Flashback Friday: Women on the Plains

It is an image that draws you in: a glass plate of four American Indian women posing in the wind. Two women wear bonnets, two are in straw hats, and one of them uses an umbrella like a cane. They are young and clearly there is a gathering in the background. However, that is all we know. There is no date, location, names, or knowledge about why they are gathering—we can speculate that the photograph was taken in the late 1800s. Also, in the black-and-white image, some of the interesting details are lost in the shadows, such as leather shoes, belts, and jewelry. The colorization of the archival photograph for the cover of Sioux Women: Traditionally Sacred is another reason why it is one of my favorites.

In her book, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve combed through winter counts and oral records of her ancestors to discover their past. The result is an illumination of the struggles and joys of her grandmothers and other women who maintained traditional values as circumstances changed and outside cultures pushed for dominance. The colorized version of the four women, along with all the other photographs that illustrate the book, enlivens the author’s narrative.

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—Jennifer McIntyre

Featured image: South Dakota State Historical Society, Digital Archives