When French missionary Jacques Marquette encountered the calumet, commonly known as the peace pipe, he wrote, “There remains no more, except to speak of the Calumet. There is nothing more mysterious or more respected among them.
It seems to be the God of peace and of war, the Arbiter of life and of death.” The calumet was pivotal in sealing contracts between tribes and tribespeople for millennia. A smoking bowl was carved out of a hard, red rock known as catlinite. A long stem would then be attached to the bowl in order to draw smoke from the burning tobacco.
Arikara men, part of the Arikara tribe, were known for their prowess as hunters, warriors, and skilled craftsmen. They exhibited resilience, leadership, and a solid connection to their cultural heritage. Here we see six of them standing in a row, rattling and chanting a sacred hymn during a medicine ceremony in 1908. The Arikara take their name from mimicking buffalo horns by placing two bones on either side of their head and wrapping them in hair.
The migration of the Sioux and the westward advance of American pioneers saw the Arikara face a devastating blow to their livelihood. Generational conflict with the Sioux saw the Arikana driven out of their homelands, and smallpox ravaged the small community when European traders made contact with them.
In the radiant desert landscape of the southwestern region of North America and northern Mexico, three women, most likely belonging to the Qahatika nation, return with their bounty of Hansen fruits. Hasen is a fleshy, pear-like fruit that grows on the saguaro cactus in the southwestern region of North America and northern Mexico.
The second woman's carrier is known as a “kiho” and was particular to the Qahatika. The Hansen fruit is sweet and can be eaten fresh or dried. The Pima – relatives of the Qahatika – is known for making syrup and a fermented drink from it.
Salish Women Preparing Meat
Peckish hounds watch a group of Salish women strip, slice, and dice meat brought back from a successful hunt on the plains in this 1910 Edward S. Curtis photograph. Game meat was highly prized among the Native America, First Nation, and Inuit nations of early America.
One of the most essential roles in each tribe was to be that of the cook. A good cook earned great stature and praise for their perfectly roasted, boiled, and prepared dishes. A curious way to prepare food was to wrap the meat in clay, let the clay harden in a fire, and then break open the vessel.
Native American Mrs. Benoit is captured in a somewhat heartbreaking image by American-Danish photographer Jacob August Riis crocheting rugs. Not much information is provided about Mrs. Benoit besides being widowed and living in an attic in Manhattan.
Riis published the photo series “How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York” in 1890 which turned out to be a groundbreaking work, documenting the harsh living conditions of immigrants and the impoverished in late 19th-century New York City. The photographer found himself a victim of the failing economy at the time and had to move into the impoverished tenements, giving him a first-hand experience of the struggles.