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September 30, 2013

This Day in the Maya Calendar: October 2013

Cholq'ij, the Maya sacred ceremonial calendar of 260 days—a cycle of 20 Day deities and 13 numbers—is the basis of the Maya spirituality that survives to this time, practiced daily among millions of Maya people, in thousands of communities. The interpretation of the days can vary from one Maya people to another. The interpretations given here are based on sustained conversations and participation over three decades with Maya Q'eqchi calendar priest Roderico Teni and daykeeping families in the area of Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, by Jose Barreiro (Taíno), head of NMAI’s Office of Latin America, and his wife, Katsi Cook (Mohawk). Glyphs representing the Day lords appear throughout Maya Country; these were painted by Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya) of Cobán.

For more background to this series, please see Jose's introduction, "Living in the Practice." For further insight into the role of the Day lords in everyday life, please see the Maya Journal. For the complete year so far, please see the Maya calendar archive.

Illustrations: Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya), calendar glyphs. Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala; 2003. Paint on wood. Purchased from the artist. 26/2685. Photos by Ernest Amoroso, NMAI 

2 Kat  |  Tuesday, October 1, 2013

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Kat. Kat is Spider, also Web and Fire; 2 is duality. On Kat the unity of the people is paramount, and knowledge is deepened. Kat is the network of the sacred heart, the family hearth. Today is a good day to pray for your family fireplace, the spirit of the fire that belongs in the home, the one that calls other spirits to ceremony and speaks for them. Kat is the net that hauls in the fish and the net that holds the ears of corn, a day that can bring the fruition of things and the untangling of complications. This is a good day to help free prisoners from captivity, to request vigor and power for the weak. —J. B. 

3 Kan  |  Wednesday, October 2, 2013

262685_KanCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Kan. Kan is the Snake; 3 is a rotor. Kan is the ancient origin—Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent. This is a day of strict and impartial justice, a day of definition and maturity, and a good day to offer respect and to thank the corn. On Kan, matters of justice, judges, and courts can be cleared up. This is a good day to pray that truth and justice are manifest in the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth; a good day to put aside jealousies and request equilibrium in life and in the family. It is a day to ask for physical strength and patience, to contemplate our spiritual evolution, and to rekindle the internal fire. —J. B. 

4 Kame  |  Thursday, October 3, 2013 

262685_KameCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Kame. Kame is the Owl and the recognition of death; 4 is a balance. A day that recalls the night, tranquility, and silence, Kame is a good day to ask for the ancient and recent ancestors who have gone on, to thank them, and to remember them with purpose. This is an appropriate day to extend reconciliation, to feel and give forgiveness, to develop patience, to invoke against mortal illnesses, to access superior knowledge. Without fear, it is a good day to approach the spiritual dimension, "the enchantment." —J. B. 

5 Kiej  |  Friday, October 4, 2013

262685_KiejCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Kiej. Kiej is the Deer; 5 is one hand. Kiej is the four directions, four hoofs striking the earth at once, the quaternity of the cosmos linked to prayer, highest aviso to el Mundo—the living world. Kiej is the staff of authority, keen energy of a chief to detect danger, perception of the leader buck, his horns. Kiej is a good day to pray for mental and physical agility, a day of agile travelers and good communicators. It is a day also to ask for clarity before gossip and ill intentions. A major gift of nature, Kiej holds indefatigable energy. He is one of the four main carriers of time. —J. B. 

6 Anil  |  Saturday, October 5, 2013

262685_AnilCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Anil. Anil is the fertility in the seed, Anil is Rabbit; 6 is a middle, even number. Anil is red, white, yellow, black—the four colors of corn, the seed of life that is the unity of the world. Anil is renewal after death, regeneration of the earth. Anil people are four-directions people and can be good travelers. This is a day of coming back, a day to generate and appreciate abundance, a day of declaring love to create a new relationship, a day to announce the wish to do business, a day of finding lost things, a day to ask for help in overcoming shyness. —J. B. 

7 Toj  |  Sunday, October 6, 2013

262685_TojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Toj. Toj is the mystic Fish—the tear of jade and drops of rain, water falling; 7 is a pivotal number. Toj is a day of making even, a good day to pay spiritual and financial debts and to collect what you are owed. This is a day of evenness for a family, a good day for parents to pay the family's debt to el Mundo, good for the oldest son to appreciate the father and the father to appreciate the mountain. Illness can be deviated from the family by making a ceremonial offering on this day. —J. B. 

8 Tzi  | Monday, October 7, 2013

262685_TziCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Tzi. Tzi is the Canine, the guardian; 8 is a double balance. Dog, Wolf, Coyote, Tzi can be snarly, terrifying the unprepared with his bark and his bite. Tzi people are zealous to guard the sacredness of ceremony, to identify and punish "intruders," those not disciplined to participate. Benevolent to friends and fierce to enemies, Tzi is steady to reward or punish. Tzi will punish those who disrespect the Days and the spirit of the family. This is a good day to ask for mystic insight for leaders so that they can seek and discover hidden things, so that they can be just. Tzi has strong sexual energy, hard to restrain. When this energy is defined, people born on Tzi make loyal friends, husbands, and wives.—J. B. 

9 Batz  |  Tuesday, October 8, 2013

262685_BatzCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Batz. Batz is Monkey; 9 is a triple rotor. Monkey braid, monkey fingers, monkey tail, Batz is the grasp of the monkey's hand so tight and braided the fist will not let go, even in death. Batz is a good day for beginnings, and for some Maya daykeepers, Batz begins the 20-day calendar. Batz is unity, a good day to tie things together, a good day for a marriage or to start a construction, a good day for initiation into the ways. Batz is the thread of time that rolls out from under the earth, weaving life until cut, weaving time into history. People born on Batz are calm and self-confident; they make good spiritual guides and leaders, and goodhearted architects. —J. B. 

10 Eh  |  Wednesday, October 9, 2013

262685_EhCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Eh. Eh is Bobcat, also the Path and the Tooth; 10 is a high balance. Eh can orient individuals, groups, or communities to their destiny. Eh is the day to ask for protection from dangers and obstructions during travels—specifically, that on your road the attention of thieves or highway police or border inspectors will be deviated from your trajectory. Solitude is in Eh, light rain, kindness, alignment. People born on this day can be good counselors, spiritual guides with the gift of prayer to Ajaw (Creator) on the destiny of things. Also, good dentists are born on this day. Eh is one of the four pillars of the 20 days, a Yearbearer—a strong, especially sacred day. A prayer started in Batz can be carried by Eh through the full cycle of 20 days. —J. B. 

