HAIDA CARVING TOTEM, , Reproduction Photograph
|Only the Haida (hy'-duh^) and a few nearby
tribes made totem poles. These tribes lived along the
Pacific Coast in the northwest part of America, where cedar
trees grew in abundance. The branches were removed and the
bark was scraped off before the carver began forming animal
shapes all over the pole. Each carving is called a totem.
Some totems tell the story of the origins of the tribe.
Others tell about ancestors. The carvings were painted using
pigments from soft minerals and earth. Totem poles have
always had special meaning to families. The Haida told
stories about how the totem animals helped people in the
family in the past. They believed their totem animals
protected them when there were in trouble.
HAIDA INDIAN POTLATCH ,, Kunstler, Mort, oil,
Collection of the Favell Museum, Klamath Falls, OR. Reproduction
|The artist presents here a picturesque and
dramatic scene from the Northwest Native American’s social
life. The “potlatch” ceremony, practiced throughout the
area, with its accompanying richly carved totem poles,
splendidly decorated canoes, and ostentatious insignia and
costumes of office and rank was elaborate as any at the
fabled Court of King Arthur. It must be understood that a
Native American who invites all his friends and neighbors to
a great potlatch, and apparently squanders all the
accumulated results of long years of labor, has two things
in his mind which we can not but acknowledge as wise and
worthy of praise. His first object is to pay his debts. This
is done publicly and with much ceremony, as a matter of
record. His second object is to invest the fruits of his
labor so that the greatest benefit will accrue from them for
his own benefit as well as for his children.
The recipients of gifts at this festival receive these as
loans, which they utilized in
their present undertakings. But after the lapse of several
years they must repay them
with interest to the giver or to his heir. Thus the potlatch
comes to be considered by
the Native Americans as a means of insuring the well-being
of their children if they
should be left orphans while still young; it is, we might
say, his life insurance.
SAND PAINTING, c. 1880, Navaho, Reproduction
|Sand paintings are not something of and for
themselves, but they are a part of a performance which
continues for a period varying from one to nine days
which is commonly referred to as a “Chant” or a “Sing.”
These words simply mean a combination of many ritualistic
acts carried out in a fixed order. They include preparation,
purification, performance with and disposal of, materials,
all carried out with the greatest of care. Herbal medicine
is gathered, used and disposed of. Prayer sticks, made of
reed, decorated with paints accompanied by their prescribed
feathers, are prayed over and carefully deposited at places
where the gods they invite to the ceremony will not fail to
see them. Each act is accompanied with song. A
dozen Native American artists worked eight hours to create
this colored sand painting for a Navaho disease-curing
ceremony in the 1880’s. The four stick figures represent the
guardians of the Navaho crops — corn, beans, tobacco,
pumpkins. Encircling most of the painting is the elongated
rainbow ~ whose empty hands was placed the medicine. After
the ceremony, the painting was destroyed.
HERDING OF THE SHEEP, , Navaho, Reproduction print.
|At some time after the arrival of the
Spaniards in the Southwest, the Navaho took to the raising
of sheep and became herders and stockmen. Their women
learned weaving and made the Navaho blanket world famous.
They also learned silversmithing and produced work of high
excellence, for which Pueblo importers came to trade,
bargaining in sign language.
PAINTED TEEPEES, , Navaho, Reproduction print.
|A teepee was the type of home most commonly
used by the Plains tribes, because of their nomadic
existence. A teepee was made by stretching a buffalo skin
covering over poles. The poles were arranged in the shape of
a cone. At the top, the ends of the poles crossed and stuck
out of the covering. Two flap “ears" were opened at the top
to let out smoke from the campfire. The tent was pegged to
the ground all around the bottom. The front had a slit
partly closed with wooden pins to form an entrance. The
“door” was strategically located for convenience of weather.
It was the woman’s work to set up and take down the teepee.
It took 14 buffalo hides for 1 teepee.
SHOT IN THE EYE, Ocala Sioux, Plains, Reproduction print
| “Shot in the Eye” is adorned with a
buffalo horn bonnet. The warrior’s turtle, with his navel
cord enclosed, is tied to the skullcap. Apparently, the
umbilical fetish was worn during war as a protection against
death. Although the horns of the bonnet are large, they are
hollowed, thus relatively light in weight.
COUNTRY OF THE KUTENAI, 1910, Edward S Curtis, American
(1868-1952) photogravure from The North American Indian Vol 7
|The Kutenai took much of Montana, gradually
moving westward to the northern tip of Idaho and Northeast
Washington. They were a tall people and spoke a language
unrelated to any other.
It takes two weeks to make a 15 foot canoe.
KWAKIUTL INDIAN MOON MASK
|The Kwakiutl tribe was of the Northwest
coast. Carved wooden masks were used for several purposes.
Sometimes dancer-storytellers wore masks to act out totem
stories during special parties. These masks, like the totem
poles, were beautifully carved and brightly painted. Some of
the masks had eyes made of pieces of shell. The Kwakiutls
made masks with moving parts. They had strings that the
wearer could pull to open and close the mask or make parts
of the mask move back and forth.
TRADITION, 1922, Maynard Dixon, American (1876-1946)
| Dixon was descended from Virginia aristocracy who
had moved to the sandy flats of the San Joaquin Valley.
Frail as a youth, he taught himself to draw. At 16 he sent
sketches to Remington, receiving encouraging comment. He
attended the School of Design in San Francisco in 1891, but
found the approach too formal. He became a cow-puncher,
wandering over Arizona, New
Mexico and southeast California. His first job in art was in
1895 as a newspaper illustrator in San Francisco. The
earthquake of 1906 destroyed Dixon’s accumulated work. In
1909 he was again in the Northwest, sketching Native
Americans in Idaho and Nevada. When he returned to San
Francisco, his studio was a central point for the western
art world. He was considered the leading desert painter, the
most successful of the Westerners painting the Southwest. As
a colorist he was said to have been influenced by
Parrish in the blue of the lava ridges, but it
simplified as his style grew increasingly modern. In the
1930’s Dixon devoted his time to murals. He died of asthma
after completing a mural of the Grand Canyon.
BEADED LEATHER BELT, beads on leather, contemporary
|Native American beadwork and regalia changed over the
years depending on items traded and what was available in
the local area. Each tribe had a variety of symbols they
were partial to. Eagles, arrows, symbols for sun and moon
and other animal shapes have been traditional
decorative designs. The most elaborated work was for
ceremonial regalia and work was done mostly by women. Both
men and women produce silver and turquoise jewelry in areas
of the country where those natural resources are available.
KACHINA DOLL (rattle in hand), Hopi
|Kachinas are supernatural spirits who guided the tribes of
the Southwest. For six months of the year, kachinas lived in
the "World Below" and came up above ground from the winter
solstice to the summer solstice
Kachina dolls were carved
out of wood by southwestern tribes such as the Zuni and Hopi.
They were clothed in masks and costumes to look exactly like
the men who dressed up as kachina spirits. These dolls were
not playthings. They were given to the children to teach them
to identify the many different kachinas and the parts they
played in tribal ceremonies.
POTTERY PLATE & DECORATED WOODEN PLAQUE, contemporary
INUIT MASK, 23" high, contemporary