I have a curiosity. What does a blanket mean to your tribe, if anything?
I ask this because of an encounter. When I was a kid, I was in Boy Scouts. When you reach a certain rank in Boy Scouts, you have the option of joining the Order of the Arrow, which is a kind of fraternal order that acts as an extension of the BSA (and I hear has connections to the Masons, but frankly what group doesn't these days...). As a way of introducing the OA, Boy Scouts attend camps and get told stories. When I went to a story camp, I marvelled at their presentation. They told a story about Coyote, Wolf, and Bear. Each member of the OA makes a blanket, black on red with beadwork, on the back of which depicts a tribal representation of each animal (think Totem Pole, which are almost everywhere in this state). When I asked, I was told that each member of the local OA would pick an animal that suited them, and make their own blankets. This fascinated me.
Then I saw a dance on a field trip. One of the local tribes showed us a very old dance, and in it they wore blankets that were like the OA blankets. It turns out, the OA had bastardised, and then completely changed, the idea of what the blankets represented. When I started my research, I learned that blankets could mean different things to different tribes. I know in one tribe they can be used in courting, where the man tries to "snag" the woman with the blanket. If she resists, then it goes no further, but if she allows herself to be captured, then it means she's interested. I know some blankets tell stories, or demonstrate knowledge. I know some blankets can show your clan.
So, if there is any to your tribe, what is the importance of the blanket? What does it mean to your culture, and what is its history? Is there a special way it is made, given, or represented? Are there special times when it is used?
Always asked with respect :)
http://www.wfu.edu/moa/pdf/AmIndianBlankets.pdf might hold intrest
Sorry Traveler, but my computer couldn't handle that link for some reason. My poor old machine is ill-equipped for anything complicated, it can barely handle PS (and it takes me a while to do anything here).
Blankets did in fact have different meanings when used in ceremonies. The representation of the blanket is exactly what it does, it keeps you warm. A blanket given at a wedding is a promise to keep the bride warm, to provide the warmth of a home like the blanket provides warmth. The bead work is representative of spiritual quests, blessings, extraordinary achievements, or any other thing thought worthy enough of such work. ( Indians don't do arts and crafts, everything has a meaning) These blankets were brought out at festivals, and the meaning of the symbols were spoken and the stories were told. Much like story books are used around a camp fire if you are old enough to remember such a thing. The more traditional robe or blanket was made of buffalo skin. The robe was used for tent canvas, clothing, bedding, and many other things the Indians used in their daily lives. Robes were like money in a way.
Now when the white man came they introduced the woven robe or blanket. The Indians loved it because it was so light weight and versatile. Soon most of the Indians owned one of these new blankets. The white man, in an effort to wipe out the Indians, infected the blankets with small pox. That wiped out half of what was left of our people. The blanket is seen as a means of torture, a loss of freedom, and a way of life to our people. The white people tried to mimic the rituals we held dear by bastardizing them, perhaps to make themselves feel better for killing most of us I don't know. Now after seeing the white man our own people have gone to pow wows and danced with the blanket not knowing its meaning, forgetting the old ways, even now the white man reaches out and erases our history. If you learn the spirit of the blanket, please treat it with the respect only our people can do.
Thank you for asking with respect.
Tsalagi (Cherokee) Bill
Thank you for the reply Bill. It may seem obvious a question to ask, but is this perspective general, or is it coming from a Cherokee view? I ask to better clarify my own perception.
Ojibwa blankets were made from woven flax and animal hides. Some times the flax was woven into blanket, sometimes from flax linen was made, from the linen cloths and blankets were made. Animal hides were what folks call comforters now days.
The cermonial robes/blankets were made mostly from animal hides, and decorated by bead work. Something the Ojibwa were very good at.
Blankets were given as presents for special events in people's lives, such as marriage, baby namings, ect. After the reservations were made, the people began to quilt to make blanket comforters because they were not allowed to hunt as they had before. These quilts were made in many designs just as the woven blankets had been. One of the more popular designs was the 7 pointed star quilt, animal depictions placed in the center of the star. The 8 pointed star quilt is also very popular. The bases is that it represents the 4 directions. Even if it was just an everyday blanket it would tell a story.
This is a blanket made by a lady in canada. She put the Thunder Bird in the middle and used the 7 point star.
Thank you for the wealth of information kixs. That blanket is beautiful. This is kind of what I was looking for, from both you and Bill: A demonstration of the diversity, not just in how they're made but in what they mean. Many people see a blanket as a blanket, it's useful but overlooked. But there's a skill and a story behind a well-made blanket, even if it has no cultural merit. Add the cultural merit to that, the meaning it has to a people or to an individual within a cultural context, and I become truly amazed. Honestly, there are so many things within these various cultures that amaze me with their depth, I can see why people say "it's the spirit". It's hard to articulate something like this beyond that explanation.
And there I go babbling again. <./p>