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The Choctaw language belongs to the Muskogean linguistic family of languages, which also includes Creek and Chickasaw who were the Choctaw's neighbors in both
The Choctaws, who were hunters and farmers, lived in what is now
The climate was warm and moist with warm winters, hot summers and plenty of rain, perfect for serving all their needs. The extensive pine and hardwood forests that covered the low rolling hills provided them with ample firewood, building materials and wild game for food and clothing. The many creeks and rivers that flowed through the region supplied them with abundant fish and fresh, clear water. The soil, however, was not rich so as a result, they had to cultivate the river flood plains for raising most of their crops of "tanchl"-corn, "tobl"-beans, peas, sunflowers, melons, and sweet potatoes. When men weren't helping in the fields, they were hunting "issl"-deer, rabbit, bison, turkey and bear.
The Choctaw were able to live without interference until the French arrived in the early 1700's. The French treated them well, but continually drew them into their conflicts with the British. After the Revolution in 1775, they became allies with the Americans, with whom they negotiated nine treaties. The last treaty, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek signed on
From their earliest contact with traders and explorers, American Indians borrowed foreign words, often to describe things not previously encountered. In this way, Russian was the source of the Alaskan Yupik word for "cat" and an Athabaskan word for "bullets." Native Canadian groups adopted French terms still in use, and southwestern groups in what is now the U.S. borrowed numerous Spanish terms.
The language exchange went both ways. Today, thousands of place names across North America have Indian origins—as do hundreds of everyday English words.
Many of these "loan words" are nouns from the Algonquian languages that were once widespread along the Atlantic coast. English colonists, encountering unfamiliar plants and animals—among them moose, opossum, and skunk—borrowed Indian terms to name them. Pronunciations generally changed, and sometimes the newcomers shortened words they found difficult; for instance, "pocohiquara" became "hickory."
Some U.S. English Words with Indian Origins
anorak from the Greenlandic Inuit "annoraq"
bayou from the Choctaw "bayuk"
chipmunk from the Ojibwa "ajidamoon," red squirrel
hickory from the Virginia Algonquian "pocohiquara"
hominy from the Virginia Algonquian "uskatahomen"
igloo from the Canadian Inuit "iglu," house
kayak from the Alaskan Yupik "qayaq"
moccasin from the Virginia Algonquian
moose from the Eastern Abenaki "mos"
papoose from the Narragansett "papoos," child
pecan from the Illinois "pakani"
powwow from the Narragansett "powwaw," shaman
quahog from the Narragansett "poquauhock"
squash from the Narragansett "askutasquash"
succotash from the Narragansett "msickquatash," boiled corn
tepee from the Sioux "tipi," dwelling
toboggan from the Micmac "topaghan"
tomahawk from the Virginia Algonquian "tamahaac"
totem from the Ojibwa "nindoodem," my totem
wampum from the Massachusett "wampumpeag"
wigwam from the Eastern Abenaki "wik'wom"
What would Italian cooking be
without the tomato? How would Irish history have been different without the
potato? What would the Swiss have done without chocolate? These and such
products as tobacco, corn, cassava, and most species of bean were unknown in
Europe before the voyages of
Also known as manioc, this starchy root is native to the Amazon region of
The Aztecs drank a chocolate drink, which intrigued the Spanish when they arrived in
What is known in the
From its origins among the Inca of the
Early explorers reported seeing Indians smoking tobacco. By the mid-1500s,
important cigar manufacturers.
The Incas and the Aztecs raised tomatoes. Officially a fruit, the tomato, sometimes called the "love apple," did not catch on at once in
by David Johnson
16 Indian Innovations: From Popcorn to Parkas
National Geographic News
September 14, 2004
Imagine our world without chocolate or chewing gum, syringes, rubber balls, or copper tubing. Native peoples invented precursors to all these and made huge strides in medicine and agriculture.
They developed pain medicines, birth-control drugs, and treatment for scurvy. Their strains of domesticated corn, potatoes, and other foods helped reduce hunger and disease in Europe—though Indians also introduced the cultivation and use of tobacco.
As the National Museum of the American Indian (see photos) in Washington, D.C., readies for its grand opening Tuesday, bone up on Indian innovations in food and candy, outdoor gear, and health and exercise.
FOOD AND CANDY
Quick! What was the first commercially available chewing gum in the U.S.? If you guessed Wrigley's Doublemint, guess again. The first over-the-counter gum was spruce sap, introduced to New England colonists by Native Americans. But even Wrigley's fortune traces its roots to Indian innovation, in the form of the key ingredient chicle. The Aztecs chewed this latex, found in the sapodilla tree.
The Inca of South America froze potatoes atop high mountains, which evaporated the moisture inside the tubers. Freeze-drying preserved the potatoes for years and helped Spanish colonists to ship "fresh" potatoes all the way back to Europe by boat.
Two thousand years ago the Maya cooked up Earth's first chocolate from cacao beans. The chocolate of the Maya, Toltec, and Aztec Indians generally took the form of a bitter drink. Sugar was added later to suit European palates.