11 Aj |  Thursday, October 10, 2013 

262685_AjCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Aj. Aj is Cane Reed; 11 is high turbulence. Aj begins the women's cycle, sentiments of family and home, the spinal cord. Aj is life and receives life. This is a day of resurgence and renewal, as in the reed and the corn; a day for the triumph of good over evil, life over death; a day of happiness, renewal of food, money, the heart of life. People born on this day renew their communities; they are sickly as children and sturdy as adults; they are especially lucky; they are good awakeners of their families and communities; they make good midwives. Aj is a good day to ask for clarity of destiny, a good day to pray for the protection of your life and of the newborn, a good day to pray for twins, a good day to pray for humanity. —J. B. 

12 I'x  |  Friday, October 11, 2013 

262685_I'x

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 I'x. I'x is Jaguar; 12 is the highest balance. I'x is woman's energy day. This is a day to connect with your own land and to pray for its original owners; to pray for and appreciate your house; to pray for the finances to buy and sustain land; to ask for fertility in humans and animals; to request vigor and strength for reproductive organs, particularly female. I'x is a good day to pray to the mountains in favor of the land. It is a good day for a woman to request strength in her husband's commitment to matrimonial stability. People born on I'x have a close relationship to el Mundo and receive good access to precious metals. I'x is a good day for solitude and meditation. —J. B. 

13 Tz'ikin  |  Saturday, October 12, 2013

262685_Tz'ikinCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Tz'ikin. Tz'ikin is Bird, best represented by the Hummingbird, also the Quetzal and Eagle; 13 is the highest turbulence. Tz'ikin carries messages between the Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky. Cold, heat, light, air, cloud are its elements. Love, intuition, precognition are strong in those born on this day. Tz'ikin is a good day for humans to follow birds to the corn—to find good material luck. This is a good day to ask for revelation and intelligence, for vision, and for abundance; a good day to ask for collaboration in projects or for personal freedom. On this day, women have the privilege to ask for their husbands and sons to triple the family money. —J. B. 

1 Ajmac  |  Sunday, October 13, 2013

262685_AjmacCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Ajmac. Ajmac is Bee, also Vulture; 1 is the beginning. On Ajmac ancestor spirits can detect and smooth the thread of time in our lives. Prudence, intelligence, ancient wisdom are in this day. This is a day to plead forgiveness for serious faults and to be judged. It is a day that demands moral rectitude, respect, and sincere analysis. On this day our faults (stains) must be faced and paid for; humble request for pity is encouraged. Ajmac is a propitious day for the women of a household to make peace with one another after conflict, to apologize for sharp words; it is a good day to pray for smooth relationships and the renewal of agreements among women. Hard luck can face those born on Ajmac. —J. B. 

2 Noj  |  Monday, October 14, 2013

262685_NojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Noj. Noj is Woodpecker; 2 is duality. Noj is a woman's highest intelligence. Maya knowledge and wisdom live in this day—good science to support positive deeds, good projects, good business, a good home. On Noj good ideas are available through the intelligence connected to the movement of the earth. Boys born on this day have important female qualities and can be attentive to the knowledge of nature, which rules all. Girls born on this day can be clear leaders. This is a good day to hear advice and make decisions, a good day to feed the mind, recognize curiosity, and strengthen memory. Noj is one of the four Yearbearers. —J. B. 

3 Tijax  | Tuesday,  October 15, 2013

262685_TijaxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Tijax. Tijax is Fish, also Obsidian; 3 is a rotor. Tijax is a day of doctors, good to pray for surgeons and all medical practitioners; a day of sacrifice and liberation from suffering; a day of sharp, cutting objects, of knives and scalpels and scissors. Tijax is a safeguard for domestic animals against predators, a good day to pray for all animals that are sacrificed, both in ceremony and in everyday life. Tijax is a good day to use metal (a machete, scissors) to "open the sky"—to solicit rain, solicit life, split black clouds. Gossip, calumny, and sorcery, on money and sexual matters, can be overcome on this day; on a high-number day, disputes can turn public and become debilitating. Tijax is a good day for seasoned masters to fortify daykeeping trainees against ridicule by envious countrymen or evangelicos. It is not a good day to plant. —J. B. 

4 Kawoq  |  Wednesday, October 16, 2013 

262685_Kawoq

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Kawoq. Kawoq is Turtle, also Sky Serpent; 4 is a balance. Kawoq is a high woman day—a day of duality in all of nature and a guardian of contentment. It is the day of woman and man, lightning and thunder, fecundity and imagination; a day of midwives; a day of prayer for unity within the home, strength within the family, renewed strength for convalescents, and the smoothing of all irritation. This is a good day to turn bad medicine back on itself. Kawoq attends to young women in pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to full realization for all women; it is a day of their sash. Kawoq is also a good day to commemorate the Staff of Authority, a good day for the men of a family and community to pray for the coffers (good fortune) of the women and for the protection of the home. Good midwives, writers, and architects are born on this day. —J. B. 

5 Ajpu  | Thursday, October 17, 2013

262685_AjpuCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Ajpu. Ajpu is Caracol, Spiral Shell; 5 is one hand. Ajpu is the Sun, captain of time, a day of personal strength and for good to triumph over evil. Ajpu, who cares for boys and guides men, begins the men's cycle. This is a day to connect with the ancestors, who can reward and punish. Death is reachable and amenable; spirits can ask permission to enter el Mundo, the living world. Day of the warrior and blowgun hunter (cerbatanero), Ajpu is the strong blow of the dart that hits its target, a good day to pray for stealth or for a break in enemy lines. Ajpu is also a good day to start building on a house, a good day to make prayers for women and for success in lactation. —J. B. 

6 Imox  |  Friday, October 18, 2013

262685_ImoxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Imox. Imox is Lizard; 6 is a middle, even number. Imox is the very force of gravity and a good day to pray for creativity and for rain. Imox can open el Mundo to receive cosmic messages. Known as a "crazy" day, Imox requires much concentration and control. A day of high male intelligence, also impatience and agitation, Imox can be difficult. Grounded on its left side, left arm, this day is easily unbalanced and in need of clasping left and right hands. Imox can be good if held in the balance of the Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth; unattended, Imox can manifest imbalance, mental nervousness, and even death. People born on Imox are open and sincere, but indecisive—in need of ceremony to set the positive to override the negative. —J. B. 

