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...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Vore Buffalo Jump

An archaeologist friend recently sent me these great cards of a hunting site in Wyoming!

Card text indicates it was a sinkhole used as a bison trap, 1550-1800AD. Bison herds would be driven over the cliff and killed by the fall or hunters below. This was a common hunting method before horses became more available. The site is open to visitors during the summer and is an active archaeological dig, revealing bones and artifacts. For more info see

Newberry Library, Chicago

I was on Chicago's north side last weekend so I stopped into the bookshop at the Newberry. They have a variety of postcards, including a few with Native American images from items held in their own art collection and paper archives.

Seth Eastman "Hunting Buffalo in Winter" (1853)
Eastman was a soldier at Minnesota's Fort Snelling in the 1840s and became familiar with Dakota people. He married a Dakota woman and had a son Charles, who later wrote a book about his own life.

Karl Bodmer "Warrior" (1833)
Bodmer was a Swiss artist who came to the US to paint during a hunting trip. This is a portrait of Mehkskehme-Sukahs (Iron Shirt), a member of the Piegan Blackfeet. Their territory included parts of Montana and Alberta Canada.

Man Carrying Firewood, Blackfeet Reservation (undated)
I don't understand the joke of this photo but apparently the woman wants her child. Why is the man carrying firewood when this is a woman's task and why is he wearing a feather bonnet during a non-ceremonial activity? The photo appears to have been taken at a school or agency office. A confusing postcard!

 Cortes' map of the Aztec capitol Tenochtitlan (1524)
The Spanish were impressed when they saw the large bustling city located on an island in a lake, linked to the shore by stone causeways. But they later sacked the city and pulled down the temples. Most of the lake was drained & filled in.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Another great card arrived from Canada! This one features a contemporary wood carving made by Terry Star, entitled "Eagle with Frogs" (1992). Wood, paint and cedar. The artist is a member of the Tsimshian eagle clan and received training at the Royal British Columbia Museum, a prestigious learning site for carvers!