Indians in what is now Mexico were the first to figure out how to turn the pods of the vanilla orchid into the flavor that launched a thousand soft-serve cones. In fact, Indians were so attached to the taste that they kept the recipe under wraps for hundreds of years after the Spanish arrived.
Having developed varieties of corn that exploded into a taste sensation, some Native Americans developed equally intriguing methods of cooking the snack. Some Indians shoved a stick through a dried cob and held it over the fire, weenie-roast style. And in South America the Moche made popcorn poppers out of pottery.
Potatoes, Peanuts, and Corn
Nearly half the world's leading food crops can be traced to plants first domesticated by Indians. Native farmers introduced Europeans to a cornucopia of nutritious plants, including potatoes, peanuts, manioc, beans, tomatoes, sunflowers, and yams. Maize, or corn, was by far the most significant contribution, now grown on every continent except Antarctica.
Today's ski jackets owe their origins in part to hooded coats Inuit [Eskimo] women fashioned from layers of skins that trapped air for greater insulation. Many parkas were made from caribou, a fur favored for its heat-holding properties.
Some 2,000 years before goggles became an Alpine fashion must, the Inuit [Eskimos] created their own versions. Some examples are carved from walrus tusks, with narrow slits that helped thwart glare from snow and the sea.
Constructed of feathers and reeds, 2,000-year-old duck decoys were found in Nevada in 1924. Archaeologists believe that early native hunters used them to lure waterfowl much as hunters use plastic decoys today.
Moccasin styles were once so distinctive that they could reveal a person's tribe. (Fringe may have helped erase footprints.) Now native-inspired shoe designs can be found worldwide, from lightweight cowhide moccasins to toasty mukluks, named for the original sealskin or reindeer-skin boots worn by Eskimos.
Throughout the Americas, Indians mastered the art of blending in as a tactic for both hunting and warfare. Many hunters would paint their faces and/or wear the skins of the animals they were stalking. And like many bird hunters today, some Native Americans concealed themselves behind blinds.
HEALTH AND EXERCISE
We're not sure how they said, "This won't hurt a bit." But we do know that some ancient North American native healers injected medicine beneath the skin. Making the most of the materials at hand, they fashioned hypodermic needles out of hollow bird bones and small animal bladders.
North American Indians scrubbed their teeth with the ragged ends of sticks, while the Aztec Indians applied salt and charcoal to their choppers.
Were the Maya and Aztec sports fanatics? Having found ancient rubber balls, ceremonial courts, and depictions of ballplayers in Mesoamerica—the parts of the Americas inhabited by advanced peoples before the arrival of Columbus—archaeologists think both cultures revered certain ball games. This also includes the Cherokee A-ne-jo-di or "stick ball" games.
Did you know?
When an Indian boy was born, it was customary for his father to hold him toward the sun and pray, “Oh, Sun, make this boy strong and brave. May he die in battle rather than from old age or sickness.”
It must have taken practice, but some Indians were expert horsemen. They could somersault backwards over their horses tails and land on both feet, weapons in hand ready for hand to hand combat.
It was believed that only by taking the blood of the enemy could they wipe the paint of mourning off their face.
Face paint was worn during battles because the Indian felt it was wrong to kill. By wearing face paint it was believed they could hide from the Great Spirit.
At the signing of the Treaty of Hopewell, the 'hatchet' was literally buried in a ceremony.
Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year. Here is the Farmers Almanac's list of the full Moon names.
• Full Wolf Moon - January Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January's full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon.
• Full Snow Moon - February Since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the north and east most often called February's full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.
• Full Worm - March Moon As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.
• Full Pink Moon - April This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month's celestial body include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.
• Full Flower Moon - May In most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. Thus, the name of this Moon. Other names include the Full Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon.
• Full Strawberry Moon - June This name was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. Also because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June . . . so the full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!
• The Full Buck Moon - July July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month's Moon was the Full Hay Moon.• Full Sturgeon Moon - July The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.
• Full Fruit or Barley Moon - August The names Fruit and Barley were reserved only for those years when the Harvest Moon is very late in September.
• Full Harvest Moon - September This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. At the peak of harvest, farmers can work late into the night by the light of this Moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice the chief Indian staples are now ready for gathering.
• Full Hunter's Moon - October With the leaves falling and the deer fattened, it is time to hunt. Since the fields have been reaped, hunters can easily see fox and the animals which have come out to glean.
• Full Beaver Moon - November This was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter. It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.
• The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Nights Moon - December During this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and nights are at their longest and darkest. It is also sometimes called the Moon before Yule. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun.
List of Full Moons for 2007
Jan. 3, 8:57 a.m. EST - The Full Wolf Moon. Amid the zero cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. It was also known as the Old Moon or the "Moon After Yule." In some tribes this was the Full Snow Moon; most applied that name to the next Moon.
