Date of this Version
In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000
A unique historic textile treasure of the early American West, the Washita Chief Blanket (Figure 1) originated in the early to mid-1800s trade to the Plains Indians. It served Southern Cheyenne people for many years as a fine and expressive garment. In 1868 in a tipi village along Lodge Pole, or Washita, River, in western Indian Territory, it survived a major Indian Wars attack that is now known as the Washita Massacre. A soldier's "battlefield pickup," the blanket has been preserved and respected for 133 years as a war relic, a collectors' trophy, and a museum heirloom of sensitive nature. Cheyenne descendants today are beginning to know the textile as cultural heritage from a sacred site. Research in progress on this remarkable fragmentary textile is reported for the first time here and in the following paper.
In anthropology collections at The Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS, formerly Denver Museum of Natural History) since 1968, the trade blanket is protected in secluded sacred storage along with another Washita remnant that has always accompanied it, a Cheyenne buffalo hide painted with a warrior's special designs and used as his robe (catalog number AC.4791). A handwritten tag pinned to the painted hide contains the following information: "Buffalo robe, was taken from an Indian Teepee at the Battle of Washita Nov 27, 1868. From whom I purchased it the following day, $10-E. S. Godfrey" The signature is that of General Edward S. Godfrey, a noted 7th Cavalry veteran.