A group of about a dozen Kwakwaka’wakw men joins together in a ceremonial dance to coax the sun out during an eclipse in this black and white photograph. The Kwakwaka’wakw are a first nation indigenous to the coastal areas of modern-day British Columbia in Canada.
Originally recorded as Kwakiutl, the nation changed its name in the 1980s to reflect its linguistic identity better. The group is renowned for its creativity and highly elaborate dances. The Kwakwaka’wakw identify themselves according to which “band” they belong to, bands being distinct groups within the nation itself: Eagle, Wolf, Raven, or Killer Whale.
A Nimi’ipuu man poses for the lens in this shot. Little is known about the subject of the photo, See Hawk. His tribe, the Nimi’ipuu, was incorrectly named “Nez Perce” by French explorers in a case of mistaken identity. The phrase “nez perce” translates to “pierced nose” in English, as some Native American tribes were known for this facial adornment.
The Nimi’ipuu became a force to be reckoned with after learning how to domesticate horses. They managed to fend off five thousand American soldiers over a six-month-long battle that came to be known as the Nez Percé War.
The name of these particular people, the Flathead, is misleading as there is no record of them engaging in the ancient practice of head flattening. Instead, the nation was better known as “Salish” — the people. The Salish found themselves deprived of access to many natural resources after the much larger Blackfoot tribe prevented them from hunting bison and buffalo.
At the same time, European colonists began large-scale trapping operations, which left the Salish outnumbered. Today, the Salish primarily reside in a one-and-a-half million-acre reservation in Montana and are engaged in a variety of activities, including fishing, hunting, gathering, arts and crafts, cultural events, and advocating for indigenous rights and environmental stewardship.
Feast of San Esteban
This next photo might b a little blurry, however, the story behind these people is still very much visible. A group of Acoma people takes part in a procession to celebrate the feast of San Esteban in this 1926 photograph. The annual banquet is celebrated in the Acoma Pueblo.
While the pueblo is mainly uninhabited, many Acoma people return to it for the commemoration ceremony. The event is meant to honor San Esteban, or Saint Stephen in English, as instructed by a catholic friar who won the trust of the Acoma in the 17th century. The event entails a full day of dancing, with each group performing a different dance routine.
Haschogan, the Hunchback God
The Navajo Nation, the largest Native American tribe in the United States, is primarily located in the southwestern regions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah and is known for its rich culture and deep spiritual traditions. Here is a Navajo man who wears the mask of Haschogan, the hunchback god. Petitions were made to Haschogan to ensure a bountiful harvest each year.
The nickname “the hunchback” comes from the position of being bent over in a field while sowing seeds. It is believed that Haschogan’s back contains rainbows and mist and will be released on the fields of the Navajo after winter. The Navajo, as do all other Native Americans, have a pantheon of gods and goddesses, each with their individual traits and abilities.