Posts Tagged ‘Atsina warriors

27
Jul
18

Photographs: Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) ‘The North American Indian’ List of Large Plates Supplementing Volume V

July 2018

Published in: The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5

 

On the one hand, it is a privilege to post the complete large plates supplementing Volume Five of Edward S. Curtis’ The North American Indian, together with the complimentary biographical sketches of the subject as they appear in the volume, and supplementary research that I undertook into Native American customs and dress. There is no doubt that these are beautiful and atmospheric photographs of a supposedly “Vanishing Race”.

From a technical point of view we can observe the close cropping, the contextless backgrounds of the portraits, the low depth of field, the beautiful light, the direct gaze of the sitter, and the profile view; and in the exterior shots, the balance between sky and earth, how the horizon line moves up and down, how Curtis often looks up at his subject, and how he crops the negative to obtain different effects (Arikara Medicine Ceremony – The Ducks; Arikara chief).

On the other hand, these photographs can only be viewed as “constructions”, flights of fancy, imagined by Curtis to depict and capture traditional culture, a way of life that had almost disappeared by the time he took these photographs.

Talking to Executive Director Shannon Keller O’Loughlin (Choctaw) of the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) he observed that,

There is no one person who can give you one opinion about the Curtis photographs – there is definitely a variety of opinion in Indian Country about them both good and bad. If you find someone in Indian Country that says there is only one way to look at the Curtis photographs, then you have the wrong person!

Personally, I understand those pictures were posed to capture what Curtis and others thought were the vanishing Indian. They do not necessarily represent reality, but a posed amalgamation of pieces of Tribal life and existence at that time. So, like so many cultural items and ancestors that have been stolen and put in museums and in private collections, American society viewed the Indian in that manner too.

Those photos are not who we are but what someone has posed as the story they (Curtis) wanted to tell. On the other hand, they show us today some things that we may no longer have access to and give us a window into eyes of real human beings who were in the process of losing the lives they had known for centuries.” (Email to the author, 1 June 2018)

.
I thank Shannon very much for his insightful words. His powerful, evocative statement has just as much relevance here in Australia as in America: for these photographs picture ghosts from the past, made manifest as real human beings in the present, together with their commensurate strength and suffering. They give us a window into eyes of real human beings who were in the process of losing the lives they had known for centuries.

Colonisation, and all that it entails – here in Australia, invasion, massacres, religious conversion, Stolen Generation – is so appalling. These “staged” photographs of a “vanishing race” – again, the same photographs taken here in Australia – show the contempt of the invader for centuries of life, culture and tradition even as they document their “existence.” Culture just becomes a circus, a spectacle to be captured, owned and destroyed.

The effects of colonisation are ever present and continuing. The hurt is ongoing.

Marcus

 

These digitally cleaned photographs are published under “fair use” for the purposes of academic research and critical commentary. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Edward S. Curtis. 'The North American Indian': List of Large Plates Supplementing Volume Five

 

The North American Indian: List of Large Plates Supplementing Volume Five

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Yellow Owl - Mandan' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Yellow Owl – Mandan
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 148

 

 

A face approaching the type of pure Mandan. The neck ornament consists of beads and cylindrical bones, and from the eagle-feather war-bonnet hang numerous weasel-tails.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Spotted Bull - Mandan' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Spotted Bull – Mandan
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 149

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) '[Bear's Belly, Arikara Indian half-length portrait, facing front, wearing bearskin]' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Bear’s Belly, Arikara Indian half-length portrait, facing front, wearing bearskin
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 150

 

 

A member of the medicine fraternity, wrapped in his sacred bearskin.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Four Horns - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Four Horns – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 151

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject appears in Volume V, page 179 (below)

