A couple shares a smile with a First Nation chieftain as he bestows matrimonial rights upon them in this 1929 photograph. First Nation weddings were a complicated affair, and the preparation for the wedding began long in advance.
As the couple intended to become wed, they had to choose respective counselors known as “sponsors.” The sponsors’ commitment was to provide lifelong guidance to the couple as they navigate marriage. At the ceremony itself, the company made their vows to the Creator instead of to each other and would share a smoking pipe to conclude the marriage.
Esau Prescott strikes a pose for the lens of Charles van Schaik in this 1915 capture. Esau Prescott belonged to the Ho-Chunk tribe and is seen in this photo in full school uniform as he was forced to attend boarding school in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. The federal policy of sending Native American children to boarding schools became rampant in the 19th century as it aimed at assimilating them into Euro-American culture.
Wisconsin alone had eleven schools dedicated to this, which disrupted their traditional way of life and had lasting impacts on their cultural identity and communities. Esau would have attended the Winnebago Indian Mission School, administered by the Reformed Church of the United States.
Register to Vote
Native Americans queued to vote for the first time after being granted voting rights in 1924. There is a long and convoluted history behind the status of enfranchisement and rights for Native Americans in colonial America which involved numerous obstacles and discriminatory practices in exercising their right, including literacy tests, poll taxes, and other forms of voter suppression.
The government at the time believed that no Native American could vote unless fully assimilated, but enfranchisement only came in the form of self-governance. This excluded self-governing Native Americans from federal policies and citizenship rights. The Snyder Act of 1924 overturned this archaic law and bestowed unimpeded voting rights to all Native Americans.
Basket weaving holds deep cultural significance for Native Americans, representing both practical and artistic expression, and they carry traditional stories and skills through generations. Here Edward S. Curtis takes a candid snap of a Native American woman diligently weaving a basket in this 1899 photograph. Basket weaving was a standard art form across almost every single Native American and First Nation culture.
The versatility of baskets was essential to survival. Plaiting, twining, and coiling were the most common techniques for creating baskets. Baskets were used for everything from gathering food to carrying clay, building sand, and drying meats. The construction of huts essentially followed the same basket-weaving techniques.
Hopi Child on Back
A Hopi child snuggles against their mother in this 1900 portrait. Hopi children go through a ritual of initiations starting with their very first days in the world. For almost three weeks after birth, their mother and the elder tribeswomen kept a Hopi child wrapped up and sheltered. Two perfect ears of corn would be set on either side of the child, and the Hopi mother and grandmother blessed one each.
The child would only receive their name twenty days after being born in an intimate naming ceremony amongst the women. The baby's name often reflects essential elements such as family heritage, nature, spiritual beliefs, or significant events, symbolizing a connection to their culture and identity from the earliest stages of life.