotton cloth, 36 in (91.4 cm) high . Taylor Museum, Colorado Springs.
    Figure 9.33: JOSÉ BENITO ORTEGA, Jesus, Nazarene, c. 1875- 1907. Wood, water-based paints, gesso, cotton cloth, 36 in (91.4 cm) high . Taylor Museum, Colorado Springs.

    Life-size images of Christ, supported by boards extending from the base of the carved statue through its middle, were lifted aloft by villagers (fig. 9.33) during Holy Week processions. The type recalls the "Man of Sorrows" traceable to medieval Christianity. José Benito Ortega (1858-1941) was perhaps the best known of the late-nineteenth-century santeros; his focus on the gut-wrenching sufferings of Christ is characteristic of this later generation of New Mexico village artists. Glass eyes, a leather crown of thorns, blue-tinted flesh tones and globules of red paint flowing from wounds on the head, side, and knees of Christ all animated the spectacle of his suffering.

    Figure 9.34: Doña Sebastiana with Los Hermanos, c. 1930. Photograph. Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
    Figure 9.34: Doña Sebastiana with Los Hermanos, c. 1930. Photograph. Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    Also related to penitential practices is the carved figure of Death dragging her cart to the cemetery (fig. 9.34). Known as La Dona Sebastiana, such figures were housed in the village morada. The chalk white face of Death, with its gaping black mouth, beady blank stare, and bow and arrow or bloody scythe trained upon the worshiper reminded him of his inevitable fate, and induced ardent acts of penance to win salvation. These New Mexico figures of Death should not be confused with the carved figures associated with the Mexican "Days of the Dead" celebrations, which Hispanic migrants brought to the United States (see fig. 15.20).

    The period of greatest Penitente activity (after 1848) occurred during the decades that witnessed increasing cultural, political, and religious influences from the north. (New Mexico remained a territory until statehood in 1912.) The Penitente Brotherhood fostered and preserved traditions of Hispanic spirituality and village devotion in the midst of pressures to adapt to U.S. culture. Villagers remote from urban culture retained traditional forms of worship that were obsolete elsewhere. Shrouded in secrecy, and resisting external control, the Penitente presence is still marked throughout the landscape of northern New Mexico by the large wooden crosses and moradas that dot the landscape.