Native American

Posted by Ellen

In 1916, the Mountain Chief of the Piegan Blackfeet participated in a recording session with ethnologist Frances Densmore, who traveled the American West collecting Native music and reminiscences. The songs were recorded on wax cylinders and later pressed on vinyl.

In recent years, the Smithsonian has reissued much of the music, including a CD featuring a photo taken at the same time as this one. But the Blackfeet songs on the Smithsonian CD were all recorded no earlier than the 1930s. They are typical of Plains Indian songs, with elaborate vocalizations but very few words.

It is said that earlier Blackfeet songs, perhaps including the ones sung by this chief in 1916, had many more words and told long, complicated stories. Like so much of Native culture, it seems, the words are all gone now, and the singers have to try to sing without them.

Posted by Ellen

Why I Hate Self-Portraits (2009), by Dwayne Wilcox.

Wilcox, of Oglala/Lakota heritage, works with colored pencils on vintage lined paper in the tradition of ledger art, recalling the days when artists living on reservations had no paper to draw on but bills and invoices and some pages, perhaps, from purloined account books.
Posted by Ellen

At low tide, you can paddle a boat out into Machias Bay, way downeast in Maine, to get a look at Native American petroglyphs that are hundreds or thousands of years old.

Passamaquoddy and Maleseet Indians drew pictures on bedrock outcroppings near the bay by pecking at the rock with sharp pieces of harder rock. About 500 drawings in 9 sites are known today.

Some of the meanings are obvious, such as the drawing of a deer at a spot near Machias Falls where deer can often be seen to this day. Other images are believed to reflect visionary experience, in which birds, for example, may be interpreted as messengers from afar.

Cultural style and probably age of the petroglyphs seem to vary. Some may be only 400 years old, while others are thought to have been created more than 3,000 years ago.

Most of the Machias petroglyphs are now under water except perhaps at lowest tide. The petroglyphs were probably created on land near the shore of the bay and its islands because that's where the largest exposures of bare rock would be found; unfortunately, sea level has been rising ialong the Maine coast ever since the end of the last Ice Age.