Friday, November 9, 2012

Sharing Native American Heritage Through Postcards

By: Corinne Court, Collections Cataloger at Curt Teich Postcard Archives

November is Native American Heritage Month. It's a time for people to commemorate Native American’s history and culture.  Before I married and changed my name, I was Corinne Menominee.  My grandfather was born and spent his early childhood on the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin.  Also, my father was an engineer for the Menominee reservation for over ten years. I was raised in a Native American household and recognized early on the importance of my heritage; weekends dancing at pow wows, listening to my dad trying to teach us the Menominee language after dinner, and sewing bead work to my dress.  I knew how proud my father was of being Native American and being Native American is something I wish to share through postcards.

For information about how Native American Heritage Month came into existence please click on the link:  Bureau of IndianAffairs, U.S. Department of Interior.  

There are a lot of postcard images of Native Americans from the early twentieth century.  I thought I would share a few on the customs that are still important to their heritage.  These postcards represent the common view points of the time period when they were printed, which often were very different than today’s sensibilities.

The three postcards above show the importance of the manner of dress. The ethnic dress of a Native American is never called a "costume."  In the United States, the correct word for male and female attire is "regalia."  Regalia will differ according to tribe, but are all handmade and beautiful.  It is reserved for special events such as pow wows. Many also wear Native American accessories on a daily basis as a symbol of their heritage.

There were four basic ways Native American tribes found food: hunting and fishing, gathering, farming, and raising animals.  Most tribes used two or three of the basic food-gathering techniques.  Hunting and fishing was a great way to get fresh meat to eat.  Eskimos and other far north tribes relied entirely on hunting and fishing.  Other tribes caught fish from their canoes, or set fish traps.  Today, Native Americans enjoy their expanded state rights for hunting and fishing to preserve tribal traditions.

Information courtesy of 
"Pow Wows are the Native American people’s way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships, and making new ones.  This is a time method to renew Native American culture and preserve the rich heritage of American Indians."  

Many pow wows are open to the general public and they are certainly welcome to join open dances. If you listen to the announcer, he'll explain the rituals and traditions all must follow in the dance.  Many other dances are considered very serious and sacred, and should be observed with proper respect.

I decided to end the blog with an interesting postcard I found in the Curt Teich Archives' postcard collection.  It is a postcard explaining the markings used by Native Americans on their handcrafts such as silver, rugs, pottery, baskets, etc.  

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