Native American Beauties: Part 2

The Indians of the Americas are admired for their freedom and independence.  Although their traditional culture based on hunting has disappeared from most of the Americas, its legend will always live on.

The first photograph is of a Southern Cheyenne girl holding a bow and arrows.  I estimate that the photo was taken in about 1890.  To put that date in context, here are some of the things that happened in that era:  by 1883 the great bison herds had been destroyed and the traditional life of the buffalo hunters was no longer possible; in 1890 the census bureau declared that the frontier, the border between the White-inhabited United States and Indian country, no longer existed;  in October 1898 the last official battle of the Indian Wars of the United States was fought at Leech Lake; and on 29 August, 1911 the stone age in the United States came to an end when the last surviving Yahi Indian came to “civilization”.  The demure little Cheyenne girl in the photo no doubt saw a lot of change in her lifetime.

Photographer unknown – A Southern Cheyenne Girl (c1890)

It may seem a little incongruous that the girl is holding a bow and arrows; we usually associate weapons with males.  While the photo is obviously a studio portrait, and the bow and arrows may be merely a photographer’s prop, it is not necessarily inappropriate for a female to be photographed with a bow.  It may be surprising, but a few of the Indian warriors were female.  Nonhelema, known to the Whites as “Grenadier Squaw”  first achieved renown as a Shawnee warrior during the Battle of Brushy Run in 1764.  During the Revolutionary War she was a chief, and one of the few Indians to support the American side.  Her service to the American Army as a guide, interpreter, and warrior were invaluable to the cause of American Independence.

The next two portraits are from the same era.  Both are of Lakota Sioux girls, and both girls traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  To a person in the 21st century, it may seem strange that Indians were honored performers in a popular show at a time when the Indian War was in progress.  It may also seem strange that the portrait of an Indian chief in a war bonnet was on U.S. one-cent coins during the Indian Wars.  (Actually the design of the Indian head cent was based on a drawing of a 12-year old girl wearing an Indian war bonnet.)

Photographer unknown – Lizzie, Daughter of Sioux Chief, Long Wolf (c1890)

Elliot and Fry – Wa-Ka-Cha-Sha (Red Rose) The Pet of the Sioux (1887)

The next four photographs are also Sioux girls.  The Sioux, more properly known as Dakota or Lakota, depending on the dialect they speak, are perhaps the most famous Indian nation in the United States.  The Sioux dress, as shown in these photos, is what most people envision when they think of “Indian”.  In the present, some tribes that wore quite different clothing formerly have adopted clothing based on the Sioux for ceremonial occasions.  Two of the photos are by well-known photographers, John Alvin Anderson and Edward Curtis.  The beaded swastikas on the dress of one of the Lakota girls represent a common symbol, widely used by many American Indian tribes long before the German National Socialist Workers (Nazi) Party made it infamous.

John Alvin Anderson – Katie Blue Thunder, age 8, a Brule Sioux (1898)

Heyn Photo – Her Know, Dakota Sioux (1899)

Edward Curtis – Daughter of American Horse (1908)

Photographer unknown – Lakota Girls (c1900)

The following five photographs are of girls of various tribes from the United States.  The first is a studio portrait of two Kiowa girls in fancy dress.  The second is a postcard portrait of a pretty Mesquakie (aka Fox) girl.  The third is a tinted postcard cute little girl of an unknown tribe.  The fourth is a Hupa girl of California wearing elaborate beadwork.  The Hupa are one of the few tribes to retain most of their land to the present time.  The fifth photo shows a Seminole mother and daughters in Florida.  The monochromatic image does not show the bright colors preferred by the Seminoles and related Mikasukis for their dresses.

C.C. Stolz– Kiowa Indian Girls (c1890-1907)

Photographer unknown – Mesquakie Girl (c1915)

F.A. Rinehart – Untitled (1905)

Patterson – The Fair Little Indian Maid (c1930)

Photographer unknown – Seminole Mother with Her Children Including Five Day Old Baby (1948)

The American Indians are the original people of the continents of North and South America.  So far, this post has only mentioned Indians of the United States.  The following photos are all of Indians outside of the United States.  The first is a portrait of a Stoney girl posed in front of Tipis in Banff, Canada.  The Stoney Indians are closely related to the Sioux, and speak a similar language.