Feb. 2, 12:45 a.m. EST - The Full Snow Moon. Usually the heaviest snows fall in this month. Hunting becomes very difficult, and hence to some tribes this was the Full Hunger Moon.
March 3, 6:17 p.m. EST - The Full Worm Moon. In this month the ground softens and the earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signals the end of winter, or the Full Crust Moon because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. A total lunar eclipse will take place on this night; the Moon will appear to rise will totally immersed (or nearly so) in the Earth's shadow over the eastern United States. The rising Moon will be emerging from the shadow over the central United States, while over the Western U.S. the eclipse will be all but over by the time the Moon rises.
April 2, 1:15 p.m. EDT - The Full Pink Moon. The grass pink or wild ground phlox is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names were the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and -- among coastal tribes -- the Full Fish Moon, when the shad came upstream to spawn. This is also the Paschal Full Moon; the first full Moon of the spring season. The first Sunday following the Paschal Moon is Easter Sunday, which indeed will be observed six days later on Sunday, April 8.
May 2, 6:09 a.m. EDT - The Full Flower Moon. Flowers are abundant everywhere. It was also known as the Full Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.
May 31, 9:04 p.m. EDT - The Blue Moon. The second full Moon occurring within a calendar month is usually bestowed this title.
Although the name suggests that to have two Full Moons in a single month is a rather rare occurrence (happening "just once in a . . . "), it actually occurs once about every three years on average.
June 30, 9:49 a.m. EDT - The Full Strawberry Moon. Known to every Algonquin tribe. Europeans called it the Rose Moon.
July 29, 8:48 p.m. EDT - The Full Buck Moon, when the new antlers of buck deer push out from their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, thunderstorms being now most frequent. Sometimes also called the Full Hay Moon.
Aug. 28, 6:35 a.m. EDT - The Full Sturgeon Moon, when this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water like Lake Champlain is most readily caught. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because the moon rises looking reddish through sultry haze, or the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon. A total lunar eclipse will coincide with moonset for the eastern United States. The Central and Mountain Time Zones will see the Moon's emergence coincide with moonset, while the western United States will see the entire eclipse.
Sept. 26, 3:45 p.m. EDT - The Full Harvest Moon. Always the full Moon occurring nearest to the Autumnal Equinox. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice-- the chief Indian staples--are now ready for gathering.
Oct. 26, 12:52 a.m. EDT - The Full Hunter's Moon. With the leaves falling and the deer fattened, it is time to hunt. Since the fields have been reaped, hunters can ride over the stubble, and can more easily see the fox, also other animals that have come out to glean and can be caught for a thanksgiving banquet after the harvest. The Moon will also be at perigee later this day, at 7:00 a.m., at a distance of 221,676 miles from Earth. Very high tides can be expected from the coincidence of perigee with full Moon.
Nov. 24, 9:30 a.m. EST - The Full Beaver Moon. Time to set beaver traps before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Full Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter. Also called the Frosty Moon.
Dec. 23, 2:51 a.m. EST - The Full Cold Moon; among some tribes, the Full Long Nights Moon. In this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and the nights are at their longest and darkest. Also sometimes called the "Moon before Yule" (Yule is Christmas, and this time the Moon is only just before it). The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long and the Moon is above the horizon a long time. The midwinter full Moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to the low Sun.
"Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, and beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger ... Show respect to all people and bow to no one ... "
~Tecumseh, Shawnee ~
Look as they rise, up rise
Over the line where sky meets the earth;
Lo ! They are ascending, come to guide us,
Leading us safely, keeping us one;
Teach us to be, like you, united.
Pawnee - American Indian
Earth teach me stillness
as the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering
as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility
as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring
as the mother who secures her young.
Earth teach me courage
as the tree which stands all alone.
Earth teach me limitation
as the ant which crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom
as the Eagle which soars in the Sky.
Earth teach me regeneration
as the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself
as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness
as dry fields weep with rain.
"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
Ancient Indian Proverb
The emergence of Southwest silver jewelry took place gradually. Although the Navajos and Pueblos had some exposure to silverworking from contact with the Spanish, neither people concentrated on developing their own art forms until the late 1870's, after the Navajo had returned to their reservation from a five-year internment by the U.S. government at Ft. Summer. Novice silversmiths and accomplished blacksmiths both turned to the working of silver, and lustrous jewelry quickly gained prestige as a symbol of status and wealth among the Navajo. Desire for the silver ornamentation spread quickly, and the Pueblo villages of Laguna, Acoma, Hopi, and Zuni soon picked up the craft. By 1915, the Zuni were creating their own distinctive inlaid jewelry styles while the Navajo people continued to develop the quintessential Southwest style: heavy squash blossoms and hefty bracelets set with chunks of variously colored turquoise. In Gallup you will find the traditional styles of Native American silversmithing, each unique and indicative of the creating artist's tribal heritage. The shopper will also find many outstanding contemporary pieces that merge early traditional art with stunning new design concepts.
