Thursday, April 18, 2013

New book!

A new book has been published, available only in England so far, but I'm hoping it will be picked up by Amazon or some US distributor. Am anxious to get a copy...

Author: Richard Green
Foreword: Alan Hughes
Publisher: Spellicans Press, Oxford, UK
Date of publication: 2013
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Genre: Social Sciences / Indigenous peoples / North America / Media Studies / Photography / Postcards
Pagination: 208 pp
Dimensions: 180 mm x 180 mm
Weight: 360 gms
Illustrations: total of 232 vintage postcards illustrated
Colour (122) and black & white (110)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Canadian First Nations

I recently received two cards of Canadian native people/culture.
Colourful Regalia of the Past
The text, written in both French and English, reads "Standing in the familiar surroundings of a great Canadian forest, the Indian Chief proudly wears this traditional dress for a special tribal celebration."

Wolf by Beau Dick, Kwagiulth (2004)
"In ancient times our spirits were connected with the wolf. Wolf was my original ancestor from Kincome Inlet. His name was Kawa'di and he built the first house for my people."

Kwagiulth people have also been called the Kwakiutl and reside in British Columbia. The artist was born on Vancouver Island in 1955 and is best known for his carved wooden masks. His father and grandfather were also well known artists. He discusses his work on his Facebook page:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mayan sites in Mexico's Yucatan

This week's mail brings 2 cards showing Mayan archaeology sites in the Yucatan. Happily I have visited both so the cards bring back vacation memories!

Uxmal is an interesting site just south of the old colonial city of Merida. It has unusual buildings and like other northern cities did well in the Late Classic period (around 800-1100 AD) as the southern cities were declining. The rounded central feature is known as the Pyramid of the Magicians and the steps are indeed narrow & steep, but the view from the top is wonderful. Decorative elements on the other buildings are quite interesting too

Chichen Itza is fairly close to Uxmal and is much better known (and more heavily visited). It was a large city, influenced by the arrival of Toltec merchant warriors in the Late Classic and Post-Classic periods. The large pyramid honors the Feathered Serpent and has been nicely restored. An inside stairway (which is narrow and hot in an Indian Jones way) leads to a small chamber with a jaguar throne. My favorite feature at this large complex is the Temple of the Warriors where this photo was taken had an interesting series of stone columns which held a roof (something like an Egyptian hypo-style hall). British explorers Stephens & Catherwood photographed the site in the 1840s adding to its romance. The site also has a large ball court and a cenote, a naturally occurring limestone pool which was considered as a sacred gateway to the underworld. There is a lovely old colonial hotel nearby, used by archaeologists and travelers, and very comfortable especially on hot & humid days!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Chief Moses horse mask

This card is a bit of a was sent by a friend in Australia; is titled A group of Washington Indians in ceremonial dress and was printed in Idaho. Most likely the photo was taken in the 1950s. Sadly the card text provides no more information but the image itself is revealing: two of the horses are decorated in distinctive ways!
The front horse wears a red wool face mask with neck drape, while a rear one wears a blue bead breastcollar. Horse masks were used by many plains people and were originally crafted from buffalo hide; in the late 1800s wool and cotton were used, decorated with seed beads, ribbons, metal bells, small mirrors etc. These were also crafted by tribes of the Plateau including Salish, Nez Perce, Umatilla, and Cayuse; red wool seems to have been favored by the Cayuse & Umatilla. Breastcollars appear towards the late 1800s and were used for parades by Crow, Nez Perce and Cayuse among others.

This face mask belonged to Chief Moses (1829-1899), a member of the Sinkayuse who reside on the Colville Reservation in eastern Washington. The mask is blue & green painted buffalo hide (suggesting the power of storm clouds) decorated with brass bells, silk ribbons and feathers. The horse mask is topped with blue beaded "horns" made from dried buffalo tails. The hand prints on the red wool neck drape recalled hand to hand combat with a Blackfeet warrior that occurred sometime in the mid 1800s.
 The rider of this horse, possibly Chief Moses' nephew who inherited the horse mask, also wears Chief Moses ' eagle feather and ermine tail headdress with blue beaded "horns" that mirror the horse mask.

For more information on this interesting, but little known, aspect of native material culture please read Native American Horse Gear by E. Helene Sage (2012) and American Indian Horse Masks by Mike Cowdrey (2006) which contains an excellent discussion of Chief Moses' regalia.