Following in the tradition of many ancient celebrations, the Buffalo Dance, sometimes referred to as the Bison Dance, is an annual celebration to mark the return of the buffalo to the northern plains after a long, cold winter. It is a sacred and influential Native American ceremonial dance that honors the buffalo, symbolizing abundance, strength, and connection to the natural world.
The dance is performative and is intended to invoke supernatural forces to keep the cycle of the buffalo migration and return in place. One of the first video recordings of Native Americans was filmed in 1894. The sixteen-second clip shows three Sioux men dancing while two others beat drums.
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.
A Jicarilla chieftain who took the name of “Chief Garfield” strikes a somber pose in this 1907 image taken by Edward S. Curtis. He was a respected and influential leader of the Lakota Sioux tribe and was known for his wisdom, diplomacy, and dedication to his people. Adorned in feathers, both as a headdress and a sash, braided hair wrapped in fur sleeves, and large hooped earrings, the chief fits the standard of the time.
His original name is lost to history as he, upon receiving recognition from American President James A. Garfield, changed his name to that of the president. The next time the chief would be photographed, he would be in full European attire.
Chief Garfield Medal
A Jicarilla chieftain wears a medal bearing the profile of then-American president James A. Garfield. Upon receiving the medal, the tribal leader changed his name to “Chief Garfield.” President Garfield awarded the medal to Chief Garfield in recognition of his peacekeeping efforts between the Jicarilla people and the United States government. Chief Garfield would later go on to adopt the same Spanish surname of Velarde.
The photo sees him donning a European waistcoat and collared shirt while at the same time wearing his Jicarilla sash and shell necklace. The Chief was associated with so many significant momenta, however, he is best recognized for playing an essential role in preserving his people's cultural heritage and advocating for indigenous rights.