7 Iq  |  Saturday, October 19, 2013

262685_IqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Iq. Iq is Wind, also Moon; 7 is a pivotal number. Wind is powerful, violent, driven of itself, identity. A day of strong emotion, Iq is also a healing day. Good wind is nutritional for human minds; it is the mystic breath and vital inspiration of nature. On Iq, a breeze or wind that splits against your face is a blessing and a cleansing to purge your head and body of illness. Respiratory ills are prayed over on this day. This is a good day to appreciate all of Creation. The Day lord Iq is one of the four Yearbearers, or mams, a creator who helped finish the world and put breath (essence) in human beings. People born on Iq are inclined toward spiritual ways and can impulsively tap into cosmic sources. —J. B. 

8 Aqbal  |  Sunday, October 20, 2013

262685_Aqbal

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Aqbal. Aqbal is the Dawn, also Bat; 8 is the beginning. Aqbal is clarity, the separation of darkness and light as the Sun disperses the fog and obscurity of night. This is a good day to ask for a peaceful and happy daybreak, a day to find hidden and lost things, a day to wash away tears of sadness. On Aqbal, the sacred fire is recognized and appreciated. Aqbal is a good day to clean the ashes (renew the heart) of a fireplace and to present a new baby to el Mundo. A potential bride or groom can be revealed on this day. Harvesting of corn can begin on this day. People born on Aqbal relate in the present and are a special link between past and future. They are early risers, good workers, tranquil and kind, strong before an enemy, good researchers and finders of hidden things, often called "the candle of the home." —J. B. 

9 Kat  |  Monday, October 21, 2013

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Kat. Kat is Spider, also Web and Fire; 9 is a triple rotor. On Kat the unity of the people is paramount, and knowledge is deepened. Kat is the network of the sacred heart, the family hearth. Today is a good day to pray for your family fireplace, the spirit of the fire that belongs in the home, the one that calls other spirits to ceremony and speaks for them. Kat is the net that hauls in the fish and the net that holds the ears of corn, a day that can bring the fruition of things and the untangling of complications. This is a good day to help free prisoners from captivity, to request vigor and power for the weak. —J. B. 

10 Kan  |  Tuesday, October 22, 2013

262685_KanCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Kan. Kan is the Snake; 10 is a high balance. Kan is the ancient origin—Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent. This is a day of strict and impartial justice, a day of definition and maturity, and a good day to offer respect and to thank the corn. On Kan, matters of justice, judges, and courts can be cleared up. This is a good day to pray that truth and justice are manifest in the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth; a good day to put aside jealousies and request equilibrium in life and in the family. It is a day to ask for physical strength and patience, to contemplate our spiritual evolution, and to rekindle the internal fire. —J. B. 

11 Kame  |  Wednesday, October 23, 2013 

262685_KameCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Kame. Kame is the Owl and the recognition of death; 11 is high turbulence. A day that recalls the night, tranquility, and silence, Kame is a good day to ask for the ancient and recent ancestors who have gone on, to thank them, and to remember them with purpose. This is an appropriate day to extend reconciliation, to feel and give forgiveness, to develop patience, to invoke against mortal illnesses, to access superior knowledge. Without fear, it is a good day to approach the spiritual dimension, "the enchantment." —J. B. 

12 Kiej  |  Thursday, October 24, 2013

262685_KiejCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Kiej. Kiej is the Deer; 12 is the highest balance. Kiej is the four directions, four hoofs striking the earth at once, the quaternity of the cosmos linked to prayer, highest aviso to el Mundo—the living world. Kiej is the staff of authority, keen energy of a chief to detect danger, perception of the leader buck, his horns. Kiej is a good day to pray for mental and physical agility, a day of agile travelers and good communicators. It is a day also to ask for clarity before gossip and ill intentions. A major gift of nature, Kiej holds indefatigable energy. He is one of the four main carriers of time. —J. B. 

13 Anil  |  Friday, October 25, 2013

262685_AnilCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Anil. Anil is the fertility in the seed, Anil is Rabbit; 13 is the highest turbulence. Anil is red, white, yellow, black—the four colors of corn, the seed of life that is the unity of the world. Anil is renewal after death, regeneration of the earth. Anil people are four-directions people and can be good travelers. This is a day of coming back, a day to generate and appreciate abundance, a day of declaring love to create a new relationship, a day to announce the wish to do business, a day of finding lost things, a day to ask for help in overcoming shyness. —J. B. 

1 Toj  |  Saturday, October 26, 2013

262685_TojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Toj. Toj is the mystic Fish—the tear of jade and drops of rain, water falling; 1 is the beginning. Toj is a day of making even, a good day to pay spiritual and financial debts and to collect what you are owed. This is a day of evenness for a family, a good day for parents to pay the family's debt to el Mundo, good for the oldest son to appreciate the father and the father to appreciate the mountain. Illness can be deviated from the family by making a ceremonial offering on this day. —J. B. 

2 Tzi  | Sunday, October 27, 2013

262685_TziCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Tzi. Tzi is the Canine, the guardian; 2 is duality. Dog, Wolf, Coyote, Tzi can be snarly, terrifying the unprepared with his bark and his bite. Tzi people are zealous to guard the sacredness of ceremony, to identify and punish "intruders," those not disciplined to participate. Benevolent to friends and fierce to enemies, Tzi is steady to reward or punish. Tzi will punish those who disrespect the Days and the spirit of the family. This is a good day to ask for mystic insight for leaders so that they can seek and discover hidden things, so that they can be just. Tzi has strong sexual energy, hard to restrain. When this energy is defined, people born on Tzi make loyal friends, husbands, and wives.—J. B. 

3 Batz  |  Monday, October 28, 2013

262685_BatzCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Batz. Batz is Monkey; 3 is a rotor. Monkey braid, monkey fingers, monkey tail, Batz is the grasp of the monkey's hand so tight and braided the fist will not let go, even in death. Batz is a good day for beginnings, and for some Maya daykeepers, Batz begins the 20-day calendar. Batz is unity, a good day to tie things together, a good day for a marriage or to start a construction, a good day for initiation into the ways. Batz is the thread of time that rolls out from under the earth, weaving life until cut, weaving time into history. People born on Batz are calm and self-confident; they make good spiritual guides and leaders, and goodhearted architects. —J. B. 