"On the Navajo Indian reservation anything 100 years old is very old, ancient, or antique. People and property of 50 years are old. Off the Navajo Indian reservation old pawn represents the real Indian jewelry. Contrary to opinions of pseudo-experts, old pawn was not jewelry made only for pawn. Old pawn is not merely a piece of jewelry that an Indian has pawned because he has needed money. The search for old pawn is motivated by more than a romantic urge. For us, the value and emotional attraction for old pawn Indian jewelry is that it has been owned, appreciated, worn, and used by real living Indians. We see old pawn jewelry as an intimate relic of a people and a culture which is slowly and inevitably disappearing into history. The more we learn of Indian silversmiths and old pawn jewelry the more we are convinced that the old silversmiths produced a higher standard of their art for Indians than they did for traders and non-Indians. When a Navajo man or woman wanted a piece of jewelry he went to a silversmith, usually a relative. The piece was made to order and scaled to the wearer's size and build. In most cases the buyer furnished the makings - silver, turquoise, old jewelry or whatever was needed. Indian jewelry served as decoration, a display of wealth, and as collateral against loans at the trading post. The pawn rack was an important and respectable part of the economic and social life of the Navajo. Jewelry moved in and out of pawn at regular seasonal intervals synchronized to the spring and fall lamb, wool, and harvest activities. Much of the jewelry was withdrawn from pawn during the summer dances and ceremonials, and returned to the vaults again during the winter months. The discerning Navajo knew beauty and excellence in craftmanship and would not wear sloppily made, poorly contructed silver. The quality and color of turquoise may not have been the best, but the silversmithing was something else. The Navajos kept their silver bright, shining, and untarnished by brushing it in yucca suds and water. The amount of cash or credit advanced depended on the amounts of silver and turquoise, and the owner's credit rating with the post. It was seldom that a Navajo pawned all his silver with one trader. Old established traders set their own time limits with the individual regardless of the general law which only required traders to hold pawn for thirty days. One licensed pawn rack at
THE MAKING OF A SQUASHBLOSSOM NECKLACE
Molds for casting are made in the Southwest by carving designs in fine grained pumice or sandstone. A capstone is used to close the mold and the molten silver is poured in. When it has cooled the mold is opened and the rough form is removed. The rough edges are filed, the surface is polished and it is bent into shape. Almost all cast silver is made in the Southwest.
Beads were among the first things Pioneer Smiths made, beating them from old coins. At the turn of the century beads were a symbol of fashion and status which continues today.
The horseshoe-shaped "Naja" represents the emblem that adorned Spanish horses, centuries ago. A Squash Blossom Necklace was originally worn with the colorful Indian shirts and blouses, the stunning combination of silver and pure turquoise is unsupassed.
Navajos comprise the largest tribe in the joined states, living on the largest reservation which is situated in northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. (Of which, most of our jewelry comes from) A feeling of tribal strength is expressed in their own name, The Navajo Nation.
The Navajo were the first to produce jewelry that required the working of metal. Their love of metal working can be traced to the Spanish arrival in the Southwest. The silver bridles and horse trappings of the Conquistadors were admired and often stolen by the raiding Navajos. Later when the area became part of Mexico, Mexican silversmiths traded jewelry to wealthy Navajo for sheep. Jewelry became a symbol of wealth.
WHAT IS HAND STAMP AND REPOUSSE WORK?
Repousse is a technique used by the artist to create a relief design by hammering or pressing the reverse side of the silver surface. In hand stamped work he/she uses hardened metal bits with patterns and a hammer to impress the designs into the metal. The stamps themselves are handmade sometimes from old tools, like worn or broken files, and even railroad nails.
Liquid Silver is a very fine sterling silver ( .925 ) tubing, hand strung into necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. It is very contemporary, and goes great with almost anything. When strung this was, it seems to give the effect of a flowing liquid, hence the name Liquid Silver.
TUFA CAST SILVER JEWELRY
Ring made by Navajo Silversmith Anthony Bowman
Unique Navajo tufa casted ring with a large rodonite polished stone. The ring has been made to fit the stone using the old way of tufa casting. Similar to sandcast, the tufacast jewelry is made by first carving the form in tufa (a porous volcanic stone), then pouring hot molten silver into the form. Tufa is similar to sandstone, with a beautiful natural texture.
Cast jewelry was first created by the Navajo as early as 1870. Tufa, which is compacted volcanic ash, and sandstone were used for molds. Tufa was easier to carve designs in, but sandstone held up better. The tufa stone is cut in half and ground smooth on both sides. After carving out the design on one of the halves, a channel shaped like a cone is carved to the edge on both sides of the mold to allow a passage way for the molten silver. To keep trapped air from ruining the cast, vents are carved out from the extremities of the design toward the edge of the mold.
The mold is heated with a torch fueled by oxygen and acetylene which causes carbon smoke to cling to the inside of both halves preventing the silver from sticking to it. The mold is put together and held by wire or plywood board and clamps. In older times, the molds were held together by wet leather and put in the sun to dry. The silver is heated and melted in a crucible with a torch until it is the right temperature.
