Two Native American men gaze out over the vast open plains from a cliff face in this 1912 image, scouting for prey. Hunting complemented the Native American and First Nation diets of gathered berries, fruits, vegetables, and aquatic protein such as clams, mussels, and fish. Only the Inuit tribes are known to survive almost exclusively on their hunt due to the climate being inhospitable to agriculture.
For Native Americans that lived on the Great Plains, looking for bison and buffalo from the tops of cliffs was a favored method of hunting. Over all the Native Americans hunted a variety of animals for nutrition, clothing, and tools. Common game included bison, deer, elk, rabbits, birds, and fish, with hunting techniques varying across tribes and regions.
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.
A Hopi bride dons her wedding dress for this 1922 portrait taken by Edward S. Curtis. A Hopi bride’s garments were weaved by the male relatives and male friends of the groom. That’s right – the groom’s party sewed to the wedding dress!
The bride’s “dress” would be two long robes. The groom’s relatives would deliver the robes to the bride wrapped up in reed, along with a sash that resembled a bunch of tassels and very plump, healthy ears of corn. Corn was seen as a blessing of fruitfulness for the Hopi and ensured fertility.
Piegan Medicine Pipe
The Native American medicine pipe, also known as the sacred pipe or peace pipe, holds deep spiritual significance. It is used in ceremonies and rituals to communicate with the spiritual realm and bring harmony and prayer to the community. A solemn Piegan man kneels for his portrait while presenting a highly decorative medicine pipe.
The medicine pipe is central to the healing arts of the Piegan (and Blackfeet nation in general), and lore has it that the sun blessed the nation with its first pipe. The pipes would be decorated with feathers, fur, and, in some instances, carvings. A medicine pipe, although sacred, could be sold, and the price was usually paid in the form of up to thirty horses for a single pipe.