Born in 1847 near Fort Berthold. At the age of fourteen he accompanied a war-party against the Sioux. Two years later he enlisted as scout at Fort Buford; he served served also at Fort Phil. Kearny, where in a skirmish with Sioux he had a horse shot under him. Returning that summer to the village at Fort Berthold he led a party in pursuit of some Chippewa who had murdered a Hidatsa, and succeeded in killing two of them. Twice he joined in successful pursuit of Sioux horse-raiders. He fasted several times. On the third morning of his first fast three horse-skulls and a buffalo-skull were fastened with rawhide ropes to the muscles of his back. He dragged them a mile to the Hidatsa village, encircled it, and returned to the starting-point, but no vision was experienced. The following summer the Sun Dance was observed, and his father, determined that Four Horns should receive a vision, took him to the burial-ground and fastened him to a post by slits through his back-muscles. From sunset to sunrise he walked around the post, constantly puling on the rope. The next year his father led him to the same place and had another man tie four horse-skulls and a buffalo-skull to his back, and these he dragged some three miles; but the task occupied fully six hours, as the skulls became entangled in the roots of a stump and he had to free them without using his hands. During the Sun Dance of the succeeding year he was fastened, again by his father, to a resilient ash pole, which, springing back when he pulled on the ropes, greatly increased the torture. Thus he remained from mid-afternoon until well after sunset – about six hours – but no vision was vouchsafed him. Four Horns married at the age of fifteen, being eligible by reason of his experience in war gained during the previous year. Portrait, folio plate 151.

 

Vision Quests

Numerous Native American practiced the rite of Vision Quests, which was often taken by older children before puberty to “find themselves” and their life’s direction. How the rite was taken, its length and intensity, and at what age varied greatly from tribe to tribe. In most cases the vision quest was a “supernatural” experience in which the individual seeks to interact with a guardian spirit, usually an animal, to obtain advice or protection.

Much preparation was often taken before the vision quest was undertaken in order to determine the sincerity and commitment of the person. Sometimes the quest required the individual to go alone into the wilderness for several days, in order to become attuned to the spirit world.

Other tribes required the individual to take a long walk, or were confined to a small room. Often the individual was required to fast prior to the quest, and was not allowed to sleep. During this period of sensory deprivation, the individual was to search for a a guardian spirit’s presence or a sign that would be given to them. Once the presence or sign was “seen,” and the individual had realized his/her direction in life, they would return to the tribe to pursue their life’s journey.

Kathy Weiser. “Native American Rituals and Ceremonies,” on the Legends of America website [Online] Cited 31/05/2018

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'White Shield - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
White Shield – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 152

 

 

A mixed-blood member of the medicine fraternity.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Sitting Bear - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Sitting Bear – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 153

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject will be found in Volume V, page 180 (below)

Born in 1844 on the west side of the Missouri, opposite present Washburn, North Dakota. He was eighteen years of age before making his first trial at war, and even then he took no part in the actual conflict with the Assiniboin whom his party encountered. The following year he engaged in the fight when a hunting party near the Fort Berthold village was surrounded by Sioux, and he even acquired some distinction by being first to strike one of the horses of the enemy. In all the was participant in twelve battles, himself being the leader six times, but only twice did he conduct his warriors into the enemy’s country. On the other occasions the encounters were brought on by Sioux attacking the village. The first expedition of which he was chief was made down the Missouri in bull-boats. After travelling for nine night, concealing themselves by day, they killed a woman that came to the river for water, and then made their escape after a minor engagement with the men of the hostile camp. Sitting Bear was the leader of the Arikara in a combined party of Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara into the Sioux country. A camp was raided and Sitting bear captured five horses. The retreat to Fort Berthold consumed six days. Sitting Bear conted a first coup in a fight near Fort Berthold being the first Arikara to strike one of the enemy, although a Hidatsa had already counted coup on him. He married at nineteen, and like his father and grandfather he became the tribal chief. Portrait, folio plate 153.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Bear's Teeth - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Bear’s Teeth – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 154

 

 

A member of the Night order of the medicine fraternity.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Little Sioux - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Little Sioux – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 155

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Bull Neck - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Bull Neck – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 156

 

 

A member of the Buffalo order of the medicine fraternity. Bull Neck is portrayed wearing his head-dress of buffalo horns and hide. A biographical sketch is given in Volume V, page 178 (below)

Born in 1836. His first experience in war was gained at the age of sixteen, when with a party of six others he floated down the Missouri into what is now South Dakota. They succeeded in running off some horses from a Sioux encampment, and Bull Neck, the youngest of the seven, was charged with the duty of driving them home, while the others retuned afoot on the other side of the river. His second war experience came while on another expedition down the Missouri. Four Sioux horses were captured, and three of the party turned back with the spoils; but the remaining four, of whom Bull Neck was one, went on southward into a region of heavy timber, where more Sioux horses were taken. On another down-river raid, about twenty-five Arikara, camping one night among the trees, heard the neighing of a horse. They prepared to fight, believing the Sioux were upon them. Bull Neck went out to make a reconnoissance and found a stray horse. The party proceeded on its way and came to a camp of wood-cutters providing fuel for the river steamboats. One of the white men, speaking in Arikara, told them of a nearby camp of Sioux, and the war-party, having found the enemy, made an attack. One Sioux and two Arikara were killed. Bull Neck participated in numerous encounters with the same enemy, some of them being engagements of his own seeking, others the result of attacks upon the Fort Berthold village. He counted a first coup in a winter campaign. Bull Neck was a Buffalo medicine-man in the medicine fraternity. Portrait, folio plate 156.

 

Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is in the upper-left corner on this map.

 

 

Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is in the upper-left corner on this map.

The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is a U.S. Indian reservation in western North Dakota that is home for the federally recognized Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes. The reservation includes lands on both sides of the Missouri River.

Created in 1870, the reservation is a small part of the lands originally reserved to the tribes by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, which allocated nearly 12 million acres (49,000 km²) in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming.

The population of the reservation was 6,341 as of the 2010 census. The Tribe reported a total enrolment of 15,013 registered tribe members in March 2016. Many members live in cities because there are more job opportunities. Unemployment on the reservation was at 42%. The 2000 census reported a reservation population of 5,915 persons living on a land area of 1,318.895 sq mi (3,415.923 km²). (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara medicine fraternity' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara medicine fraternity
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 157

 

 

In this group are shown the principal participants in the reenactment of the Arikara medicine ceremony, which was given for the author’s observation and study in July, 1908.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara medicine ceremony - Dance of the fraternity' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara medicine ceremony – Dance of the fraternity
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 158

 

 

After each order has performed its dance about the sacred cedar, the entire fraternity, group by group, emerges from the lodge and dances.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Announcement - Arikara' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Announcement – Arikara
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 159

 

 

Among the Missouri River Indians of the earthen lodges – the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara – the chiefs and priests made their announcements from the housetops. This picture is of Bear’s Teeth standing on the roof of the ceremonial lodge in which occurred the medicine ceremony described in Volume V, pages 70-76.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'The rush gatherer' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
The rush gatherer
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 160

 

 

The Arikaras, as well as their close neighbours, the Mandan and Hidatsa, made many mats of rushes. These were used largely as floor coverings.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) '[Arikara medicine ceremony - the Bears]' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
[Arikara medicine ceremony – the Bears]
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 161

 

 

After dancing around the sacred cedar, the members of the Bear order halt and complete their songs before reentering the medicine-lodge.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara medicine ceremony - Dance of the black-tail deer' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara medicine ceremony – Dance of the black-tail deer
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 162

 

 

The two dark figures are painted in a manner suggesting the elk, the others the antelope.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara Medicine Ceremony - The Ducks' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara Medicine Ceremony – The Ducks
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 163

 

 

Three members of the medicine fraternity, painted to represent ducks and holding the rushes among which waterfowl rest, in their dance around the sacred cedar.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara Medicine Ceremony - The Ducks' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara Medicine Ceremony – The Ducks
c. 1908
LC-DIG-ppmsca-39866
Library of Congress

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara medicine fraternity - The prayer' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara medicine fraternity – The prayer
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 164

 

 

Photograph shows Arikara shamans, without shirts, backs to camera, seated in a semi-circle around a sacred cedar tree, tipis in background. This impressive picture from the Arikara medicine ceremony shows the priests in a semi-circle about the sacred cedar.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara girl' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara girl
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 165

 

 

A type produced by several generations of tribal and racial intermarriage. The subject is considered by her tribesmen to be a pure Arikara, but her features point unmistakably to a white ancestor, and there is little doubt that the blood of other tribes than the one which claims her flows in her veins.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara chief' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara chief
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 166

 

 

The tribal chief, Sitting Bear, is portrayed in full costume of scalp-shirt, leggings, and moccasins, all of deerskin, and eagle-feather war-bonnet and coup-stick. (Curtis)

Photograph shows Sitting Bear, an Arikara chief, in full regalia, with a medallion around his neck. The medallion appears to bear the image of Millard Fillmore and the words: … President of the United States, 1851(?).

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Arikara chief' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Arikara chief
c. 1908
LC-USZ62-136605 (b&w film copy neg.)
Library of Congress

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'No Bear - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
No Bear – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 167

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject is given in Volume V, page 182 (below)

Born in 1841 near the mouth of Marias river. He counted a third coup when, at the age of fifteen, he first accompanied a war-party. On another raid a solitary Indian was seen. The Atsina charged, and no Bear was the first to reach him. The enemy fired but missed, and No Bear then shot him tomahawked him, took his scalp, medicine bundle, and gun, and counted coup before the rest of the warriors reached the spot. On another occasion, while fighting some Cree who were in the timber, No Bear ran up to one who was pointing an arrow at him and counted first coup. Later another charged him, but he rushed to meet the Cree, who fired and missed, and No Bear then attacked him with his tomahawk, missing the first time, but burying the blade in his opponent’s skull at the next stroke. No Bear tomahawked an enemy during a fight with the Bloods, and counted a second coup. He was in the battle in which the twenty-one Piegan were killed (page 109), and captured a bow and a quiver. In another battle he went back and rescued an unhorsed friend. He married at the age of thirty. Portrait, folio plate 167.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Eagle Child - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Eagle Child – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 168

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject will be found in Volume V, page 181 (below)

Born in 1862 east of the Little Rockies. He first followed the war-path when twenty years of age, but gained no honours on this occasion. His next experience was in an expedition against the Piegan. Three of the enemy charged a small party of the Atsina, and one, singling him out, came so close that when the Piegan shot, the powder burned Eagle Child. Another Atsina shot the Piegan, and Eagle Child counted second coup and took the scalp. Portrait, folio plate 168.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'The land of the Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
The land of the Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 169

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Horse Capture - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Horse Capture – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 170

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject will be found in Volume V, page 182 (below)

Born near Milk river in 1858. When about fifteen years of age he went with a war-party against the Piegan, but achieved no honor. From their camp at Beaver creek the Atsina sent out a war-party which came upon two Sioux. Remaining hidden in a coulée, the warriors sent an old man out as a decoy. When the Sioux charged him, the rest of the Atsina rushed out and killed them both. During the fight, Horse Capture ran up to one of the enemy, who was wounded, in order to count coup, when one of his companions dashed in ahead of him and was killed by the wounded Sioux. Horse Capture then counted first coup on the enemy and killed him. He married at the age of twenty-five. Portrait, folio plate 170.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Assiniboin Boy - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Assiniboin Boy – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 171

 

 

The head-band, so commonly used by many tribes of the Southwest, notably the Apache and Navaho, is often worn in the Northwest. A biographical sketch of Assiniboin Boy appears in Volume V, page 180 (below)

Born in 1861 in western Montana. He first went on the war-path at the age of eighteen, but gained no honors. During a fight against the Piegan he counted a second coup. He participated in the battle in which the twenty-one Piegan were killed (page 109), and slew one in the pits with the knife of the enemy. On another expedition he killed two horses of the Piegan, and shot a man through both legs. He married at the age of twenty-two. Portrait, folio plate 171.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Atsina chiefs' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Atsina chiefs
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 172

 

 

Two Atsina chiefs on horseback, one with feathered staff and one with a coup stick.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'On the war path - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
On the war path – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 173

 

 

These grim-visaged old warriors made a thrilling picture as they rode along, breaking out now and then into a wild song of the chase or the raid. (Curtis)

Small band of Atsina men on horseback, some carrying staffs with feathers, one wearing a war bonnet.

 

War bonnet

War bonnets (also called warbonnets or headdresses) are feathered headgear traditionally worn by male leaders of the American Plains Indians Nations who have earned a place of great respect in their tribe. Originally they were sometimes worn into battle, but they are now primarily used for ceremonial occasions. They are seen as items of great spiritual and political importance, only to be worn by those who have earned the right and honour through formal recognition by their people.

Native American tribes consider the presentation of an eagle feather to be one of their highest marks of respect. Any honored person must have earned their feather through selfless acts of courage and honour, or been gifted them in gratitude for their work or service to their tribe. Traditional deeds that brought honour would include acts of valor in battle, but also political and diplomatic gains or acts that helped their community survive and prosper. The esteem attached to eagle feathers was so high that in many cases, such as a warrior (e.g. Dog Soldiers of the Cheyenne), only two or three honour feathers might be awarded in their whole lifetime. Historically, the warrior who was the first to touch an enemy in battle and escape unscathed received an eagle feather. When enough feathers were collected, they might be incorporated into a headdress or some other form of worn regalia. Headdresses were usually reserved exclusively for the tribe’s chosen political and spiritual leaders. …

Plains-style bonnets

Plains Indians normally use eagle feathers as the most significant part of the bonnet to represent honor and respect. Some Plains-style bonnet forms are the “horned” bonnet, “flaring” eagle feather bonnet, and the “fluttering feather” bonnet. The “horned” bonnet can consist of a buckskin skull cap, shaved bison or cow horns, and dyed horsehair with bunches of owl feathers beneath the skull cap. The “flaring” eagle feather bonnet is often made of golden eagle tail feathers connected to a buckskin or felt crown. There are slits at the base of the crown that allow the bonnet to have a “flaring” look. An unusual form of bonnet that is no longer used would be the “fluttering feather” bonnet. This can have golden eagle, hawk, and owl feathers loosely attached to a felt or buckskin cap to make it hang at the sides.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown maker (Native American) 'Feather headdress from 'Wolf Chief', Hidatsa' c. 1830

 

Unknown maker (Native American)
Feather headdress from ‘Wolf Chief’, Hidatsa
c. 1830
Red-dyed eagle feathers
Ethnological Museum, Berlin
Copyright free image

 

Unknown maker (Native American) 'War bonnet, Plains Indian style' c. 1900

 

Unknown maker (Native American)
War bonnet, Plains Indian style
c. 1900
Eagle feathers
Robbins Museum – Middleborough, Massachusetts
Copyright free image

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) '[Atsina Indian, Red Whip, half-length portrait, seated, facing front, wearing feather, beaded buckskin shirt, holding pipe in left hand]' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Atsina Indian, Red Whip, half-length portrait, seated, facing front, wearing feather, beaded buckskin shirt, holding pipe in left hand
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 174

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject is given in Volume V, page 183 (below)

Born in 1858 near Fort McGinnis, Montana. At the age of seventeen he went out on his first war expedition, going against the Sioux. The enemy was camped at Lodepole creek, and the Atsina attacked them at dawn, capturing several horses. Red Whip was in the lead of the charge and took a few of the animals single-handed. During a battle with the Piegan, he rushed in the enemy’s line and captured a gun, counting first coup on the owner. On another expedition the Atsina met a Sioux scout whom Red Whip charged and killed, then counted first coup and took his scalp. Later, the main body of the Sioux charged the Atsina; one singled out Red Whip and fired at him, but missed, and the young warrior shot him down. Red Whip was scouting on Tongue river with General Miles, when the Sioux charged a small body of soldiers, routing them. Red Whip says he stood firm and stopped the onrushing enemy until the troops escaped. His medicine, given to him by an uncle, is a strip of otter-fur. Portrait, folio plate 174.

 

Counting coup

Counting coup was the winning of prestige against an enemy by the Plains Indians of North America. Warriors won prestige by acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, which could be recorded in various ways and retold as stories. Any blow struck against the enemy counted as a coup, but the most prestigious acts included touching an enemy warrior with the hand, bow, or coup stick and escaping unharmed. Touching the first enemy to die in battle or touching the enemy’s defensive works also counted as coup. Counting coup could also involve stealing an enemy’s weapons or horses tied up to his lodge in camp. Risk of injury or death was required to count coup.

Escaping unharmed while counting coup was considered a higher honor than being wounded in the attempt. A warrior who won coup was permitted to wear an eagle feather in his hair. If he had been wounded in the attempt, however, he was required to paint the feather red to indicate this.

After a battle or exploit, the people of a tribe would gather together to recount their acts of bravery and “count coup.” Coups were recorded by putting notches in a coup stick. Indians of the Pacific Northwest would tie an eagle feather to their coup stick for each coup counted, but many tribes did not do so. Among the Blackfoot tribe of the upper Missouri River Valley, coup could be recorded by the placement of “coup bars” on the sleeves and shoulders of special shirts that bore paintings of the warrior’s exploits in battle.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Atsina Camp' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Atsina Camp
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 175

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'The scout - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
The scout – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 176

 

 

The scouts of many tribes, among which were the Atsina, carried a wolf-skin which they used in waving signals to their chief. That which is apparently hair-ornamentation, standing high above the head of the subject, is in reality coarse stalks of grass, indicating that the wearer is a scout. The origin of the custom was in the practice of scouts to wear on their head thick masses of grass, which enabled them to peer over hilltops without being discovered by the enemy.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Head Dress - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Head Dress – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 177

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject appears in Volume V, page 181 (below)

Born about 1855, near Marias river, Montana. He first took the war-path when twenty years of age, going against the Assiniboin. One woman was killed by his party, but Head-dress gained no honors. A war-party composed of a few Atsina, Apsaroke, and Assiniboin, went westward and found a Flathead camp, which they charged killing one man; Head-dress was with them, but accomplished nothing. While he and another were scouting in the Piegan country, they found two of the enemy, who took refuge behind a bank. The two Atsina charged and captured both, counting coups on them. While hunting buffalo, the Atsina met a party of Sioux with a band of stolen horses, and, charging them, forced them to abandon their booty. Head-dress captured two horses himself, each with a saddle. He counted a first coup against the Piegan, and while fighting the Sioux he and another struck first coup at the same time. Head-dress has had no visions, nor has he ever fasted, but has the medicine of an eagle down-feather, which was given to him. He married at the age of thirty. Portrait, folio plate 177.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'War party's farewell - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
War party’s farewell – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 178

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Atsina warriors' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Atsina warriors
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 179

 

 

Several Atsina warriors on horseback some with feathered staffs and one with a headdress.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Lone Flag - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Lone Flag – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 180

 

 

An eagle-wing fan is held in the hand. A biographical sketch of this subject will be found in Volume V, page 182 (below)

Born in 1854 in northwest Montana. His first experience in war was gained in the great battle with the Piegan (page 109), on which occasion he killed one and captured his medicine bundle. In an engagement with the Sioux near what is now St. Paul’s Mission, in the Little Rockies, he saved a comrade in the thick of the fight. Lone Flag married at the age of thirty-four. Portrait, folio plate 180.

 

Little Rocky Mountains

The Little Rocky Mountains, also known as the Little Rockies, are a group of buttes, roughly 765 km2 in area, located towards the southern end of the Fort Belknap Agency in Blaine County and Phillips County in north-central Montana. Their highest summit is Antoine Butte ~5720 ft (1743 m). The nearest town is Dodson, Montana.

“Many Indian people believe that spirits dwell in north central Montana’s “island” mountains”: the Sweet Grass hills and the Bears Paw and Little Rocky ranges. Their rugged peaks, clustered like tepees in a camp, offer access to the supernatural and provide a nesting place for eagles, the messengers of the spirits who lived there. Generations of Blackfeet, Gros Ventre [the older name for Hidatsas], Assiniboine, and Chippewa-Cree have used these isolated areas for fasting, prayer and vision questing. Here are the precious gifts of water, plants, animals, and solitude from the Great Spirit. Stories describing the supernatural powers of the Little Rocky Mountains abound. One such story, handed down in many variations, tells of a terrible water-monster called Bax’aa that inhabited the spring on Eagle Child Mountain, frightening or even slaying some who attempted to fast there. Another well known site at the western end of the Little Rockies is a battleground remembered among northern Montana tribes for its spiritual significance. The great Gros Ventre warrior Red Whip won victory there over the Sioux against incredible odds. His success is attributed to a powerful war charm and a vision that foretold the battle.”