4 Eh  |  Tuesday, October 29, 2013

262685_EhCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Eh. Eh is Bobcat, also the Path and the Tooth; 4 is a balance. Eh can orient individuals, groups, or communities to their destiny. Eh is the day to ask for protection from dangers and obstructions during travels—specifically, that on your road the attention of thieves or highway police or border inspectors will be deviated from your trajectory. Solitude is in Eh, light rain, kindness, alignment. People born on this day can be good counselors, spiritual guides with the gift of prayer to Ajaw (Creator) on the destiny of things. Also, good dentists are born on this day. Eh is one of the four pillars of the 20 days, a Yearbearer—a strong, especially sacred day. A prayer started in Batz can be carried by Eh through the full cycle of 20 days. —J. B. 

5 Aj |  Wednesday, October 30, 2013 

262685_AjCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Aj. Aj is Cane Reed; 5 is one hand. Aj begins the women's cycle, sentiments of family and home, the spinal cord. Aj is life and receives life. This is a day of resurgence and renewal, as in the reed and the corn; a day for the triumph of good over evil, life over death; a day of happiness, renewal of food, money, the heart of life. People born on this day renew their communities; they are sickly as children and sturdy as adults; they are especially lucky; they are good awakeners of their families and communities; they make good midwives. Aj is a good day to ask for clarity of destiny, a good day to pray for the protection of your life and of the newborn, a good day to pray for twins, a good day to pray for humanity. —J. B. 

6 I'x  | Thursday, October 31, 2013 

262685_I'x

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 I'x. I'x is Jaguar; 6 is a middle, even number. I'x is woman's energy day. This is a day to connect with your own land and to pray for its original owners; to pray for and appreciate your house; to pray for the finances to buy and sustain land; to ask for fertility in humans and animals; to request vigor and strength for reproductive organs, particularly female. I'x is a good day to pray to the mountains in favor of the land. It is a good day for a woman to request strength in her husband's commitment to matrimonial stability. People born on I'x have a close relationship to el Mundo and receive good access to precious metals. I'x is a good day for solitude and meditation. —J. B. 

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I've noticed you've posted the entire month of October on the blog. I'm assuming this is because of the shutdown. I just want to say thank you for being so thoughtful and for letting us to continue to enjoy the daily calendar. :)

It is an amazing calendar and i have read about it in detail

May i know how you have given predictions about this month through Maya calendar?

M. Usman—The best way to understand how the calendar entries were researched and what they represent is to read Jose Barreiro's introduction "Living in the Practice": http://blog.nmai.si.edu/main/2012/01/introduction-to-this-day-in-the-maya-calendar.html

The museum's calendar is the product of the long friendship between the Maya community of Coban, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, and the Mohawk community at Akwesasne, on the New York/Quebec/Ontario border.

October is American Archives Month. Otoe–Missouria Language Director Sky Campbell shares his experience at the NMAI Archive Center


Throughout October—American Archives Month—we celebrate the exceptional collections that can be found in archives throughout the United States. As an archivist at NMAI, I am privileged to work with unique primary sources that document the cultural heritage of the Native peoples of the Americas. These source records often contextualize the lives and work of individuals, families, or organizations, and can include original documents like letters, notebook, and essays, as well as photographs, films, and sound recordings. The job of an archivist is to organize, describe, and provide access to these materials. The job of an NMAI archivist also includes reaching out to members of Native communities to build relationships of reciprocity and mutual respect. 

This past June over 50 Native scholars and linguists participated in the Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages. As a kick-off to American Archives Month, I asked Breath of Life participant Sky Campbell (Otoe–Missouria) if he would share some of his experiences working with the museum’s archival materials, which he happily agreed to do. 

Sky.Campbell a
Sky Campbell doing research in the M. R. Harrington papers in the NMAI Archive Center, 2013. Throughout the early 1900s, Harrington collected objects, took photographs, and made notes among Native tribes for NMAI’s predecessor institution. Harrington’s papers are a part of the Museum of the America Indian, Heye Foundation records. Photo by Rachel Menyuk, NMAI.


Over the past few years, we have gathered a wealth of language information from historical documents, various recordings, and tribal members. It is exciting to find a new source of language information because it means we can potentially find terminology that we currently do not have, or maybe find a precedent for a sentence structure that we need. Sometimes new sources do not give us any new information, sometimes new sources answer questions that we have, and sometimes new sources create new questions. 

001_241_03_089 a
A page from M. R. Harrington’s notes on Otoe bundles in the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation records, box 241, folder 3. National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution. Photo by NMAI Photo Services.

The results were astounding! After spending a few years researching the Otoe–Missouria language, I figured that I knew about most, if not all, of the locations where Otoe-Missouria language information was kept. And if I did not have the actual information from a location, at least I knew of the location. Or so I thought. I was pleasantly surprised to find Otoe–Missouria language information at the CRC. My excitement grew as we continued to find more and more information. I reluctantly had to leave the CRC that first day without having gone through all that I wanted to and immediately set up another visit before the end of Breath of Life. After the next, more thorough visit, I left with what I went there for, but even then I could not shake the feeling that there was more to be found. 

The information we found at the CRC has allowed us to give names to various historic and/or sacred items. We originally thought that we might have to invent our own terms for these items. These new inventions would have been sufficient; however, we very much prefer to have the terms that were actually used. That is what makes finds like this so exciting. Anything that is found helps us with our goals. With that thought in mind, we are extremely grateful to the CRC staff for their help in making this material available to us.

This experience has given us new hope that there are more as-yet-undiscovered treasures to be found. The hard part is knowing where to look. So if you haven’t already, look into the archives in Washington, D. C. Places like the Cultural Resources Center may take your language revitalization efforts to a whole new level. 

—Sky Campbell, language director, Otoe–Missouria Tribe 

P23435.700x700 a
“My Oto interpreter and his family,” photograph by M. R. Harrington, circa 1910. Sky Campbell identiified the adults as Grant Cleghorn (Otoe) and Madeline Cleghorn (Sac and Fox), and the children as Jimmy and Mary Cleghorn. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P23435).


One goal for American Archives Month is to promote the importance of unique materials that document someone’s life or work. Sky is right about undiscovered treasures. Often these types of primary sources are forgotten about or remain hidden to everyday researchers. Technology is changing that. Now, with online finding aids and digitization technology, archival collections can become more available to community members who may not be able to travel to Washington, D.C., or another archival center.

It's also true that these materials aren’t necessarily stored in a museum, at a university library, or in a local historical society or tribal archive. They may also be in your family home, tucked away in an attic or file cabinet, or on a shelf somewhere. They could be letters from grandparents or photographs of birthday parties that contextualize something in your family’s history.