Historically, temperature was and still is judged by the color of the molten silver. Today artisans have access to crucibles that have digital controlled heating. This increases the chance for a successful pour. When the temperature of the silver is high enough, the mold is then gravity casted, which means the molten silver is poured down into the impression from the top through the carved passage way. Once the mold is cool, the silver piece can be removed. Extra silver from the passage way and air vents are cut off. At this point the finishing begins with filing, stamp work, soldering on findings, adding stones, cleaning and buffing. A tufa stone mold may allow up to 12 pours on smaller designs. Most of the time it's much less and 1 pour is the usual with the larger carvings.
HISTORY OF HOPI OVERLAY
THE HISTORY OF NAVAJO JEWELRY
(according A Brief history of Navajo Silversmithing by Arthur Woodward
and Turquoise Unearthed by Lowery)
Spanish explorers arrived in the American Southwest in 1540, lured by reports of gold, but not finding any, the Spanish did not settle there until 1598. In due course the Spanish seized the turquoise mines that the native Pueblo peoples had been mining from approximately A.D. 1300. The Spanish introduced metal mining and smithing tools, along with other iron, silver, tin and copper objects and materials that the native population (the Navajos in particular) could rework for their own purposes.
Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, which brought the Southwest under Mexican control. The United States declared war on Mexico in 1847 and took possession of the northern half of Mexico’s territory in North America. From that time on there was continual warfare and active expeditions into the interior of the Navajo homeland by American troops until the final campaign of 1863-1864.
As a means of gaining a foothold into Navajo country, Fort Defiance was established in 1853. The historian Arthur Woodward believes that this was the time that silver and iron working took hold in Navajo country. The man who is indicated as being the first silversmith was Atsidi Sani (the Old Smith), who acquired his knowledge of silversmithing between 1853 and 1858, from a Mexican.
After the Civil War the art of working silver spread and by the 1880s native Navajo craftsmen steadily refined their skills. The original forms of silverware manufactured by the Navajo were relatively simple. Interestingly, the design elements we still see today as Navajo patterns produced by stamping have their roots in the dies used in tooling Mexican leatherwork.
When gold was discovered in California in 1849, the rush was on, and by the 1870’s miners had also found large deposits of copper, lead, silver, and turquoise. In the early 1880’s, with the arrival of the trans-continental railroad, interest in authentic, handcrafted silver Indian jewelry took hold. It was a this time that artisans in Zuni, the Rio Grande pueblos, and in Navajo country began to set turquoise in their jewelry.
After World War II, the population in the Southwest exploded, and so did tourism to the region. Interest in, and demand for, turquoise Indian jewelry expanded exponentially. The federal government even established programs to teach the jewelry making trade to budding Native American artisans.
Quantities of turquoise objects found in burial sites dating back to A.D. 300 throughout the American Southwest confirm that turquoise has been spiritually, decoratively, and economically significant to ancestral pueblo people as well as their descendants today. Turquoise, the “sky stone” is an ancient talisman for health and happiness. The Navajos believe turquoise jewelry will bring good fortune to the wearer. The Zuni associate blue turquoise with Father sky and green turquoise with Mother Earth. Apache hunters and warriors wore turquoise as protection against enemies, and the Pima carried turquoise to ward off illness. Today we wear turquoise not only because of its beauty, but because it represents the beauty of the great American Southwest and its talented native artisans.
BELL TRADING COMPANY
In times past, weavers had few opportunities to talk about their work with anyone who lived a few miles away. As a result, distinct regional styles emerged because weavers only shared what they knew with their children and nearby neighbors. In some cases, traders at the local trading posts fostered particular designs based on popular notions of how a Navajo rug " should " look or trend in home decorating. Traders also provided yarns and dyes that have influenced the colors and techniques weavers used in their rug designs. Many traditional weavers still depend entirely upon their own resources. They raise the sheep and shear them, wash, card, and then spin the wool all themselves. They then dye it as their mothers taught them to, with native plants such as wild walnut, rabbit brush, and lichen, or used the wool in its nature state. After stringing a home-made loom, the weaver sits on the ground and begins to weave at the bottom of the wrap. As the weaver weaves, the completed part of the rug is rolled under to keep it out of the way, and the weaver must remember every nuance of the design until the rug is finished. Four styles are recognized most by their color alone: Burntwater, Klagetoh, Ganado, and Two Grey Hills. The three styles of Navajo rugs that are woven in bands of color are distinguished by the designs within those bands: Crystal, Chinle, and Wide Ruins. There are several other rugs that are identified today by their designs: Pictorial, Teec Nos Pos, Eyedazzler, and Storm. Finally the most recent rug design today, New Lands style, is woven in a particular design using only certain colors and an unusual weaving technique. Today the number of Navajo rug weavers have decreased dramatically. Seventy percent of the Navajo weaver are over the age of Fifty. Navajo rug weaving possibly could become a lost Art.
