Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mojave Chiefs

Today's picture features a group of Mojave Indian Chiefs in Arizona. The picture was taken in 1887. I like the picture because the men are very well armed, each with a rifle and gun belt. I find it interesting that the men are dressed more like cowboys than Indians. They have western hats, boots, and bandannas. Once can only wonder the stories they could tell.


  1. They appear to be very serious individuals and somewhat uncomfortable in those cowboy clothes.

    Actually, I’m surprised to see so many “posed” photographs of Native Americans taken during this time period. I have read that many were afraid and refused to have their pictures taken due the belief that photography would “steal” their souls.

    This fear was common in other cultures, too and is connected to the reason that some customers require that the mirrors in a home be covered after a person has died. It is tied to the belief that a person’s reflection contains a projection of the soul - and the family would not want it to get “trapped” in the mirror and thus be unable to pass to the other side.

    All very fascinating.

  2. Sorry, folks. I meant "customs" NOT "customer's" in the above post.

    That's my spell check.

    I'm sure NO-ONE wants to be a "customer" of the Grim Reaper.

  3. All photographs were posed. Candid photographs weren't possible until cameras, and film, were improved enough to take a picture in a fraction of a second, rather than multiple seconds or even minutes.

    The Indians were viewed as primitive, and maybe they were by European standards, but they certainly weren’t stupid. They were quick to adopt any item, or technology, that would make their life easier. Iron tools, ready made cloth/clothing, firearms, were things they readily welcomed.

  4. I think the "soul stealing" camera or mirror idea has attained a kind of urban legend status and not that many primitive people really believe it - we think more people believe it than actually do. I haven't heard of it in relation to american indians.
    Every old picture looks posed because it was. That's also why there aren't many smiles in those old photos. Because taking photos had to be planned for, we don't often see impromptu shots - at least in focus. It gives the impression that in the old days, everyone was excessively serious and formal and only wore grey, brown and black.

  5. Most of the photos of me, currently, are posed, often with tongue-in-cheek. Why should we expect it to be different, especially given the circumstances?

  6. I'm able to remember just a fragment of something now, having to do with traditional clothing worn by Southwestern indians, women in particular. While European clothing was adapted into Indian culture, by no means was it the "traditional" dress, but some tribes claim these dresses as their "traditional" garments. Interesting.

  7. ...please where can I buy a unicorn?

  8. I realize that all of the photos taken during this time period were posed, due to slow film speeds and the primitive photographic process.

    Nonetheless, I am still surprised to see that so many Native Americans were willing to pose for pictures - and this is no reflection on their intelligence.

    Re the “soul-stealing” superstition, most people consider it a myth today, but many did not THEN. A lot of cultures believed in those things. Again, one cannot judge the past through our present knowledge.

  9. Good post. The Mojave Indian picture is really good. The dressing is really different and awesome. They look similar to cowboy way of dressing the boots, hat. The boots are awesome.


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