Is there a time you found something in an archive—either doing formal research (at the NMAI Archive Center, for example!) or by happening upon documents, photos, or audio-cassettes at home—that really impacted you?

We would love to hear your story about a time you found something exciting in the archives. Send your stories to NMAIArchives@si.edu and periodically throughout October we will be highlighting how archives are important to you.

—Rachel Menyuk, NMAI

Rachel Menyuk works in the National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution. 


To read more:

The Otoe–Missouria Tribe and the Otoe Language Program 

Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages 

The Society of American Archivists on American Archives Month

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Archive Center

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September 27, 2013

Not the “Last of the Miamis”

OK.Jessie 20
A Myaamia student compares two photos of Kiilhsoohkwa and her son Waapimaankwa at Eewansaapita Summer Educational Experience, 2013. Miami, Oklahoma. Photo by Daryl Baldwin (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma); used with permission.


As part of the Museum’s National Education Initiative, the Partnership and Extension Services team had the pleasure of working with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. The Miami—or Myaamia in their language,meaning Downstream People—are originally from the Great Lakes area. Today, Myaamia families are found throughout the United States and are working diligently to revitalize their language and culture through annual educational gatherings and cultural events, and to bring the geographically disparate communities together through the use of technology. One of the most significant annual events is the week-long Eewansaapita(Sunrise) Summer Educational Experience, held in Miami, Oklahoma, where Myaamia youth (ages 10 to 16) participate in cultural experiences. This June, the National Museum of the American Indian was able to bring some of the museum’s Myaamia tribal collections to people at Eewansaapita virtually through the use of simple videoconferencing technology. Despite a thousand miles of physical separation, the sense of the students’ pride in their culture was palpable.

For this year’s theme, mihtohseeniwinki ašiihkionki (living on the land), the Myaamia explored and strengthened their relationship with plants that have been important in their culture, reaffirming those relationships and learning from elders and senior counselors. Cultural and educational activities such as hiking through prairie and wooded areas were grounded in the use of myaamiaataweenki (the Miami language) to reaffirm their Myaamia culture and identity and strengthen community bonds.

During one hike, students learned to identify the pahkohkwaniši (elm tree), handled the bark, and drew the striation of dark and light bark in art journals. Then they recorded their observations in myaamiaataweenki. During my two days at Eewansaapita, many youth proudly shared their personal Myaamia names with me, which were beautiful to hear; those became some of the most memorable moments of our time together. Interestingly, I learned that many Myaamia names refer to trees and plants, an example of the abiding relationship that Myaamia have with the land, which is eloquently carried on through the language.

To build upon their learning experiences, Myaamia Eewansaapita educators collaborated with the NMAI to identify objects in the museum’s collections that connected to the camp’s theme and could be shared with students. On June 26 Myaamia youth explored selected historical objects with the NMAI’s Associate Director for Scholarship, Dr. David Penney. Myaamia youth, along with tribal leaders and other community members, gathered in a classroom to share with Dr. Penney what they had learned of their maple sugaring tradition. In preparation, the students had read, for example, the passage that describes sugaring in the primary source A Mission to the Indians. From the Indian Committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, to Fort Wayne, in 1804. Then the students posed questions they had formulated from carefully examining a maple sugaring sap bucket made from elm bark in the museum’s collection. 

028053_000
Myaamia (Miami) sap bucket, ca. 1890–1910. Indiana. Elm bark; 22.6 x 0.8 x 20.5 cm. Collected by Mark Raymond Harrington during 1910 fieldwork. Formerly owned by Kiilhsoohkwa (Kil-so-quah) or her son Waapimaankwa (Anthony Revarre). National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (2/8053)


This bucket, which was also pictured in one of the two historical photographs from the museum’s archives that the students discussed during the videoconference, was tangible evidence that the Myaamia had indeed shared a rich sugaring tradition on their homelands along the Wabash River and in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, area. Guided gently by cultural knowledge bearers, students learned that their ancestors were more interested in making blocks of sugar than maple syrup, which was hard to store before glass containers became cheap and widely available.

Some of the most profound learning moments during the videoconference occurred when the students discussed their observations about the historical photograph titled The Last of the Miamis 1810–1910 Kil-so-quah and son (see sidebar). The students posed questions of Dr. Penney that related to cultural and historical inaccuracies they saw in the staged photograph. For instance, a tipi is shown in the background rather than the traditional Miami home, a wiikiami. Other inconsistencies, such as the title, drew considerable laughs from the room when someone pointed out that 40 Miami people sitting together in a classroom, using a smart board, with a live videoconference to Washington, D.C., were direct evidence that Kiilhsoohkwa was not the last of the Miamis!

Dr. Penney used stories and anecdotes to explain that, in the early 1900s, Native people often dressed up in ways that supported other people’s expectations of what “real Indians” should look like, exemplified by the long wig and Plains-style headdress worn by Kiilhsoohkwa’s son Waapimaankwa. During the adolescent years, young adults invariably explore their identity and stereotypes, trying to reconcile popular ideas of what they “should” look like as contemporary American Indians and their daily experiences that may not fit into people’s expectations. 

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The Last of the Miamis 1810–1910 Kil-so-quah, 1910. Indiana. Photograph by L. M. Huffman. In this image, Kiilhsoohkwa and her son Waapimaankwa are photographed wearing clothing typical to Myaamia people in 1910, such as his store-bought coat and boots. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P00532)


Both historical photographs were taken in 1910 by L. M. Huffman, who had a studio in Laud, Indiana, and who became well known (according to NMAI’s catalog card) for his photographs of Kiilhsoohkwa and her family members. Kiilhsoohkwa herself was certainly better known than Huffman inside her own community. She was an important midwife in Indiana and carried plant knowledge related to childbirth and labor. In fact some of the youth at the videoconference were related to her, and one counselor explained that his great-grandmother had been delivered by Kiilhsoohkwa, who also gave the baby her Myaamia name after the delivery. 

