"A Brief History of the Swastika Symbol and Its Use in Navajo Weaving" with author Dennis Agner
Dennis J. Aigner is Professor Emeritus of Economics and Management at the University of California, Irvine. His academic career has spanned 45 years, and included faculty and administrative positions at the University of Illinois, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Southern California, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. He has written extensively in the fields of statistics and econometrics. Among other honors and awards, Professor Aigner was recently cited for lifetime achievement by Marquis Who’s Who for his work on business and the environment.
Navajo (Diné) Weaving with Whirling Logs Motifs
hand-spun wool yarns, aniline & natural dyes
Gift of Dennis Aigner In the Millicent Rogers Museum Collection
In Navajo, or Diné, cultural understandings, the whirling logs motif recalls the sacred number four in many ways: the four seasons, the four directions, and the four sacred mountains. Native artists of the Southwest used the whirling logs design in many art forms, including weavings, silverwork, and basketry, between the years 1890 and 1940. After the symbol was co-opted by the Nazi Party in Germany in 1920, the Navajo, Hopi, Apache, and Tohono O’odham tribes prohibited their communities’ use of the whirling logs motif by way of a 1940 intertribal proclamation. In the past few decades, Navajo people have begun to feature the motif in their weavings once again.
For the Navajo people, their orientation centers on K’é, or a way of being that centers acts of giving, love, and kindness among families and is demonstrated through the art of weaving being passed down through women’s families. Navajo weaving takes place on an upright loom using warps and wefts of wool yarns. Many Navajo families carry on legacies of sheepherding and weaving in a variety of ways. The centrality of sheep to Diné ways of being and modes of survival cannot be overstated.
The tribe’s holy ancestor, Spider Woman (Na’ashéjii Asdzáá), gave the art of weaving to the people during their transition from their second to third worlds. She taught the people how to weave in beauty, or hózhó, and harmony and gathered an array of gifts from the sacred mountains, including wood, plant dyes, patterns, songs, and prayers. Spider Woman’s husband, Spider Man, constructed the first loom of wooden beams and a set of weaving tools, which included a comb for tapping yarns into place.