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Native American Arts

I had written previous articles to celebrate artistic cultural achievements. Following suit, on Indigenous People Day, I write an article about the art and history so briefly touching on a diverse people that were first native to the United States of America.

As often is the case I will share in reverse chronological order concluding with the photographer Edward S. Curtis and his photography capturing Native Americans from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.

Before we jump into the subject at hand here are some other photos that show “history repeats itself”. He often find other politically correct phrases to clean our history of ideas like American internment camps or even the simple notion that Americans get scared.

This photo shows members of the Shoshone tribe on a reservation in Wyoming in 1892. Reservation is one of those invented “clean” phrases that helps masks Americans being forced into uncomfortable living situations, committing suicide, or trying to escape those reservations… ever wonder where the term “off the reservation” came from? That was used by the US Army when they were brought in because Native Americans were seen as a threat for leaving US designated reservations.

Changing pace, let’s take a look at an upcoming open world game entitled This Is My Land. The early-access version of the game plays like an open world battle simulator where you gather resources, setup camps, recruit, and defend territory. As the developers Game-Labs continue production it is not yet clear whether story and mission elements will be including. In that case we could see a game more simlear to Red Dead Redemption, Far Cry, or the recent Ghost of Tsushima.

Minnetonkam Moccasins are still a thing. You can see the Native American style footwear being sported by Brad Pitt in the 2019 Oscar nominated film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. I own the same pair myself. The shoes were most popular with the hippie trend, Woodstock, and the 1960s and 1970s.

I’m highlighting two movies from around 1990. One is the Powwow Highway and the other is The Last of the Mohicans. Powwow covers a story of corrupt bureaucracy on modern day reservations and how to polarizing characters deal with the situation in radically different ways. Aside from a great story with themes of “Coyote” (the trickster) the film also boasts a star studded Native American cast; the sort of “whos-who” of the Native American celebrities.

The Last of the Mohicans on the other hand shows us a glimpse into history around the mid-1700s in colonial America. The trailer and poster are misleading as the story is about different people, existing during that time, that have a lot in common. On one hand we have war-like Indian tribes battling British, while on the other hand we have the last of the peaceful Mohican tribe finding an ally in a group of fur trappers that have no national affiliation. Daniel-Day-Lewis gives a strong performance as a man caught between worlds. He has the luxury to return to white society and yet longs for the type of freedome the Mohicans have. The end of the film is tragic and places a responsibility on all Americans to be thankful for this land.

One of my favorite books is The Memoirs of Chief Red Fox. William Red Fox lived to the age of 105, and around the age of 100 published his memoirs with the help of editors. As stated in this New York Times article there is controversy as to the validity of Red Fox’s account of his life and subsequently the Sioux people. We can blame editor choices, Red Fox’s faith in trust, or legal systems. None of that matters when you deduce a motivation for a man near death. Red Fox had little to gain from fabricating a story. The only possible motivation so close to death would have been spiritual, and under such circumstance one might further deduce a need to be loyal to facts.

So, Red Fox’s story is one that goes from the Battle of Little Big Horn to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He lived during a time of great transformation where he described communicating with smoke signals being replaced by telephones; even meeting the telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Not only that, in his life he would shake hands with two other presidents and meet Jack London. Red Fox worked closely for decades with Buffalo Bill as part of a traveling “Wild West Show”. He saw much of America and Europe through this early circus-like show. With all the innovation and wonder that Red Fox saw he maintains a sense of humility stipulating that humans place too much importance on the wrong things while at the same time move through life at an exceedingly unhealthy pace.

Before ending the article I leave you with a few photos of Edward S. Curtis. Some natives were nomadic whiles others built settlements. Some lived in cold climates while others acclimated to the heat. There were a rich developing nation of nations of people.

The Last of The Mohicans (Trailer)

Game Labs official site for This Land is My Land

Edward S. Curtis website and history

Government Archive (photographs)

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