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HAND WOVEN BASKETS
TRADITIONAL HAND COILED POTTERY
Handmade Pottery is one of the most innovative, dynamic forms of American Indian art. Not only do clay and slip colors vary from pueblo to pueblo, Individual designs pertain to specific families or clans within each village. Traditional pottery is made by hand. The artisans shapes the sides by laying up coils of clay, then scraping and smoothing the exterior to obliterate traces of the coils before firing. This is the same technique that the Anasazi used to build pottery in the Southwest a thousand years ago.
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The medicine wheel is used as a healing aid, both spiritually and physically. The medicine wheel is divided into four equal parts, each with its own special energies. The North is the grounding point. East is change, symbolized in the wind and air. South is passion, as in love, energy and fire. West is the point of power and healing, representing water, dreams and inner spaces. The center of the wheel is the spiritual center or point of guidance. Balance is created by the equal presence of all four energies acting at once. The medicine wheel is used to achieve this balance of energy.
Man in the Maze
The Great Seal of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community is an ancient pattern. The pattern has been used for untold years in Pima baskets and represents the MAZE, or house of "Se-eh-ha". The legend of the "Man in the Maze" helps children understand the meaning of life. The maze depicts experiences and choices we make in our journey through life. It illustrates the search for balance - physical, social, mental and spiritual. In the middle of the maze are found a person's dreams and goals. Legend says when we reach the center, the sun god is there to greet us, bless us and pass us into the next world.
Kokopelli is the humpbacked flute player whose indian heritage dated back as early as 200 A.D. This legendary, well traveled, and footloose figure was a God to some, and a nuisance to others, and a bearer of good luck and health to many. Kokopelli possessed a playful, carefree nature that seemed to be able to bring the good out in everyone. Kokopelli is believed to represent the fertility and the untamed spirit of nature. Kokopelli, with his hunchback and flute, was always welcome. To some, Kokopelli would come and bless the villages with song and dance. This was a time to celebrate and everyone would feast and dance all night until the early hours of morning. When the villagers awoke later, Kokopelli would be gone, but all the crops had grown and were healthy and all the women had become pregnant.
is believed to be the oldest and original fluteplayer, as evidenced by the
petroglyphs of the Southwest. Kokopelli The Fluteplayer has become a popular
icon throughout the
The misconception came about for a variety of reasons. First, when the early investigators saw the humpbacked creatures, they assumed them to be variations of a single creature, rather distinctly different creatures. Second, investigators then and now often took the humpbacked creatures out of the context of the surrounding scene that possessed many creatures. The scene as a whole could have been the depiction of a clan, a village, a ceremony or some other event. Third, the "search for Kokopelli" has resulted finding examples of the humpbacked fluteplayer across a wide geographically region without much thought given to which culture existed in a given area or of time periods, and the investigators chose to identify the rock art with a Hopi katsina (the incorrect one at that) even though many of the creatures predate the Hopi and are outside their cultural area.
The Hopi Cultural Preservation Office provides the following definition of the katsina:
"Katsinam (kachinas) are Hopi spirit messengers who send prayers for rain, bountiful harvests and a prosperous, healthy life for humankind. They are friends and visitors of the Hopi who bring gifts and food, as well as messages to teach appropriate behavior and the consequences of unacceptable behavior. Katsinam, of which there are over two hundred and fifty different types, represent various beings, from animals to clouds. During their stay at Hopi, the Katsinam appear among Hopi people in physical form, singing and dancing in ceremonies. The Katsinam who carry out the religious dances are sacred to the Hopi. The small, brightly painted wooden figures known as kachina dolls are called tihu by Hopi people. Tihu have important meaning because they are symbols of Katsina spirits, originally created by the Katsinam in their physical embodiment."
"Kokopelli" as well as the creature appears to have come from
"Kookopölö" (Kokopolo in its modern form), the Hopi katsina
associated with fertility. He is often depicted in art with phallic
characteristics and possessing a hump. The Kokopolo katsina never carried a
flute, but he might carry a cane. There is flute player katsina known as
In the Southwestern rock art (paintings and petroglyphs), the earliest flute players are stick figure depictions dating from the Anasazi Basketmaker III period (AD 400-700). They are often seated and lack humps. Other flute player figures have been dated to the
As we move into the Hopi area, the flute player is known as Lahlanhoya and is a clan symbol of the Blue Flute Clan. On their ancient migrations, the flute clan left the emblem carved on on cliffs and village walls. Every detail of the flute player has meaning and surrounding figures can be important.
Many of the humpbacked creatures are depictions of "Maahu," the cicada. Second only to spider in importance, some believe the cicada is to be the owner of the flute, since the sound of the insect is similar to that coming from a "leena," or flute. A cicada also has a hump and distinct proboscis that resembles a flute. Of great importance is that it is believed that the "flute playing" of the cicada causes "mumkiw," the gradual heating of the earth that ripens crops.
