Pendleton started weaving the ‘trade blankets’ for the Native Americans sometime in the mid to late 1800s.
Its operations were spearheaded by Joe Rawnsley, who lived with different tribes in the southwest.
His original blanket designs were well-received by the Nez Perce, after which he started searching for more designs that the Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo would like based on their pre-existing designs found in weavings, regalia, and pottery.
The patterns that emerged from Rawnsley’shard work are seen today as a combination of Native-made and “Native-inspired” designs.
Both types of patterns are widely claimed and adorned by Native American communities.
When the Europeans came to America and traded with the Native people, wool blankets were valued greatly. The brighter the wool, the more value it had.
The Pendleton Blanket began at a woolen mill in Pendleton, Oregon. The mill’s core focus was producing eye-catching blankets with genuine Native American designs for the Walla Walla, Cayuse, and Umatilla tribes in the Northeast.
The popularity of the blankets spread like wildfire to other local white settlers and tribes, after which tourists visiting the area also bought weavings as souvenirs.