Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner

They Wove for Horses: Diné Saddle Blankets

January 27, 2014


On view now at Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner Historic Site is a collection of Diné saddle blankets. The exhibition, They Wove for Horses: Diné Saddle Blankets, originated at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. The exhibition will be on view through 2014.

The exhibition highlights both the textile-weaving proficiency of Diné weavers who produced complex saddle blankets for all occasions and the design skills of Diné silversmiths who created dazzling headstalls of silver and turquoise.

Bosque Redondo Memorial opened at Fort Sumner on June 4, 2005 commemorating the tragic period in US history when the Mescalero Apache and Navajo were forced from their traditional homelands in early 1863 and relocated to Fort Sumner.

The saddle blankets on exhibit date from 1860 to 2002 and are arranged by weaving methods: tapestry weave; two-faced double weave; and twill weaves of diagonal, diamond, and herringbone patterns. By using a variety of warp and weft yarns—natural wool, cotton, angora mohair, unraveled bayeta, and Germantown—weavers added individuality to the everyday and fanciful tapestries they created for horses.

Horse trappings on exhibit reveal the great pride that Diné horsemen took in their horses and how they adorned them for ceremonial and social events. The Diné first learned how to manufacture saddles and bridles from neighboring cultures and their proficiency quickly surpassed that of their mentors. That devotion resonates still, as the horse remains a viable living force in Diné life today.

New Mexico Historic Sites director Richard Sims said, “Although the Navajo, and the Mescalero Apache, were held as prisoners, their confinement area was very large, scores of square miles. Survival in this barren land, beyond the minimal government rations, required the use of horses and mules to haul wood and water, and to search for food.”

Today, the bridles to blankets both reflect the Diné heritage of horsemanship that continues to thrive on the reservation and are the very foundation of many Diné artists’ livelihood—proof of the enduring nature of Native American culture.

A link to high resolution images on the Museum of New Mexico Media Center is here;

More information about this historic site may be found on the website here;

Media Contact:

Steve Cantrell, Public Relations Manager





There are currently eight state Historic Sites – Coronado in Bernalillo, Jemez near Jemez Springs, El Camino International Heritage Center south of Socorro, Lincoln and Fort Stanton in Lincoln County, the Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner, Fort Selden in Radium Springs, and the Taylor Barela Reynolds Mesilla House in Old Mesilla Plaza.

The Department of Cultural Affairs is New Mexico’s cultural steward and is charged with preserving and showcasing the state’s cultural riches. With its eight museums, eight historic sites, arts, archaeology, historic preservation and library programs, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs is one of the largest state cultural agencies in the nation. Together, the facilities, programs, and services of the Department support a $3.3 billion cultural industry in New Mexico.



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