Photographer unknown – Stoney Indian Girl (c1900)

The next photo is from Mexico.  It may be found on the official Mexican government site for The Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia here.  Although the girls are not specifically identified as Indians, they have Indian features.  Most Mexicans are either Indian or an Indian-White mix, and it is unlikely that girls of the Mexican elite white class would bathe outdoors in a river.  The girls’ pose seems a bit unnatural, and their facial expressions seem to imply they have been chastised.  I don’t know the story behind the photo, but this is my idea of what happened.  Scott, the photographer, was making a photographic record of life in the area.  Bathing in rivers is a typical part of life, so he felt that he must photograph the girls, perhaps when they were in the water so most of their bodies were not visible.  When the girls saw the photographer, they got out of the river and posed naturally.  Scott then reprimanded them for their lack of modesty, and instructed them to adopt the shy poses.  This is merely my personal interpretation of the photo, but it seems to fit the poses and facial expressions.

W. Scott – Niñas Bañistas en un Río (c1904)

The next photograph is a postcard from Brazil.  This photograph of an Indian mother and daughter was posed, yet appears much more natural than the previous photo from Mexico.  I was not able to find the photographer or date of the picture, but when researching it I found an image of the postcard with cancelled Brazilian postage stamps affixed.  This demonstrates that in Brazil, the postcard was respectable enough to be sent in the mail, in spite of the nudity of the subjects.  I wonder if the postcard would be acceptable to postal authorities in this country.

Photographer unknown – Brasil Indias Kamaiuras del Alto Xingu (c1965)

Perhaps there is a different attitude about such things in Brazil.  The following photograph of the Kuarup ceremony at the Kalapalo Indian village features nude girls dancing in the Kuarup ceremony.  It is from the official web page of the government of the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil.  The photo is published here.

Photographer unknown – Celebração do Kuarup no Parque Indígena do Xingu, na Aldeia Kalapalo (2006)

24 thoughts on “Native American Beauties: Part 2

  1. About the Mexican picture, I can say to you that people often go skinny-dipping in the rural regions of the south and southeast of Mexico at least till about ten years ago- boys and girls included. Although men and boys so to a specific zone of the river and women and girls to another one.

    I knew that when I worked in a rural zone of the southeastern state of Guerrero. Also, in some cases both boys and girls take a bath together and often go naked around the house. I realised that when I was in a secluded house to make a survey and make interviews to the people there. And certainly children -especially girls- are not so much modest about nudity and do not mind if their parents or relatives look at them in the nude.

    When I was there the children rushed naked from the bathroom and passed by the place in which I was talking to the adult people and anybody commented about that. And when I left that place, one of the girls (about 9 or 10 yo) went with me (fully clothed) to show the way to me to come back to the town. Apparently she did not mind that a strange person had watched her naked.

    Impossible to imagine a similar situation in an urban location.

    • Thanks for the comment. I also had the impression that in this photo, it was the photographer and not the girls who was shy.

      You wrote “children -especially girls- are not so much modest”. Was it your observation that girls are less modest than boys? I think that in general girls are less modest than boys, even though society puts more pressure on girls to be modest.

      • Absolutely agree. It is clear that the photographer that who was thinking on modesty but not the girls.

        Sometimes people might let boys go naked even in the garden or backyard, but if a girl just take her t-shirt off adults disapprove it immediately.

        My late grandmother observed that when people changed diapers to a boy they often let him naked by some minutes after putting a clean diaper to him and nobody protested- but when the baby was a girl, people usually covered her quickly to avoid that any male or boy “watched” her while she was without a diaper. Really unequal.

        By the way, when the girls and me walked towards the road, she put her bare foot on a cone pine and then she gave it to me in order to give it as a gift to a niece of mine that casually had got the same name than herself- Tania.

        I conclude that maybe Mexican peasants have a most casual, natural attitude towards nudity than urban people here.