P00532
The Last of the Miamis 1810–1910 Kil-so-quah and son, 1910. Indiana. Photograph by L. M. Huffman. In this staged scene, Waapimaankwa’s leggings and moccasins, with their eye-dazzling ribbonwork, are beautiful examples of Myaamia artistry. Myaamia traditional clothing was probably incorporated into the photograph because it looked “exotic,” especially paired with a long wig and Plains-style headdress used to meet people’s expectations of what an “authentic Indian” should look like in the early 1900s. The display of traditional cooking methods and tools (such as the maple sap bucket at her feet) and Waapimaankwaa’s far-reaching gaze add to romantic ideas of the “vanishing” Indian that were popular at the turn of the 20th century. These features, coupled with the title The Last of the Miamis all reinforce stereotypes of the time. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (P00532)


A conversation between Native youth and museum staff about items in the museum’s collection is an engaging way for knowledge of Myaamia history, language, and culture to be practiced and internalized by a younger generation and for the museum to add to its own store of knowledge. Additionally, with a continued focus in America’s classrooms on 21st-century skill building, young people benefit from developing critical thinking skills and using technology in educational formats. The NMAI is proud to have been able to support the Myaamia in nurturing their culture, and honored to have this opportunity to share information, especially given that museums are still resented by some Native communities for the unethical collecting practices of the 19th and 20th centuries.

By using dialogue, listening, respect, and practicing the Myaamia term neepwaantiinki—learning from each other—the National Museum of the American Indian and Native communities can continue to find ways to ensure that cultural objects are seen by youth, and that the stories they contain are preserved.

—Renée Gokey, NMAI

Renée Gokey (Eastern Shawnee/Sac and Fox/Miami) is the student services coordinator at the National Museum of the American Indian and is working in the Partnership & Extension Services Group for the National Education Initiative.

 

To read more about the Myaamia, visit: 

myaamiaki aancihsaaciki: A Cultural Exploration of the Myaamia Removal Route

kiiloona myaamiaki: The Sovereign Miami Tribe of Oklahoma

Aacimotaatiiyankwi | A Miami Community History and Ecology Blog

 

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Hey,i am jones from california.you explained the topic very well.thanks for informing this with us. I read your primary source for exampple "A Mission to the Indians. From the Indian Committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, to Fort Wayne, in 1804. it was amazing.

September 26, 2013

Meet Native America: The Honorable Daniel Kahikina Akaka, U.S. Senator for Hawai‘i from 1990 to 2013

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.

Established in 1989 through an Act of Congress, the National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of the life, languages, literature, history, and arts of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere, including the Native people of Hawai‛i. The museum is grateful for the ongoing interest and support of the Hawaiian delegation to the U.S. Congress. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI


Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

My name is Daniel Kahikina Akaka. In January 2013, I retired from the United States Senate after over 36 years of representing the people of Hawai‘i in Congress. I began my tenure in the House of Representatives in 1977, and was appointed to the Senate in 1990, becoming the first Native Hawaiian to serve in the Senate. In November of that year, I won the special election to the Senate, and would be re-elected to the seat three more times. Throughout my career in the Senate, I served on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and served as its Chairman in the 112th Congress.

Can you share with us your Hawaiian Native name, its English translation and/or a nickname?

My Hawaiian name is Kahikina; literally translated it means "to the east.” I am named after my father. 

DKA
The Hon. DanielKahikina Akaka served as U.S. senator for Hawai'i from 1990 to 2013. Official portrait courtesy of the U.S. Senate.

What responsibilities do you have as a national leader and tribal elder?

As a national leader, I have committed myself to a lifelong goal of working to protect the language, culture, and traditions of indigenous peoples. An essential component to this is grooming future leaders to ensure they practice and perpetuate their cultural values, which is why I have dedicated my time in retirement to mentor our future leaders. I hope that in the future all the work I have done in the state of Hawai‘i and in the Congress will help Native Hawaiians achieve self-determination and enable them to establish a governing entity.

Moreover, I hope that our country and world can get to a point where we all implement a good model for indigenous peoples that protects their right to self-determination and preserves their unique cultures and traditions. 

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your Native community?

My family and upbringing instilled in me a strong foundation and life purpose—to help and serve the people of Hawai‘i. I grew up immersed in Native Hawaiian cultural practices and traditions and took pride in my heritage.

From my exposure to various cultures in the Pacific as I served in the Army during World War II to seeing first-hand the displacement of indigenous peoples throughout the world as I visited various places as a Member of Congress, I came to realize that I needed not only to serve as a leader for the Native Hawaiian community, but moreover to help all indigenous peoples preserve their language, culture, and traditions.

As a member of Congress, I witnessed and learned more about the startling disparities faced by Native Hawaiians and was motivated to identify a way to unite Native Hawaiians and give them the capacity to govern themselves and take care of our people. This continues to be a sincere passion for me, and I firmly believe that when Native Hawaiians are successful in establishing a governing entity they will serve as a model for indigenous groups around the world.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

There are a number of individuals who helped groom and mentor me from my youth through my professional career. My brother, Reverend Abraham Akaka, was one of my first mentors and advocates. I admire and cherish him dearly. I still vividly remember the inspiring conversations I had with him over breakfast. Our discussions were often about faith and spirituality, but I will never forget his encouragement to embrace and understand diversity. He believed that out of diversity arises strength and power. He also advocated for raising the level of Native Hawaiians and encouraged me to do whatever I could to bring our people together.

My wife, Millie, is also my lifelong supporter who made it possible for me to accomplish all that I have in my life.

Two important individuals who specifically helped me get to the U.S. Congress were Hawai‘i Governors John Burns and George Ariyoshi. They both saw in me qualities that they believed were needed in our state and the Native Hawaiian community. They provided me the opportunities to serve various communities throughout the state and pushed me to strive for higher office.

I am extremely grateful to these four individuals for their belief in me and their tireless support.

Are you a descendent of a historical leader? If so, who?

No, I am not aware of any of my ancestors who were historical leaders. 

Where is the Native Hawaiian community located?

Our homeland consists of the islands of Hawai‘i, located in the Pacific Ocean. It is made up of eight major islands and 124 minor islands encompassing 4,112,955 acres.

Where was the Native Hawaiian community originally from?

Hawai‘i was originally settled by voyagers from central and eastern Polynesia who travelled great distances in double-hulled voyaging canoes to arrive in Hawai‘i, perhaps as early as 300 AD. 

Lei Draping 2009 a
SenatorAkaka speaking during the lei-draping ceremony to commemorate King Kamehameha Day. June 7, 2009; the U.S. Capitol Visitors’ Center Emancipation Hall, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Senate.
 

What is a significant point in history from your community that you would like to share?