None of the old carvings of the Kokopolo katsina ever show him holding a flute. However, due to a process called "bilaterial acculturation" (a culture adapting a misrepresentation of a cultural trait popularized outside their culture), many modern artists will craft the kastina with a flute and even call him Kokopelli. Most of these are non-Hopi.
In short, the humpbacked fluteplayer is not "Kokopelli," but as is the case with so many popularized folk heroes, Kokopelli The Fluteplayer will always exist.
The Hopi have long been considered almost mystical in their religious powers and beliefs. Living for centuries atop arid, barren mesas, their primary concern has always been how to get enough water to survive in such a desolate land. Their religion focuses on enlisting supernatural assistance to ensure adequate rains and snows. Kachinas embody the spirit essence of everything in the real world - flowers, animals, stars, and clouds. Hopi do not worship these Kachinas, rather. they are considered friends and helpers. Men impersonate them during ceremonies and dolls are carved to explain the Kachina to the Indian children. These representive figures are carved from cottonwood root by the men to be given as gifts to women and children, who are by tradition barred from initiation and active participation in the Kachina cult. The doll's function is to educate and bless the recipient. Kachinas have gone through many metamorphoses. Originally stiff and crudely shaped, they were painted with pigments from nature. Because of the demands of white collectors, over a period of time they became less symbolic and more realistic. However, symbolism still plays an important role in portraying any Kachina because the mask identifies the Kachina. The colors used symbolize the four directions. Each direction has a significance which in turn defies the Kachina's function. Costumes may vary from village to village but the masks are universal.
In today's complexed world of high tech computers and mechanical devices, the elaborate and colorful kachinas of the Zuni still dance, today to a different rhythm to satisfy the needs of an alternative world far removed from that of all other Native Americans. Their presence is at the dictated of an ancient and unwritten calendar and is manifested through the beauty of color, form, and the grace of dance. These supernaturals are the visible perimeters of a religious culture to that the needs of the Zuni and rich with their dramatic history. The Zuni, for whom this religion is the very fabric of their lives, are not driven by outsiders or the modern world to explain these kachinas or their religion nor to promote their values. Instead, it exists as a private matter between themselves and the inhabitants of their relating Natives, in much the same manner as actions would be between close relatives. It is an ongoing fact of life as steadfast as the rising of the morning sun. Zuni's hold the Kachinas very sacred in their beliefs and very rarely sell their Kachina dolls. Therefore there are very little authentic Zuni Kachinas dolls on the market.
" THE DREAM CATCHER "
was originated in the 1850's to 1900's by the Woodlands Indians. American Indian legend tells us of a spider that weaved a web to hold up the sun and moon. The Dream Catcher is woven as a spider's web, to catch our dreams. Old tradition was to hang a dream catcher in their lodge. They believed that dreams float around in the night air, both good and bad. A dream catcher when hung moves freely in the night air and catches the dreams as they float by. They would hang a small one above the children's sleeping area or on the baby's cradle board. Sometimes they would hang a large one in their lodge to insure all good dreams. The good dreams know the way, traveling through the web, to the hole and down the feather to the sleeper. Bad Dreams, not knowing the way are tangled within the web, and fade with the first rays of dawn that evaporated them with dew.
play a very important role in the culture of Native Americans.
Many Native Americans believe that the spirit of the entity whose likeness is set into the stone actually can be summoned via that fetish to bestow the power of the entity into the owner of the fetish.
Fetishes are still held as sacred today and often one family or clan member is chosen to care for the fetishes of that family.
Early missionaries in the Southwest U.S. mistakenly believed that the Zunis worshipped these little figures as idols, but this was not the case. The idol worshipper believes the object itself to be a deity, while the fetishist looks upon the fetish as a representation of a spirit or force that is evoked through the figure. The Zunis use the fetish as a messenger to assist them in their communications with the spirits and deities.
The fetish is just one aspect of a complex religion whose central goal is to achieve a balance with nature. Throughout the Native American religion, there is great reverence for the unseen world--the mysterious forces created by The Great Spirit which continue to impact on all life. Native American religious beliefs foster a constant awareness of how dependent we humans are on a natural order and on external spiritual forces which are mysterious to us.
The whirling log symbol dates back to prehistoric American Indian culture and has been found in everything from early petroglyph's to more modern early 1900's blankets and crafts. The symbolic meaning in native culture is uniting or united, good luck, and wind of the four directions varying on tribe, culture, and religious preference. In most cases you'll notice the arms of the symbol point in opposite directions than that of the Nazi Swastika, but most people never associated the difference. The native culture basically stopped using the symbol in the early 1930's due to the negativity that was brought by the Nazi party to the symbol. Legend has it the symbol tells a story about an outcast of a tribe. He carved out a log for a canoe to leave the tribe and during his trip hit a whirlpool, thus the name "whirling log".
A long, long time ago the Cheyenne warriors had not learned yet how to use eagle for their war ornaments. One of their men climbed a high mountain; there he lay for five days, crying, without food. Some powerful being, he hoped, would see him and come to him, to teach him something great for his people.
