A shaman, known only as Taqul, stares sternly into the camera for this awe-inspiring 1902 image. Taqul was dressed in his “snake priest” attire. Snake priests were part of the Moki people and performed one of the most death-defying rituals documented.
Once a year, snakes as venomous as rattlesnakes and as non-deadly as bull snakes would be captured alive and brought to the small village in what is now modern-day Mexico. Priests would perform elaborate dances and performances with the reptiles to the astonishment of hundreds of spectators. Reports claim that no priest ever suffered a snake bite.
Young Sioux Woman
A young Sioux woman strikes a graceful pose in her full traditional dress. The Sioux are not one distinct nation but rather a coalition of several tribes who share the same linguistic root and were revered for their strength, resilience, and integral role within their society.
The Sioux name itself is a contraction of the word “Nadouessioux,” the name was given to them by the Ojibwe tribe meaning “the enemies,” due to their long history of intertribal conflict. The Sioux grew to be one of the largest militias in northern America and were even recruited to fight in the American Civil War.
Apache Woman Drawing Water
A lone Apache woman sits on her haunches drawing water from a river in an unknown location in this 1903 photograph. In a similar fashion to the Sioux, the Apache nation is a large conglomeration of many different ethnic tribes that came to be one nation under the Apache banner.
The immense kingdom of the Apache started in Colorado and ran through New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona, and even comprised some of the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. Due to the diverse terrain the Apache inhabited, they employed a number of different activities that complemented their economy.
Apsaroke Hide Stretching
An Apsaroke woman prepares hides for tanning and stretching in this 1909 photograph. Every Native American tribe had a process of preparing hides. The methods differed from region to region and people to people, but all achieved the same result: supple, soft, and luxurious hide or leather.
Preparing the hides underwent four phases: fleshing, dehairing, tanning, and smoking. In the fleshing phase, all meat and stubborn fat needed to be removed. To make the hair removal process easier, some traditions would soak the hide in a mixture of water and ash. The hides would then be tanned and smoked in order to be waterproofed.
A 1909 photograph shows a Mountain Crow man named Two Whistles with a medicine hawk, his spirit animal, adorned atop his head. Two Whistles was undoubtedly an ambitious warrior. His daring antics began at the age of eighteen when he led two other compatriots in a raid against a Sioux camp that resulted in capturing one hundred Sioux horses.
Two Whistles would fight against the Arapaho and engage in further skirmishes with the Sioux. At the age of thirty-five, Two Whistles underwent a multiday fast, claiming that the moon revealed where he could find unlimited horse and bison.