On January 16, 1893, at the order of United States Minister to Hawaii John Stevens, a contingent of U.S. Marines from the USS Boston marched through Honolulu to a building located near both the government building and the palace. The next day, local non-Hawaiian revolutionaries seized the government building and demanded that Queen Lili‘uokalani abdicate the monarchy. Minister Stevens immediately recognized the rebels’ provisional government and placed it under the United States’ protection. Since the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, Native Hawaiians have been displaced from our land and our right to self-governance and self-determination.

It took 100 years for the United States to formally acknowledge their role in this event. In 1993 President Bill Clinton signed into law P.L. 103-150, a resolution that I sponsored. This resolution acknowledged the role the United States and its agents played in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and set forward a path towards reconciliation between the United States government and the Native Hawaiian people.

Approximately how many members are in your Native community?

According to the 2010 Census, there are over 500,000 individuals who identify as full or part Native Hawaiian in the United States. Of that number, over 280,000 live in Hawai‘i.

What are the criteria to become a member of the Native Hawaiian community?

Native Hawaiians do not have a governing entity or organic documents that establish the criteria to be a member of such an entity. However, in 2011 the state of Hawai‘i enacted Act 195 to establish a Native Hawaiian Roll Commission. Individuals on the roll will participate in the organization of a Native Hawaiian governing entity. To be on this roll, an individual must be a lineal descendant of the aboriginal people who resided in the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778, or be eligible for Hawaiian Home Lands or a lineal descendant of a person who is eligible for Hawaiian Home Lands.

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?

Yes, our language is spoken on our homelands due to the persistence of dedicated professionals in our community who worked tirelessly to ensure our language was preserved. Our language was nearly lost due to a number of significant historical events. First, after the arrival American missionaries, our oral language transitioned to a written language. Later the language was banned in all schools and displaced by English. I experienced first-hand the impact of this ban and was forbidden to speak my native tongue.

In 1984, a movement began to perpetuate our language, and the first Hawaiian language immersion preschool was opened. Hawai‘i is now the only state with a designated Native language, Hawaiian, as one of its two official state languages. Moreover, it is now possible to receive an education in Hawaiian immersion from preschool through a doctoral degree. Hawaiian language content is now available through multiple media sources, such as the Internet, television programs, and websites.

According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, 24.8 percent (+/- 1.0) of Hawai‘i’s population speaks a language other than English at home. Of this group, 6.1 percent (+/- 1.1) are Native Hawaiian speakers.

What economic enterprises does your Native community own?

Our community does not own any economic enterprises. However, Native Hawaiians are successful business owners and many participate in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program as a means to support the community.

What annual events does the Native Hawaiian community sponsor?

Many different organizations in our community hold different annual events. These can range from annual conferences with government and community officials, to family days, workshops with cultural practitioners, language seminars, and hula festivals.

One of the more prominent and longer-running events is a hula festival called the Merrie Monarch Festival, a week-long event hosted every spring in Hilo on the island of Hawai‘i. Many hālau hula, or hula schools—not just from across the state, but from across the nation and even internationally—participate in hula exhibitions and competitions. Merrie Monarch has received worldwide attention and is noted for its cultural significance and community impact.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

Hawai‘i is known worldwide for its natural beauty. Many people are familiar with our sandy beaches and our lush mountains, such as one popularly known as Diamond Head on O‘ahu. However, we also have National Parks that have great cultural significance, such as Haleakalā National Park on Maui, or Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park on the island of Hawai‘i.

Hawai‘i is also home to sites of national historical significance, such as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument where the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial is located, as well as the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. In addition, ‘Iolani Palace on O‘ahu is the only site in the United States that was used as an official residence by a reigning monarch; it is a National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Another noteworthy place in Hawai‘i is the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. While it isn’t an attraction available for visitors, Papahānaumokuākea is the single largest conservation area in the United States and one of the largest ocean sanctuaries in the world. This place speaks to the splendor and uniqueness of my home.

How is your traditional Native community government set up?

Prior to Western contact, our island nation had an organized and stable land tenure system under the stewardship of chiefly rulers. Native Hawaiians evolved a system of self-governance and a highly organized, self-sufficient, subsistent social system based on communal land tenure, with a sophisticated language, culture, and religion. This society was marked by reciprocal obligation and support between the chiefs and people.

In 1810, the Native Hawaiian political, economic, and social structure was unified under a monarchy led by King Kamehameha I. The authority of the king was derived from the gods, and he was a trustee of the land and other natural resources of the islands, which were held communally.

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

Native Hawaiians have not reorganized a governing entity since the kingdom was overthrown in 1893. 

How are leaders chosen?

While we have many prominent leaders throughout our communities who are successful because of their strong characters and respect of our culture and traditions, Native Hawaiians do not have a governing entity that is chosen and led by our people.

What message would you like to share with the youth of your Native community?

Foremost, I encourage the youth of my Native community to take pride in the place we call home— Hawai‘i.  Learn, internalize, and appreciate our Native language, culture, traditions, people, and natural environment. We will lose our identity as Hawai‘i if we lose this. Commit yourselves to preserving the identity of Hawai‘i and the identity of indigenous peoples around the world.

As I see it, Hawai‘i is the piko—a navel or center—of the universe. We have so much to offer and we need to do all we can to share what we have with the world. Ultimately, I encourage the youth to give back to people and the world by using all that makes up our special identity as Native Hawaiians. 

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

This is something I have said before, but it remains very important to me and the Hawaiian people: If at any time in your life you are given aloha, appreciate it, live it and pass it on, because that's the nature of aloha and that is the spirit of aloha. It means nothing unless you share it.

Mahalo, thank you, for giving me the opportunity to share a little about my community and our people with you.

Thank you. 

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below.  

Meet-native-america

From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips.

All images used with permission. 

 

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In the Archives: A Poignant Drawing of a Selk’nam Man by Charles W. Furlong

Charles Furlong Ona Drawing
Drawing of a Selk’nam (Ona) man wearing a guanaco robe and headdress made by Charles W. Furlong in the Heye Museum visitors’ sign-in book, April 25, 1914. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation Records, box 595, folder 11. National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.

In the Archive Center of the National Museum of the American Indian, I recently came across a pen-and-ink drawing of a Selk’nam (Ona) man—perhaps the portrait of a specific individual—created by Charles W. Furlong (1874–1967). It was drawn from memory and on the spot in a sign-in book when Furlong visited the Heye collection on April 25, 1914.

