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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1905, Part I
([1905])

Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs,   pp. 1-155 PDF (58.6 MB)


Page 11

COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS. 
finest architecture on earth is a heritage from the Greeks, and sur- 
charged with symbolic associations with Olympus worship. All 
these survivals have their value even to our unromantic age. In 
striving to divorce the Indian radically from his past in matters of 
mere form, are we not liable to overlook some weightier considera- 
tions? 
It was not long ago that an eminent American illustrator discovered 
in a young Indian woman so distinct a manifestation of genius in 
art that, although she had been educated in the East, she was sent 
back, on his advice, to live a while among her own people, study 
their picturesque side, and make drawings of themselves and their 
life for future use. We can imagine our hyperpractical critic throw- 
ing up his hands in horror at the suggestion of exposing this girl to 
the degrading atmosphere of her childhood home. So should we all 
revolt at the idea of driving her back into the existence she would have
led if no kind, friend had taken her away originally. But she had 
been trained among good white people; she had reached an age when 
she would be able to appreciate the difference between the old ways 
and the new, and to the latter's advantage; and she was a woman of 
refined instincts and strong character. If she were ever going to be 
able to withstand the bad influences of frontier life she could do it 
then. She cherished, moreover, that wholesome pride of race which 
we are bound to respect wherever we find it, and which enabled her 
to enter sympathetically into the line of art study assigned to her as 
no one could who had not shared her ancestry and her experience. 
At a gathering of white philanthropists, where several Navaho 
blankets of different weaves and patterns were exhibited, I was aston- 
ished to hear one of the most thoughthil persons present propose that 
a fund should be raised for supplying the Navaho with modern 
power looms so as to build up their special industry. My suggestion 
that the wool raised by the Indians was not of a quality which would 
answer for fine work was promptly met by the assurance that it 
would be a simple matter to send Connecticut-made raw materials 
out to Arizona, as is already done to some extent. I ventured to sug- 
gest that this programme be completed by sending some New England 
mill hands to weave the blankets, since that was all that would be 
necessary to eliminate the Indian from the proposition altogether. 
The argument was not carried further. The Navaho blanket derives 
its chief value not from being a blanket, but from being a Navaho. 
The Indian woman who wove it probably cut and seasoned the 
saplings which framed her rude loom and fastened the parts in 
place. She strung her warp with her own hands. She sheared 
and carded and spun and dyed the many-colored threads of her 
woof. She thought out her own design as she worked, and carried 
--I 
11 


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