Elizabeth Diffendal, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Diffendal, Ph.D.
Tacoma, WA
Hudson bay blanket, Moving west, Native american ties

In the mid-1960s when I had finished college, I moved to Seattle to look for a job. At that time, artifacts from the Pacific Northwest fur trade and from other parts of the country were being bought and sold in shops along University Ave. as well as by traveling auctioneers who would come to town selling private collections of “Indian artifacts” for more than the Native artists and their families might ever imagine.

I bought this four-point Hudson’s Bay Blanket with my slim student resources on one of those little shops. At the time, I was excited about moving to the Pacific Northwest and was delighted to find a real Hudson’s Bay Blanket that looked as if it had been around for a very long time.

I don’t know if it was received in trade for beaver pelts, as was commonly done, then given as a gift in a longhouse or used by a settler against the cold winds in a northwest cabin, but I felt that I was “rescuing” something that had been loved by someone who had, clearly, used it often and even stitched a new binding along a tattered edge.


I never really intended to collect things that I don’t use, so was happy to discover this blanket while cleaning out a cedar chest where it has been stored for many years awaiting, it seems, this opportunity. Like so many other “artifacts” of other peoples’ lives, I don’t know the history of this blanket but the original use in the Northwest for a Hudson’s Bay Blanket, as a valued item of exchange, reminds me that giving and sharing adds positive energy to the world and to our future… far more than collecting and keeping more than one needs. I celebrate finding a meaningful purpose for this fine old blanket in an age where “reuse, regift, repurpose, recycle” is a worthy message for our children.