The Pottery of the Navajo
Like other nomadic hunter-gatherers, pottery was not important in the Navajo culture beyond its production for utilitarian purposes. By the 1950's Navajo pottery was brown, rough, and shiny, an undecorated utility ware made by only a few families in the Shonto/Cow Springs area. Back then pieces were fillet-rim jars or pottery imitations of pieces normally made in metal, glass, or ceramic: perfectly serviceable frying pans, coffeepots, and the like. With the arrival of the trading posts, the Navajos were able to obtain better utensils made of metal and glass for their own consumption. Less obvious was the dampening effects of powerful tribal taboos and restrictions imposed on the potter by the traditionalists and medicine men. The potter was informed that she should not allow anyone to watch her at work, that she should not have bad thoughts about others, and that she should not make pottery if she were menstruating. The list was long and restrictive in nature with such warnings as: any pottery cracking or breakage was the consequence of her transgression; or that the errant potter may suffer illnesses or accidents. It is little wonder that domestic consumption declined tremendously. What appears to have preserved any pottery production at all was the increased demand for ceremonial pieces such as drum pots.