About the Exhibit: Pendleton Trade Blankets

Six rarely-seen historic Native trade blankets from the American west have been added to the Burke's new photography exhibit, Peoples of the Plateau: The Indian Photographs of Lee Moorhouse, 1898 - 1915. The trade blankets bring to life the costuming seen in Moorhouse's Native portraits, giving visitors an up close look at the textile whose bold colors and patterns have become a trademark of Native American design.

The trade blankets worn by the Native American tribes of the Columbia River Plateau region are woven from wool and adorned with brightly colored geometric patterns. These textiles are used in trade and ceremony and remain significant as one of the earliest commodities ever to be designed and marketed to mass audiences using a Native American aesthetic. The authentic blankets on display at the Burke Museum were manufactured in the Pendleton, Racine, and Knight Woolen Mills of the American west from 1900 - 1920. After the peak of blanket manufacturing in the early 20th century, only Pendleton Woolen Mills in Oregon survives today and continues to produce trade blankets of the Northwest.

 Peoples of the Plateau features portraits of Native life in Eastern Washington and Oregon at the start of the 20th century. An amateur photographer and agent of the Umatilla reservation, Moorhouse took over 9,000 pictures in and around Pendleton, Oregon documenting this transitory period of Pacific Northwest culture as it moved from frontier life to the modern era. Many of his subjects can be seen wearing Pendleton blankets in the photographs now on view at the Burke, including a powerful portrait of an enrobed Chief Joseph which also served as the 1902 cover for Pendleton Woolen Mill’s brochure, "The Story of the Wild Indian’s Overcoat."

The trade blankets, on loan from the private collection of Mark Pigott, will be on display through June 8, 2008, as part of the Peoples of the Plateau exhibit.

Blankets on display as part of the Peoples of the Plateau exhibit

Close-up view of a Pendleton blanket