Like many things in the Native American culture, things are often named after places in nature or animals. The Zuni people take their name after the river that sustained their ancestors in what is now modern-day New Mexico. The Zuni developed agricultural practices early in their settling on the North American continent and acquired a thriving local economy for hundreds of years.
A catastrophic drought forced the Zuni to move further south, which brought them into conflict with the Navajo and Apache nations, who did not take kindly to the newcomers. The Zuni eventually found sanctuary and lived in relative peace until Spanish colonists raided their cities in expectation of finding gold.
The Apache people who were found mainly in the southwestern United States, are renowned for their warrior practices, profound spiritual bond with the land, and an enduring cultural legacy that has been preserved for generations. This photo shows a doting Apache mother holding her beaming child safely wrapped in their “papoose.” The word “papoose” originates from Algonquian and can be translated simply as “child.”
The term also evolved to encompass the very robust cradleboard that many Native American children found themselves wrapped in. The word has caused some controversy as it was used as a catch-all to describe Native American children. A Puritan minister compiled a book of Native American languages in the 17th century that injected “papoose” into everyday use.
Here is an interesting photo of a lone Inupiat hunter rowing through the reeds in search of muskrats. The photograph was taken in the Kotzebue region of modern-day Alaska, home to the Inupiat nation. The settlement is acknowledged as the oldest in all of the Americas and dates back as far as ten thousand years.
Although an incredibly remote outpost in the Alaskan wilderness, Kotzebue served as an important trade route for seafaring people long before Asian and European influence. The area grew in population and prominence after German explorers established a post office there. Today, almost 4000 people inhabit Kotzebue.
In this next photo, we see this Acoma man staring serenely into the camera lens. The Acoma nation is indigenous to the southwestern parts of the United States, particularly around the state of modern-day New Mexico. The Acoma village, believed to have been founded in the 12th century, is a world heritage site that still retains most of its original structure.
The Acoma built the village atop sheer cliff faces to prevent marauding and attacks from nearby neighbors. The cliff faces provide a natural defense, and the only access to the village was via a narrow stairway chiseled out of the rock bed.
The Navajo people have a diverse pantheon of gods and goddesses. The ritualistic mask worn by a Navajo man in this image is representative of the deity Haschebaad. The mask is worn during medicinal ceremonies as the goddess's power is believed to bless the sick. Only Navajo men are permitted to wear this mask.
Unlike masks representing masculine deities, the Haschebaad mask allows the men to display their hair further to emphasize the more feminine characteristics of the goddess. While not particularly ornate, the mask always has a piece of abalone shell and either turkey, woodpecker, or eagle feathers attached.