Monday, March 2, 2015

Spot The Controversy?

While driving around Puerto Peñasco last week with our friend Margie, she had us stop at an art gallery where she was having something framed. Turns out it was this ancient Navajo rug, where the artisan made her the frame of saguaro cactus ribs. She thought the use of the saguaro materials seemed appropriate. While the swastika became an emblem of Nazi evil during WWII, it has been a symbol of luck and well-being back to Neolithic times, at least 12,000 years throughout the world! It was also a common Native American motif, appearing commonly in weaving and jewelry.  To the Navajo it represents the whirling log, a sacred image used in healing rituals. In another blog post I found, it was a common symbol all around Arizona in Indian country, used in road signage, postcards, and public signs. This same link also mentions the symbol's whirling image denotes a rotating star field, and I've seen an astronomy text that denotes the crooked swastika arms to the crooked handle of the Big Dipper represented at different times (of course, I can't find the reference at the moment). When the U.S. entered the war in Europe, Native American tribes renounced the symbol and pledged not to use it in their artwork. As a result, Margie's rug would definitely be pre-WWII, likely '30s or earlier. So no, the whirling log design is NOT the controversial part here...

No, what she was afraid of, was that in bringing it back into the United States, it would be confiscated because it was constructed of saguaro - a protected species in the States. So the fact that it is made of restricted material is the issue.  In looking around the Interwebs, sure enough, live plants are strictly protected, and can't be moved or cut down without a permit. But it does not appear to be illegal to build a frame from saguaro ribs, though there are limits to collecting - according to an Arizona BLM website, ribs can be collected for personal use from a "down and dead" saguaro, but your annual allotment is what you can carry in one trip back to your car!

Last I heard was that she made it safely home, and didn't mention the rug, so assume it also made it safely to her U.S. residence just fine.

No comments: