Friday, December 30, 2016

Hummingbird Dancer

Today's mail bring a nice card featuring a Tocha or Hummingbird Kachina dancer, performing during the bean dance. This dance is held in Pueblo communities in February and starts the ritual cycle associated with Kachinas, spiritual beings who spend their winters in the mountains and bring prosperity to Native peoples. This image was painted by Cliff Bahnimptewa (1937-1984), a Hopi artist who painted many Kachina figures, and is attributed to the Heard Museum located in Flagstaff, AZ (1973).

It carries postal markings on both the image and text sides.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Cheyenne Ledger Art

A new art style developed among Plains native peoples during the late 1800s. Pictorial art, made with colored pencils on lined paper often used by merchants, related personal deeds as well as community events. As a result of the Red River War, members of the Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne tribes were sent to prison in Florida where locals helped the men develop new skills, including art, that could be sold.

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in OK City offers a postcard of a Buffalo Hunt drawn by Bear's Heart (Southern Cheyenne), produced sometime in the mid 1870s, probably while he was incarcerated at Ft. Marion, Florida. More of his work can be found in Bear's Heart: Scenes from the Life of a Cheyenne Artist of One Hundred Years Ago with Pictures by Himself (1977).

Additional examples of Plains ledger art have been collected and are made available at:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Lakota Purse

My Native/Indigenous subject cards are a nice mix of tourism souvenirs, historical photos, and museum objects. Museums occasionally print photos of objects in their collections, producing postcards for sale in their gift shops...(a project I plan to explore in the future considers the role that gift shop items play in extending knowledge about cultures to the public).

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City has many wonderful objects in their collection, including this beaded Lakota purse made in 1905.

Beadwork increased during the reservation period (1880-1920)...women made beautiful objects as gifts, for ceremonial purposes, and for everyday use as well as sale or trade at local stores. Items also circulated among tribes, given or exchanged in friendship and new marriages. Increasingly, women beaded objects associated with EuroAmerican culture including pillows, tablecloths, purses, watch fobs, hats, and umbrellas. Few artists make these types of objects today, but occasionally one can find them in fine art galleries.

Friday, December 2, 2016


A Postcrosser in Chile saw my comment in a forum about collecting Indigenous subjects cards and offered to send one from South America!

She kindly mailed this card; the text reads:
Pueblo Slek'nam (Onas). Tanu, pot-bellied and gentle, happy and inoffensive. Costume that forms part of the Hain adolescent initiation ceremony, pertaining to the Slek'nam peoples (Onas).

 but in her message she noted that the people were hunted and exterminated in Tierra del Fuego, with the government paying a bounty for proof of death. The majority of the group declined but a small number of tribal members and mixed-heritage individuals remain in scattered areas of Argentina.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Oversize cards

Over the years I have picked up a small number of large format cards (approx 5.5 x 8.5"), often called jumbo. I am unsure of the history of this style but they seem to appear in the 1960s. Most of the ones that I have found are from the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina, so perhaps they were a tourist souvenir rather than a mailing option. Printing of this large format has continued and is used today for marketing purposes.

A colleague at my University recently gave me 2 more, including this map card. Its too detailed for a smaller format so the larger size seems more appropriate. It lists more tribes than most map cards and includes many who either did not survive contact or who merged into other social alliances. It has nice information but I wonder how much the average tourist consumer really appreciated the details...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Navajo advertising weaving

The second trade brings another flag card, this one a Navajo weaving made to advertise a local car dealership. The textile was included in an interesting article "An American Birthday Card: Old Glory in Folk Art" published in Folk Art, summer 2001, pp. 54-60.
Curiously the weaver gave her flag 64 stars!

and as usual, the postal machines made this card's travel from Boston a bit rough!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Bandolier Bags

Fall has come to the Great Lakes with cooler temps, rain, early sunsets, and colorful trees. It also brings a wonderful new card obtained in exchange: a Winnebago beaded bandolier bag. The Winnebago, or Ho-Chunk, are a Great Lakes tribe traditionally residing in Wisconsin and Illinois where they were met by French explorers, traders, and priests in the 1600s. Like other Indigenous peoples in the region they were impacted by epidemics, trade conflicts and the arrival of American settlers. A portion of the community was removed to Nebraska in the mid 1800s.

Bandolier bags are an eastern Native art form. They are large pouches made from cloth that hung from the shoulders, decorated with porcupine quills or beads. They are a ceremonial clothing item, worn by men and given as gifts for important occasions. Great Lakes museums have a large number of examples available to view.

US flag motifs appear in Native artwork in the 1800s and 1900s as discussed in Herbst & Kopp's excellent reference book The Flag in American Indian Art, University of Washington Press (1993) which focuses primarily on Lakota examples. Perhaps this bag was made to honor someone's military service or possibly to be sold.

Card text identifies the bag as late 19th century.
It was sold by Skinner in 2011 for $5925

the postcard features a few road scars from its journey...