A bleak chapter of Native American history is captured in this photo of eleven children and teenagers before attending their first day of school at Carlisle Indian School in November 1886. The Carlisle Indian School was an attempt by the United States government to force the assimilation of Native American children into Western culture and appearance.
The Chiricahua people were known as nomads and part of the Apache people, were skilled warriors known for their resilience and had the reputation of being the most warlike of all the Arizona nations. The cold, snowy land of Pennsylvania, where the Carlisle school was located, was a far cry from their desert homelands.
In this unique photograph, there are four Atsina elders who share a moment in this 1909 photograph. The Atsina people went by many names, including A’ane, Ahe, and A’aninin. The nation personally referred to themselves by the latter, meaning “The White Clay People.”
A curious history of French interaction emerged as the French added yet another name to their already sprawling list: Gros Ventres, meaning “big bellies.” The tribe allied with the Blackfoot nation to add support to fight the United States government. The tribe would then go on to betray the Blackfoot by siding with the Crow people. This move proved disastrous.
In this shot, a Lummi woman with her traditional earrings stares at a distant point off-camera. Her nation the Lummi, was renowned for its maritime skills and its formal name, Lhaq’temish, which directly translates to “People of the Sea.” The tribe is known to have nomadically roamed the Washington area for close to twelve thousand years.
Trade relations with early Asian and European explorers remained sound for years until the United States government earmarked the Lummi land for mineral and supply exploitation. The Lummi of today reside in the same area and have revived most of their traditions.
A young Cheyenne woman gazes intently into the camera lens. Her gaze became immortalized in the sixth volume of Edward Curtis’ seminal "The North American Indian" book series. The Cheyenne nation she belonged to was one of the most influential nations in Native American politics and history.
The Cheyenne's intricate trading and bartering system saw them amass a sizeable economy primarily based on goods produced from bison. Once the competing tribes and European settlers hunted the buffalo to near extinction, though, the Cheyenne lost their economic footing and had to rely on the United States government for financial assistance.
The wide-eyed Jicarilla girl in this image is dressed in her traditional “feast dress.” The feast dress is a particularly ornate garment that signifies a young Jicarilla woman’s entry into womanhood. The cape is decorated with lunar patterns symbolizing the phases of the moon and the feminine cycle.
The feast itself is a celebration that lasts up to four days, where the women of the community share experiences and lessons with the girl. The advent of domestic sewing machines in the late 19th century did little to change the tradition of the dress and elevated it to an even more unique status.