A Hopi child snuggles against their mother in this 1900 portrait. Hopi children go through a ritual of initiations starting with their very first days in the world. For almost three weeks after birth, their mother and the elder tribeswomen kept a Hopi child wrapped up and sheltered. Two perfect ears of corn would be set on either side of the child, and the Hopi mother and grandmother blessed one each.
The child would only receive their name twenty days after being born in an intimate naming ceremony amongst the women. The baby’s name often reflects essential elements such as family heritage, nature, spiritual beliefs, or significant events, symbolizing a connection to their culture and identity from the earliest stages of life.
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.
Basket weaving holds deep cultural significance for Native Americans, representing both practical and artistic expression, and they carry traditional stories and skills through generations. Here Edward S. Curtis takes a candid snap of a Native American woman diligently weaving a basket in this 1899 photograph. Basket weaving was a standard art form across almost every single Native American and First Nation culture.
The versatility of baskets was essential to survival. Plaiting, twining, and coiling were the most common techniques for creating baskets. Baskets were used for everything from gathering food to carrying clay, building sand, and drying meats. The construction of huts essentially followed the same basket-weaving techniques.
A couple shares a smile with a First Nation chieftain as he bestows matrimonial rights upon them in this 1929 photograph. First Nation weddings were a complicated affair, and the preparation for the wedding began long in advance.
As the couple intended to become wed, they had to choose respective counselors known as “sponsors.” The sponsors' commitment was to provide lifelong guidance to the couple as they navigate marriage. At the ceremony itself, the company made their vows to the Creator instead of to each other and would share a smoking pipe to conclude the marriage.