Page:The American Indian.djvu/142

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98
THE AMERICAN INDIAN

many basket makers of California. Its strongest development is in the Southwest which is, perhaps, the center of its northern dispersion. Among the Navajo we note that because of their sacred character the true symbols are not used in blankets, and in the Plains we further note that the conventional and æsthetic relations are practically never modified to meet the demands of interpretation; it is always the latter that is sacrificed. All this indicates that we are dealing with decoration primarily, upon which is occasionally grafted some symbolism. The facts are that practically all of the religious art of the

The American Indian Fig 49.jpg

Fig. 49. True Symbols. The first represents the clouds, or "cloud terrace" of the Pueblo Indians; the second, the swastika, or "whirling logs" of the Navajo

New World is highly realistic and, therefore, stands apart from the art of ordinary decoration.

In conclusion, we may recall our initial question: Is the pattern name at its inception symbolic, or even representative? We can safely say that in most cases it was certainly neither. The suggestion is that symbolic art is primarily realistic, and that many true symbols may be explained as derived from pictures; but true symbols are relatively rare in the geometric designs we have studied and we have consequently no good reason for assuming that many of these as a class were once realistic. In short, the problem is an historical one. We have seen that geometric art is sometimes under pressure from realistic art and perhaps is always so. Hence, the feeling that its designs should be representative may universally arise and so account for all these design interpretations as secondary phenomena.