Pendleton has proudly woven storytelling blankets for over a century, and one of our most important subjects is the American Buffalo, or American Plains Bison. The story of this majestic symbol of the American West is rife with controversy and tragedy, and its resurgence stands as an important step towards a new beginning.
You can read some of that history here: Buffalo History.
You can read about the recovery efforts here: Buffalo recovery
Pendleton’s beautiful Buffalo/Bison blankets
In Their Element
Part of our Legendary Collection, and created in partnership with Jemez Pueblo artist Joe Toledo, this USA-made wool blanket is a true work of art. A watercolor painting by the artist is rendered beautifully in pure virgin wool that’s been dyed and expertly woven in our Northwest mills. The design represents the three elements: Earth, Air and Water. A herd of bison grazes on the Earth, offering prosperity and protection. A range of mountains stands behind, their snowy peaks covered with life-giving Water. Standing eagle feathers rise into the sky, joining together Earth, Water and Air. Joe Toledo is a respected watercolor artist who mixes rainwater into his paints.
Way of Life
Also part of our Legendary Collections, this USA-made wool blanket was created in collaboration with Jim Yellowhawk, a member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux Tribe. The hunter and the buffalo imagery on this blanket depicts life for many Plains tribes, reliant on every part of the buffalo for food, tepee covers, shields, arrowhead and even soap. The tepees, in multiples of four, signify the four winds. The symmetrical design reflects the world above and below, as well as night and day. The purposeful design pays tribute to life in Pte Oyate, the Buffalo Nation.
The rare white bison occurs only once in every 10 million births. In 1933, a white buffalo was born in the wild on Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation and was called “Big Medicine” to reflect his sacred power. Many Native American tribes consider the return of the White Buffalo the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy and the beginning of a new era for the peoples and Mother Earth. Tradition spoke of the coming of a herd of pure White Buffalo. The seven bison on this blanket represent the seven directions: North, South, East, West, Above, Below and Within. Together they symbolize wholeness for mankind and the earth. Prayer pipes signify mankind’s communication with the Creator. In the center of the blanket, within the circle of life, are four hands representing the diverse peoples of the world and a new beginning. Shades of brown and green reflect the natural beauty of Mother Earth.
We have been asked over the years if this blanket contains real white buffalo hair. There was a VERY limited edition of this blanket woven with the hair of a rare white buffalo (and those will have a special patch to identify them) produced in 2010. Sales of the blanket helped benefit a nonprofit that, among other endeavors, funded the buffalo sanctuary where a rare white buffalo lived.
You can read about that here: White Buffalo Blanket
These deft and natural studies of the bison mark “Buffalo Roam” as another design by Native American watercolor artist Joe Toledo, of the Jemez Pueblo. The buffalo was revered by many Native American tribes. The meat gave them food. The hides provided robes for warmth, tepee covers for shelter and shields for protection. Horns were crafted into bowls and arrowheads, and fat was rendered for candles and soap. The Buffalo Roam blanket captures the power of that mighty beast of the plains. The design puts the sacred buffalo in perspective. Looming large in close-up and appearing smaller in the distance, it was ever present in the lives of the Plains Indians. Mr. Toledo mixes soft rainwater with his colors to reflect images from his culture. His works are exhibited in collections in the United States, Canada and Europe.
The Buffalo Wilderness design recalls a peaceful time long, long ago. It was the time when millions of buffalo roamed grassy plains from Oregon to the Great Lakes, from Canada to Mexico. Today our National Parks protect the wilderness, and the remaining buffalo there roam free. One of the largest herds (more than 4,000) of free-ranging wild buffalo lives in and around Yellowstone National Park. It is thought to be the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times. You can also see herds in Badlands, Grand Teton, Theodore Roosevelt and Wind Cave National Parks.
Prairie Rush Hour
The bison, often referred to as the buffalo, is the largest land mammal in North America. A big buffalo can weigh a ton (2,000 pounds!) and stand six feet tall. And they can run as fast as 35 miles an hour. Long ago millions of these mighty buffalo roamed the plains, prairies and river valleys. It was a time when there were no houses on the hills. When countless forests were green and the trees grew tall. When deer grazed by mighty rivers. Today you can see wild buffalo only in our National Parks, where they are protected. You can see one of the largest herds of wild buffalo in the United States in Yellowstone National Park. The Prairie Rush Hour is a jacquard throw that measures 64″ x 64″. This blanket is also available in crib-size.
Buffalo Creation Story
Buffalo are not typically associated with Navajo culture. So when contemporary Navajo artist Andrew Hobson discovered a story of how the buffalo evolved in Navajo creation stories, he was fascinated. Hobson’s original painting of the Buffalo-Who-Never-Dies of the White Buffalo Tribe inspired this Pendleton blanket. In the tale, Buffalo became angry with Holy Man for having two buffalo women as his wives. Holy Man killed the angry buffalo with magic arrows and wands. But to his dismay, all the buffalos began to die. Then sad, Holy Man brought the buffalo back to life and showed him how to revive all the other buffalo. The central figure shows the angry buffalo fractured in pieces to symbolize his death and journey back to life. Four buffalo tribes are shown inside protective medicine hoops, and the four sacred mountain ranges of the Navajo surround the central buffalo. The artist frames the work in the abstract rainbow symbolizing his personal Yeii, or protective deity. This blanket is part of the Pendleton Legendary Series.