A New Deal for Navajo Weaving
312 pages, 6 x 9
27 b&w illustrations, 8 color illustrations
Hardcover
Release Date:10 May 2022
ISBN:9780816543243
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A New Deal for Navajo Weaving

Reform and Revival of Diné Textiles

The University of Arizona Press
A New Deal for Navajo Weaving provides a detailed history of early to mid-twentieth-century Diné weaving projects by non-Natives who sought to improve the quality and marketability of Navajo weaving but in so doing failed to understand the cultural significance of weaving and its role in the lives of Diné women.

By the 1920s the durability and market value of Diné weavings had declined dramatically. Indian welfare advocates established projects aimed at improving the materials and techniques. Private efforts served as models for federal programs instituted by New Deal administrators. Historian Jennifer McLerran details how federal officials developed programs such as the Southwest Range and Sheep Breeding Laboratory at Fort Wingate in New Mexico and the Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild. Other federal efforts included the publication of Native natural dye recipes; the publication of portfolios of weaving designs to guide artisans; and the education of consumers through the exhibition of weavings, aiding them in their purchases and cultivating an upscale market. McLerran details how government officials sought to use these programs to bring the Diné into the national economy; instead, these federal tactics were ineffective because they marginalized Navajo women and ignored the important role weaving plays in the resilience and endurance of wider Diné culture.
The book meticulously details the ways in which various interests in Navajo weaving came together in the early twentieth century both to revitalize the art form and to create new markets for the artists. In so doing, it provides a critical lens through which to see the challenges and limitations of federal policy on artistic practice.’—Mindy J. Morgan, author of The Bearer of This Letter: Language Ideologies, Literacy Practices, and the Fort Belknap Indian Community

Jennifer McLerran is the author of A New Deal for Native Art: Indian Arts and Federal Policy, 1933–1943. She recently retired from Northern Arizona University, where she taught art history and museum studies.

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