Medicine Blanket of Charlie Black

If you haven’t yet seen The People’s Tapestry: Weaving Tradition in Navajo Culture, don’t wait too long! And if you have, consider a return visit to admire the vibrant colors and remarkable patterns on display – and view a loaned textile with a fascinating and storied history. When the Museum reopens after its early Winter closure on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, the Medicine Blanket of renowned Navajo healer Charlie Black will be on display.

Shortly before his death, Charlie Black sold this blanket to Clyde Deal at Goulding’s Trading Post in Monument Valley. When Clyde passed in 2015, he gifted the blanket on to his wife Janet Roper Deal who loaned it to the Museum via David Lyle.

The information we’ve been given comes from the rug’s owner, whose husband was a buyer for Goulding Trading Post, Clyde Deal, in Monument Valley and was close friends with Charlie. Black was a prominent medicine man on the Navajo Nation; he was a member of the Salt Clan whose relatives include Hoskinini and Old Gray Whiskers. His Grandmother Salt wove Charlie’s Saddle/Medicine Blanket, which served as a saddle blanket on the horse Charlie rode to see his patients. Once at his destination, he would remove the saddle blanket and invite the patient to sit on it during the treatment and/or ceremony. One ceremony Charlie performed was the three-night- long Enemy Way ceremony which was believed to cleanse the recipient of harmful effects and bad influences. Charlie used the blanket until selling it to the current owner’s late husband, Clyde Deal at Goulding’s Trading Post.

Per the Museum’s standard protocol, Tara Beresh, Museum Curatorial and Collections Manager, will consult with expert weavers, as well as elders and other appropriate members of the Navajo Nation, to craft a story of Charlie and his Blanket that’s as compelling as its design and purpose.