‘Little Rocky Mountains’ video on YouTube website

 

Little Rocky Mountains

Little Rocky Mountains

Little Rocky Mountains

Little Rocky Mountains

 

 

Medicine bundle

A Native American medicine bag or medicine bundle is a container for items believed to protect or give spiritual powers to its owner. Varying in size, it could be small enough to wear around the neck or it could be a large bag with a long strap called a “bandolier.” The size of the bag is determined by how many items need to be carried.

In historic times, medicine men and shamans generally carried a large medicine bundle that could hold numerous items such as seeds, herbs, pine cones, grass, animal teeth or claws, horse hair, rocks, tobacco, beads, arrowheads, bones, or anything else of relatively small size that possessed spiritual value to the bundle’s owner. Warriors also carried bundles that included items that were important to him such as rattles, animal furs, special stones, or anything that meant something to the owner.

Because the medicine bag is considered a very precious possession which represents a person’s spiritual life, it and its contents are generally considered holy by the tribal community and its contents are meant to be kept secret by the owner. The bundle should never touch the ground which is why the bundles are to be securely wrapped. Prayers and rituals usually accompany the manufacture and opening of medicine bundles. …

In many cultures some of the items that would be carried in the bag would often be procured through a vision quest, a right of passage that includes personal sacrifice such as fasting and prayer over several days in an isolated location. The purpose is to make contact with natural spiritual forces that will guide the individual in reaching his or her potential and increase his or her understanding of him/herself, community, and the world. During the vision quest a guardian spirit will generally come to the individual in a dream or a vision, which is afterwards interpreted with the help of a Shaman. Some items within the individual’s medicine bag would represent their guardian spirit.

Kathy Weiser. “Medicine Bags or Bundles,” on the Legends of America website [Online] Cited 31/05/2018 © Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June, 2017.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Awaiting the scouts return, Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Awaiting the scouts return, Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 181

 

 

The war-party sent scouts in advance, who kept a constant lookout for the enemy. From time to time they returned to the main party to report, and when they were sighted the warriors formed in line and chanted a song of welcome.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Scout's report - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Scout’s report – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 182

 

 

The Chief of the scouts, returning to the main party, tells in the vigorous and picturesque language so natural to the Indians what he has seen and experienced. While he speaks, the war-leader stands slightly in advance of his men, and carefully listening to the words of the scout, quickly forms his plan of action.

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) 'Otter Robe - Atsina' c. 1908

 

Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Otter Robe – Atsina
c. 1908
Photogravure on vellum
The North American Indian / Edward S. Curtis. [Seattle, Wash.] : Edward S. Curtis, 1907-30 suppl., v. 5, pl. 183

 

 

A biographical sketch of this subject is given in Volume V, page 182 (below)

Born in 1851 near Fort Benton. When sixteen years of age he joined a war-party against the Piegan, but on this first expedition he gained no honors. On another raid against the same people he counted a first coup. A party of Atsina, of which he was a member, camped one night near a war-party of Sioux, not knowing of their presence. At dawn the enemy charged, but were driven back, and during the skirmish he counted another first coup. A party of Piegan stole some horses; the Atsina followed, overtaking the enemy and forcing them to abandon their booty; during the fight he killed one Piegan. On another expedition against the same tribe Otter Robe killed one with the stock of his gun and counted a first coup. In another battle with the Piegan, he rushed in, pulled a warrior from his horse, and killed him with his knife. When a young man he fasted two days and two nights by a river, and had a vision in which a tree became transformed to a warrior who told him he was to obtain many honours. The faster was instructed to paint as was the spirit – yellow on the temples, with a streak of red across the forehead – and to wear a strip of otter-fur around his scalp-lock. Otter Robe married at the age of thirty. Portrait, folio plate 183.

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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