Page:The American Indian.djvu/141

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97
SYMBOLISM

ulation of "butterfly" designs gives the same kind of result. The converse of this experiment is to take a single design and tabulate its names. Thus, the Pomo "quail tip" design is found elsewhere under the names bushes, pine cones, mountains, squirrel foot, and foot. This suggests that we must allow for the borrowing of both designs and names independently, or at least for the former.

Now while this is very good argument against the wide application of the design name theory of origin, it does not by any means prove that in the beginning the decorator did not copy from nature, for subsequent and repeated borrowing would completely disassociate the names. On the other hand, the steady growth of this art would produce a conventional naming system of whose existence we have good evidence in the published studies. Also, the acquisition of textile decoration requires the comprehension of simple steps, or elements, before mastery can be acquired over complexes. It is inconceivable that decorative art began with the most complicated designs and developed into the simplest; and although it sometimes happens that designs do degenerate to mere dots and bars, yet there is no reason for believing that the whole of decorative design was evolved in this way.

Unfortunately, we lack similar studies for pottery decorations, but the objective analysis of certain local types by Fewkes[1] gives us ground for suspecting an analogous relation of names and designs. It is clear, however, that in pottery decoration we have different technical conditions; yet, one must assume that beginners would start with very simple forms, as in textiles.

However, in the art of most peoples we find a few designs that rise to the level of true symbols. Among the best known New World symbols are the cloud terraces of the Pueblo peoples and the "whirling logs" or swastika[2] of the Navajo. The list is, however, very short, but in addition we find many degrees of symbolic association as among the Arapaho, where current designs were often chosen by an individual to stand for some personal interests peculiar to himself. Again, not a single case of real symbolism has so far been reported for the

  1. Fewkes, 1914. I.
  2. Wilson, Thomas, 1896. I.; Matthews, 1902. I.