  2. > “Perhaps there is a different attitude about such things in Brazil”

    I can say that here there is not so much problem with Indian nudity, it is seen in some way as “innocent”, “purist”. But this is just an exception to the hysteria that takes place here.

    There is certainly nothing to celebrate here.
    We have just gone through a violent wave of censorship in the visual arts, exhibitions were closed and pictures seized. All for pathetic allegations of “pedophilia in art”
    Conservatives in Brazil are stronger than ever.

    • I’m sorry to hear about the violent wave of censorship. I have been to your country once, but only to a small village a few kilometers across the border from Santa Elena de Uairen, Venezuela. From what little I saw of Brazil, I had a very positive impression. The people were great.

      • I do agree with Rique. I am afraid there are double standards in Brazil considering native nudity as innocent and asexual and non-native nudity as shameful or “dirty”. Actually, the myth of the noble savage is still very much alive in the country where, in the depths of Amazon rainforest, there are still communities who spend their entire life naked. Sadly, it reminds me the colonial attitude of early 20th century, when the postcards of completely nude native African people were widely accepted in Europe, while the naked photos of white women were considered pornography.

        On the other hand, natural nakedness in the postcards showing for example naturists or topless women is ok in Europe (and accepted by the post), like in this example from Germany:

        • Thanks for the comment and the link. Where I live, the USA, the postcards would probably not be accepted by the post. It is interesting to see how these things are viewed in other countries.

        • That postcard picture is so cute!

          I attempted to translate the caption with Google Translate, but what I got was the very unidiomatic “Refreshment Compliant”. Maybe somebody here who knows German will be able to provide a better translation.

          • It sounds more to me as “a pleasant refreshing?,” if we consider that the girl is pouring water on the woman´s back.

          • The caption says “how about some refreshment?” or “need a refreshment?” and actually refers to the girl sprinkling the woman’s back with cold water from a toy watering can. There are more examples of similar postcards, but I do not want to go too far off topic.

  3. In Michael Palin’s series “Brazil,” he spends time with several indigenous peoples, observing and attempting to participate in their customs, and also commenting on the impact of the encroaching modern world. It aired with a ludicrous content warning because there are naked little kids. Like all his series, it’s well made and highly enjoyable, but sometimes of questionable authenticity.

    For another perspective, this article is a couple years old but still interesting. The reality is always more complicated.

    • Thank you for the link Arielle, a very sad but true story. I keep asking myself, over and over again, why our current democratic world hasn’t made the life of the people living in the forest any easier, after the years of colonialism and dictatorship. It reminds me “The Mission”, the famous movie by Roland Joffé. *WARNING: SPOILER* At the end of the film, the soldiers burnt the mission and killed all of the priests and most of the indigenous people. In a poignant final scene, a girl leaves the burnt ruins and together with the other native children, who are the only survivors, abandons the place rowing down the river back into the wilderness of the jungle in hope to live free from pain and suffering. Noteworthy, while in the mission the natives were wearing loincloths, all the children are now completely naked, symbolizing going back to nature and escaping enslavement, in an attempt to live like their ancestors did.

      The pictures from Brazil (both the postcard and the photograph of the Kuarup ceremony) show a true life of Native People in their natural environment. One can find more similar photographs from the Amazon rainforest, but I guess it should be the topic of the separate post, Native American Beauties: Part 3.

      • TO Moko, Ron and Pip:

        Would it be possible to put up the page suggested here, “Native American Beauties, Part 3”?
        And then, as she implied, Patricia would be able to supply links to pictures for that page.

        • Jerrold, as of right now no one has any plans to create a part 3 to this article. There are too many other things worth posting. I think we adequately covered this topic with the two posts myself. There’s always the possibility someone will decide to make a third post in this series, but don’t get your hopes up.

          • Sorry for the late reply, Jerrold. I’m glad that you like the post, but have no plans for a Part 3. Pigtails is a cooperative venture, however, so it is always possible that somebody else may submit more on this subject.

  4. I just want to express two personal opinions, which I know other people will not necessarily agree with:

    Those “snowflakes” are visually distracting, and I hope that they will disappear after Christmas.

    The last picture in this series is the most beautiful. (Which is not to say that any of the others are ugly.)

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