The wedding rug
Attached to the cash register at Twin Rocks Trading Post is a piece of tape. On that tape is a handwritten note. The note reads, “Navajo Wedding Rug.”
This is the story of that piece of tape, and why it was recently removed.
As a student of Navajo history and the owner of a Southwest trading post for over three decades, I have often considered how challenging it must have been to operate a reservation trading center during the first half of the 1900s.
There are countless stories of seclusion, struggle, destitution, and even death that convince me I would not have been well suited for the endeavor.
I think it would have taken a lot of what the first Mormon bishop of Bluff, Jens Nielson, referred to as “Stick-ta-toody.”
While there may be a modest amount of Jens’s determination running through my veins, I am satisfied it would not have been adequate to get me through those extreme challenges.
Notwithstanding the difficulties, commerce between the traders and Navajo people inspired the evolution of several distinctively beautiful Navajo weaving styles.
That development has intrigued me since we opened Twin Rocks in 1989, and over the years, I consumed various accounts of Lorenzo Hubbell at Ganado, J.B. Moore at Crystal, the Foutz family at Teec Nos Pos, C. N. Cotton in Gallup, and others, with amazement, wondering how they were able to harness the creative energy of Navajo weavers to design and implement the now well-known patterns.
From 1940 to 1974, during an era known as the Navajo regional rug period, several weaving centers emerged in the Southwest.
During that time, Navajo blankets and rugs from one region became distinctly different from those of neighboring territories. Each unique style was infused with its own particular colors and design.
By the early 1900s, four areas developed as creative hubs, Crystal, Ganado, Chinle, and Wide Ruins. Two more geographic areas achieved regional status in the 1940s, Two Grey Hills and Shiprock.
Subsequently, three additional Navajo weavings styles were recognized in the 1950s, Teec Nos Pos, Lukachukai, and Red Lake Storm. Lastly, in 1974, Burntwater was embraced as a classic Navajo regional-style rug.
With that history in mind, and knowing there has not been a breakthrough since 1974, we at Twin Rocks Trading Post have made several attempts to add to the historically recognized list.
While the Twin Rocks Modern weavings have captured the attention of collectors, they do not have common design characteristics that allow for quick recognition and categorization.
As a result, about 10 years ago, we decided to make another attempt. That is when the tape went on the register as a reminder that we needed to pursue the project and not lose our focus.
Since Twin Rocks is known for Navajo wedding baskets, we determined that easily recognized motif should be incorporated as one of the elements.
Studying Tree of Life rugs and their relation to fertility and regeneration year over year, we added corn as a symbol of family, children, and fertility.
Lastly, we took the sacred Yeis that emerged from the Shiprock portion of the Navajo reservation to represent the parties in the marital contract.
While all those details had been utilized before, we hoped to combine them in a unique manner to create something distinctive that would memorialize the union of two people.
With the help of Theresa Breznau, a local graphic artist, we put together a sketch and started asking weavers if they could execute the pattern.
It took years, but finally Luanna Tso, who is well known for her large single Yeis, agreed to take on the challenge, and finally, earlier this week, the first Twin Rocks Wedding Rug arrived.
In Luanna’s weaving, the outer red border evokes the inner rings of a Navajo wedding basket, representing the mixing of your blood with the blood of your spouse, creating children and building family.
A spirit line is distinctively set on the eastern side, referencing the dawn, a new beginning, the future.
Inside that design band are the alternating mountain and cloud symbols of the ceremonial basket, calling forth Mother Earth and Father Sky.
Contained within the outer bands are a male and a female Yei, which are separated by a fruitful stock of corn.
The weaving is intended to showcase two people coming together to build a future generation, a marital celebration.
Rick, Susie, Priscilla, and I are hopeful this new design will launch many successful unions and also inspire a new generation of youngsters to appreciate Native American and Southwest art.