He was glad when he heard a voice say, "Try to be brave, no matter what comes, even if it might kill you. If you remember these words, you will bring great news to your people, and help them." After a time he heard voices, and seven eagles came down, as if to fly away with him. But he was brave, as he had been told, though he continued to cry and keep his eyes closed. Now the great eagles surrounded him. One said "Look at me. I am powerful, and I have wonderfully strong feathers. I am greater than all other animals and birds in the world."
This powerful eagle showed the man his wings and his tail, and he spread all his feathers as wide as possible. He shows him how to make war headdresses and ornaments out of eagle feathers.
"Your people must use only eagle feathers, and it would be a great help to them in war and bring them victories," eagle said.
Since no loose feathers were about, the seven eagles shook themselves, and plenty of feathers fell to the ground. The Cheyenne picked them up and gratefully took them home to his tribe. On that day, eagle feathers were seen for the first time by the Cheyenne and they knew where they came from.
The man showed his people how to make war ornaments from the eagle feathers, as he had been told. From that day onward, the man became a great warrior in his tribe, and their leader in war parties.
He became so successful his people named him Chief Eagle Feather and he wore his Eagle Feather Warbonnet, as he led the Cheyennes with dignity and pride.
The Eagle represents power and strength and is the ruler of the Sky and the messenger to the Heavens! To Native Americans, the eagle embodied not only ferocity but also purity, for it flew high in the atmosphere, where the air was clearest - and where, in the belief of many Indians, the Great Spirit resided. Those who wished to ask something of the Great Spirit sometimes sent their message by way of the eagle spirit. Some believe birds to be symbols of the soul, as well as intermediaries to the gods. Seeking their cooperation,
Native Americans have plied bird spirits with offerings and performed dances to honor and beseech them. Pleas are sent skyward in the smoke of burning tobacco. Feathers are often considered the most potent part of the bird, but beaks, bones, talons and even entire bodies of some birds also have been used to recreate bird spirits. Many such objects have been passed down as cherished symbols of the power bestowed by those creatures that soar in the lofty realms where many of the gods dwell.
The Life of An Eagle
Dec 8, 2007
The Life of an Eagle...
It can live up to 70 years
But to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision
In its' 40's
Its' long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food
Its' long and sharp beak becomes bent
Its' old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, become stuck to its' chest and make it difficult to fly
Then, the eagle is left with only two options: die or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days.
The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountain top and sit on its' nest
There the eagle knocks its' beak against a rock until it plucks it out
After plucking it out, the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then it will pluck out its' talons
When its' new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its' old-aged feathers
And after five months, the eagle takes its' famous flight of rebirth and lives for ...
30 more years
HOW THE FEMALE
EAGLE CHOOSES HER MATE
(As told by the Wintu Tribal Elders of
When it comes time for the female Eagle to choose her mate, she prepares herself for many suitors. And many come before her. She looks them over quite well and then picks one to fly with for awhile. If she likes the way he flies she finds a small stick, picks it up and flies high with it. At some point she will drop the stick to see if the male can catch it. If he does, then she finds a larger stick and flies with it much higher this time. Each time the male catches the sticks, she continues to pick up larger and larger sticks. When she finds the largest, heaviest stick that she herself can carry, the stick is at this point almost the size of a small log! But she can still fly very high with this large stick.
At any time in this process, if the male fails to catch the stick, she flies away from him as her signal that the test is now over. She begins her search all over again. And when she again finds a male she is interested in, she starts testing him in the exact same way. And she will continue this "testing" until she finds the male Eagle who can catch all the sticks. And when she does, she chooses him, and will mate with him for life.
One of the reasons for this test is that at some point they will build a nest together high up and will then have their Eaglettes. When the babies begin to learn to fly, they sometimes fall instead. It is then that the male must catch his young. And he does! The female Eagle and their Eaglettes have depended on him to be strong for them. Just as we Native women and children need to depend upon our Native men. So what I would like to offer to you my friends is this. Sisters, how well do you "test" your suitors before you allow them into your life? And my Brothers, how well have you caught the "sticks" for your women and your children?
Whatever our past has been like, if we need to change, let's do so now together. Our children are counting on us to make these good choices for them and for their children.
Aho!... All My Relations."
The buffalo stands for affluence.
If a white buffalo, the Holiest of animals appears, it is a sign that prayers have been heard and a period of wealth is about to begin.
In legends, it was the "White Buffalo Calf Woman" who brought the people the Holy medicine pipe. It's tobacco united all forces of nature and it's smoke rose as a visible prayer. The particles suspended in the smoke made it possible for the Spiritual beings to grant wishes. The buffalo teaches that everything exists in abundance if it is respected and accepted with gratitude.
It is important to praise all gifts that are received and also to pray for the divine wealth being granted to others. The buffalo also points out that goals can only be reached with the power of the Great Spirit.
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