Sunday, December 7, 2008

Indian Chief with Recording Device

This picture was taken in 1915, and shows a Native American man near a recording or playback device. I know that the white man worked for the Smithsonian, but I do not know enough about early recording instruments to tell whether he is demonstrating the device to the Indian by playing music for him, or if he is actually recording the voice of the Indian. If anyone knows whether this is a recording or a playback device please comment. Since the picture was taken in 1915, the traditional ways of the Native Americans had pretty much come to an end, but the man in the picture would have certainly lived through the days when the Indians had roamed the plains. Anyway, any comments or insight would be appreicated.

Speaking of Indians, I have gotten lots of email asking questions about my students that created the WEB site Picture Indians. I will try to update you now. (Note: those of you who get mad when I get off topic should just go up and click the back button and go back to wherever you came from because I am about to get off topic. Save yourself some grief and just don't read the rest of this.)

Back on November 16 I had mentioned that this is my first semmester of teaching school. On the first day of school, I had one very tough group of students. I can remember the very first day, they told me things like "this was the 'dumb' class", and I heard them also use words like "misfits" and "trouble". I had not asked them anthing, they just walked in and told me. Well, I told them that they were not "dumb" that they were probably just not book learners, and that school was really set up to educate book learners. I then proceeded to throw out the book, and told them that we would try something different in this class. I taught them to build WEB sites by showing them. At first, I showed them how to build a page. Then the class built one page together, with my help. Then each student built his/her own page with my help. Then they started building their own pages, helping each other without my help. And then each student was building his/her own pages without help. In each case, however, the words and the pictures on the pages were their own work. That is to say, I did not write any of the little poems anywhere on the site. That was all 100% their words. I have to say I was really shocked by what they were writing, and how quickly they were learning to make technically correct WEB pages.

Well, their WEB site has really taken off. It has gotten tens of thousands of visitors from around the world, and since November 16, they have gotten literally hundreds of emails. I wish you all could have seen the tears on their faces as they read some of the email. I think for some of these students it might have been the first time they had ever been recognized for a academic type accomplishment. The Lions Club in our little community has invited them to a luncheon to honor their accomplishment. Now to most of us, that sounds like a small thing, but for these students it might be one of the biggest things ever to happen.

As a result of all the visitors to their site, they happened to meet a world renouned photographer, Kent Wood. Kent corresponded with them via email, and he agreed to help them learn photography. He sent them email to help them learn the keys to good photography. Not technical stuff like focus and exposure, but the real top level stuff like composition, and how to evoke feeling in your pictures. The school bought the class a very nice, high end Digital Canon Rebel camera. We then took the students on a field trip to an old western fort about an hour from our school. The students took pictures of the fort, and took pictures of each other. When they returned, they sent the photographs to Kent, and he provided them with an excellent critique of their work, which by the way was incredibly encouraging to them.

They then took the photographs they had taken, and added a section to the WEB site on themselves. They have given themselves a name, Los Vatos de Oro. I dont know the exact translation, but it is something like the brothers of gold. Not brothers as in blood kin, but sort of like close friends of compatriots. Anyway, I found it incredibly interesting to read what they wrote about themselves as a group, and what each of them wrote about themselves. For those of you who have emailed and asked about these students, I am hopeful you will check out the new section of the WEB site, Los Vatos. Be sure to click on each thumbnail to read what that student wrote about themselves.

For all of you who wrote encouraging emails to them, I give you a great big thank you. You will never know what impact your kind words had on these young people.


  1. WOW I loved the pictures and I loved the poetry. Very sad, the wind, I feel for her because I feel like her. Very touching! How lucky are they to have a teacher like you!!!


  2. PJM,

    I am so impressed with how you are teaching these kids and how they are responding. What you are all doing really reminds me of the movie "Freedom Writers".

    Well Done to all of you and yes, I have emailed the students a couple of weeks ago.


  3. Bravo! — To you and your students. I shall be happy to check out the new addition to their Web site.

    You had a Native American in your photograph. So your detour off topic was definitely timely.

    The "device," [pictured] I believe, is for listening. Back in 1947 my Dad brought home a recording device for platters, not cylinders, which I believe was among the first on the market. The "microphone" was not cone-shaped.

  4. Isn't that a white woman, not a man, recording the Indian in your picture?

    I went to the website and was very impressed! I have Blackfoot ancestry - though not much. My mother used to say I probably lost all my Indian blood the first time I scraped my knee. HaHa!

  5. Check out the Shorpy Photo Blog website. They have a similar picture with some very interesting comments and links.

  6. PJM
    I checked out your students' new website and it amazing, and so is what you are accomplishing with these young people.

    I can't imaging doing anything more fulfilling. I've already sent them another email.


  7. The "man" in the photo looks like a women to me. But the photo is great, anyway.

  8. I agree it's a woman, and I believe she is recording the man's speech or song.

    Kudos on your success with the kids, and kudos to them on their success.

  9. I think that it is a listening
    device. Recording devices looked
    smaller, going by the images I've
    seen online. The speaking tube's
    were smaller.
    I also venture that it is a woman
    in the photo.
    Very impressed with your student's
    site. You've done great work in
    showing them how to go about it,
    also the power of working together.

  10. Wow. Their poetry has a lot of power packed into such short lines. You must be so incredibly proud of them! They should be proud of themselves as well. I'm blown away.

  11. I really don't care if you go 'off topic' in your comments, I visit this site for the cool old photos.

    (that, and your off topic rants are pretty much spot on, from what I have read.)

    Keep up the good work, both here, and with your class!

    -an Old Picture of the Day newbie

  12. Would love to see your kids develop a website for other students about the major Texas Indian tribes. I've already e-mailed them to ask and offer my collaboration. My students would use it most certainly!! I spent HOURS piecing together powerpoints about the tribes earlier this year because I couldn't find any websites that presented the information in a concise, artistic, information-rich format. Perhaps your kiddoes would knock it out of the park! No idea if the time or desire is there, but I know such a resource is needed and missing.


  13. I hope you realize the impact YOU have had on these students!!
    You have a special place reserved in heaven!!

  14. The picture is of a recording device & shows ethnologist Frances Densmore recording Mountain Chief, a Piegan Indian in 1916.

    Brother John, recording predates your father's device by 90 years! A history can be found here -

  15. At the moment of the shot, it is playback. the native american person is surprised by the result. I believe they are listening to a just recorded vocal and the person is hearing their own voice for the first time. This is an unusual experience for anyone. Hence the hand in front of the horn piece. There is a microphone on a stand at the back, but it is not in use at that moment. I base the observations on my professional knowledge and experience as an audio engineer.


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