Though neither chartered nor open to the public, what had become known informally as the Heye Museum was the forerunner of the Museum of the American Indian–Heye Foundation, itself the forerunner of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The “museum,” located at 10 East 33rd Street in New York City, was several floors in a loft building. There George G. Heye stored his private collection and showed it to, among others, prominent people in the field of anthropology, including Adolf Bandolier, Samuel A. Barrett, Franz Boas, J. Walter Fewkes, Walter Hough, Alfred Kidder, Alfred Kroeber, Carl Lumholtz, George Pepper, Zellia Nutall, Frederick Ward Putman, Marshall Saville, Charles C. Willoughby, and Clark Wissler. And from there Heye (and his mother) funded more than 30 archaeological and ethnographic collecting expeditions that literally spanned the Western Hemisphere.

Between 1904, when he began to collect systematically, and 1916, when he founded the Museum of the American Indian–Heye Foundation, Heye amassed well over 50,000 objects representing the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Included among them were Selk’nam and Yámana objects from the southernmost tip of South America collected by Furlong in 1907, 1908, and 1910. 

Well educated, keenly intelligent, adventurous, an artist and a writer, Furlong had a remarkable career. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I. Afterward, he was the special military aide to President Woodrow Wilson, then a military intelligence officer in the Balkans, Near East, and Middle East. Before his military service, however, Furlong became interested in studying worlds “not yet documented,” beginning with a significant stretch of the Sahara Desert. Like Heye, he was a member of the Explorers Club. Founded in New York City in 1904, the Explorers Club was made up of men who “traveled the earth, the seas, and the skies,” and who gathered at lectures and annual dinners to share stories of their expeditions. It is quite possible, even likely, that Heye first met Furlong at this illustrious club.

When Furlong made his trip to the archipelago off the southernmost tip of South America, the Yámana and Selk’nam lived on the large string of islands called Tierra del Fuego (“land of fire”). The Selk’nam lived on the largest of these islands, Isla Grande, while the Yámana lived on the smaller islands to the south and west. These two peoples had surprisingly frequent, though extremely sporadic, contact with Europeans from the time of Ferdinand Magellan’s historic circumnavigation of the Earth. Magellan explored the coast of the tip of South America in 1520 when he sailed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific through what is now known as the Strait of Magellan. Magellan is credited with being the first European to make that passage, but, of course, Yámana (and perhaps Selk’nam as well) boats were navigating those very waters long before his arrival. Yámana, in particular, were maritime hunters who harvested the rich marine life around Tierra del Fuego. The Selk’nam and Yámana were also the people whom Charles Darwin encountered on the second survey expedition of HMS Beagle during the winter of 1832–33. 

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Two Selk’nam (Ona) families, 1908. North of the eastern end of Lake Cami, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Photo by Charles W. Furlong. Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library. Used with permission. 
 

The Selk’nam and Yámana were less impacted by European contact than many Native peoples. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, their populations virtually collapsed under the sudden and overwhelming increase of European settlers. Furlong wrote about his trip to “the southernmost habitat of man” with sympathy and intelligence in the February and June 1909 issues of Harper’s Monthly Magazine, which funded his expedition. He later wrote about the Selk’nam and Yámana, and other indigenous Fuegian peoples, in far greater depth in the January and March 1917 issues of The Geographical Review and in the March 1933 issue of The Geographical Journal.

Furlong was fully cognizant of the fact that the populations of the local indigenous peoples had recently and dramatically declined. Immediately after his first trip, he wrote in Harper’s Monthly that the “advance agents of civilization—bullets, drink and disease—have not only done their work, but have done it quickly.” Though he spoke in his articles of “the rotten rum and more rotten morals” of “civilization”—the ironic quotations marks around civilization are his—Furlong did not mention the fact that that gold had been discovered in Tierra del Fuego in 1879, leading to massive immigration and the burgeoning of settlements. And while he wrote of the Selk’nam that the “closest analysis of this splendid tribe was too often along the sights of a Winchester or Remington,” he did not write that Selk’nam were literally hunted down for money by European sheep ranchers who wanted their land. Despite the efforts of the few Church of England and Silesian (Roman Catholic) missionaries—seemingly the only outsiders who cared about their wellbeing—the Selk’nam and Yánama were all but annihilated during a 50-year period. Today, very few people identify themselves as Yámana or Selk'nam descendants, let alone as Yámana or Selk'nam.

In the 19th century, the 1882­–83 French scientific mission to Cape Horn produced a number of striking albumen prints of Yámana. These photographs are housed in the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris. According to the Dartmouth College Library in Hanover, New Hampshire, where Furlong’s papers are archived, Furlong left behind phonograph records of speech and song of the Fuegian tribes, notes, correspondence, and hundreds of photographs, negatives, and lantern slides. The Selk’nam and Yámana objects Furlong collected are housed in several American museums, including the American Museum of Natural History, New York; Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, New York; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; and what is now the National Museum of the American Indian.

Between 1918 and 1924, Martin Gusinde (1886–1969), a German priest and respected ethnologist, lived among the remaining Selk’nam and Yámana. Gusinde made audio recordings and published several important ethnographic works. Anthropologist, Samuel K. Lothrop collected objects among both the Selk’man and Yánama for the Museum of the American Indian–Heye Foundation in 1925. In recent years, a small number of documentaries have been made incorporating remarkable vintage film footage of Selk’nam and Yámana. These are available from Documentary Educational Resources. A short, but extraordinary film clip was made in 1928  by the Italian missionary and explorer Father Alberto María d'Agostini; footage of the Selk’nam and Yámana begins a minute or so into the film.

Tragically, these materials together constitute what are among the few glimpses that remain today into the lives of the Selk’nam and Yámana, memory of whom—that they existed and in specific ways—Furlong inscribed in ink on paper when he signed into the Heye Museum on April 25, 1914—seven years after the Selk’nam and Yámana inscribed their lives, their presence, their reality on to his consciousness. 

Cécile R. Ganteaume, NMAI 
 

144NEF_Cecile smCécile R. Ganteaume is the curator, most recently, of the Circle of Dance exhibition on view at NMAI-New York. She is also the curator of the exhibition An Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian also on view in New York, and is the editor of its accompanying book. She is a recipient of a 2011 Smithsonian Secretary’s Excellence in Research Award. She joined the National Museum of the American Indian in when it was established as part of the Smithsonian. Photo by R.A.Whiteside, NMAI. 

 

 

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Kinda neat knowing that Darwin communicated with these people.

Cécile Ganteaume is a better curator than I could ever hope to be.

Indigenous peoples is a legacy that we have a duty to protect them and above all respect, very interesting document, congratulations.