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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Plains Indians Regalia & Customs by Bad Hand (Schiffer Publishing) This original study of Plains Indian cultures of the 19th century is presented through the use of period writings, paintings and early photography that relate how life was carried out. The author Bad Hand juxtaposes the sources with new research and modern color photography of specific replica items. Bad Hand is a Native American author, historian, lecturer and replica maker who has made the study of Plains Indian culture part of his life.

Plains Indians Regalia & Customs documents the seven major tribes: Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Hidatsa, Mandan, and Lakota. Observations of Plains Indian men's and women's habits include procuring food, dancing, developing spiritual beliefs, and experiencing daily life. Prominent leaders and average members of the tribes are introduced and major incidents are explained. True stories come to light through objects that relate to each incident and personality. With an understanding of these cultures, readers learn basic similarities of all people, ancient to present, including today's multi-cultural society.

According to Big Weapon in Plains Indians Regalia & Customs, one focus is to show that the early style of photographic imagery created an aura of the earlier Indian people. The aura is plainly seen in those old tintype images and other styles of early photographs that came and went through that historic Plains Indian period after European/White contact. This aura also extended to anyone who was photographed during that time period. The Old West was certainly a very hard environment to live in, and as the romanticism of the Old West is carried on in stories, books and movies, these haunting images of the past only help to deepen that imagination. The aura extends with early sketches by explorers and artists as well. One example of this observation includes a sketch of a Metis man in Canada wearing a porcupine quilled Metis man's coat. What really caught his attention is the fact that the man was sketched, both front and back. These early sketches deepen the mystique of the Old West, just as early photographs do. The aura is evident in this line drawing. Yet when compared with the original Metis coat of similar quality and age, the realism brings home the fact the color was a reality those early people also saw the same reality we have today.

The same photographic processes of yesteryear were applied to modern Indian people of today. Using modern color photographs, the Indian people who modeled for Plains Indians Regalia & Customs can be compared side by side with the old images. By doing so, no attempt was made to remove any of the mysticism that the early style of imagery unknowingly created with the historic figures, but rather the new color humanizes those individuals from the past and shows that many attractive people with expressions of personality were photographed by the gifted photographers.

Even when creating images of themselves, in their Indian regalia, with early developing techniques, the book provides evidence that really anyone from the Old West, Indian or White, were made larger than life due in part to these images.

Plains Indians Regalia & Customs was not a matter of simply going to a tourist town or a state fair where vendors provide an Old West backdrop and, using modern equipment with grainy film, placing Velcro-taped prop clothing for an Old West portrait. The clothing appearing on these pages is correct to the time period being discussed, and has taken a lifetime to collect and produce.

Just as in all cultures and peoples around the globe, clothing styles and trends came and went for the Native Americans of North America. For instance, the clothing of a Cheyenne person in 1760 would not be the same for a Cheyenne of 1860, nor for any other tribe. Tribal trends and styles flowed, as in any culture and were influenced by many factors. Readers study the images that appear in Plains Indians Regalia & Customs, both old and new, to compare and contrast their color and darkness along with the shadows.

In Plains Indians Regalia & Customs the past comes to life and today's readers learn this history with concrete examples to which they relate. As the old saying goes, A photo speaks a thousand words and these most certainly do.

A History of Jonathan Alder: His Captivity and Life With the Indians by Henry Clay Alder, edited by Doyle H. Davidson, Larry Nelson (Series on Ohio History and Culture: University of Akron Press) is one of the most extensive first person accounts`to survive from Ohio’s pioneer and early settlement eras. Alder’s reminiscence spans half a century, from his capture at M the age of nine in 1782, when Ohio had no permanent European settlement and was still the exclusive domain of the Ohio Indian nations, to 1832, nearly a generation after the pioneer era had ended.
The narrative provides a unique perspective on frontier Ohio and its`transformation from wilderness to statehood. It illustrates the continuing evolution in the relationship between Ohio ’s Indians and whites from the Revolutionary War era to a time when many of the state’s native peoples had been removed.
Alder’s recollection provides an exceptional look at early Ohio . The portrait of his captors is revealing, complex, and sympathetic. The latter part of his narrative is an extraordinarily rich account of early pioneer life in which he describes his experiences in central Ohio . Further, Alder was fortunate in that he encountered many of the persons and took part in many of the events that have become touchstones in Ohio ’s pioneer history, including Simon Kenton, Simon Girty, and Colonel William Crawford. He participated in the Battles of Fort Recovery and Fallen Timbers, and his recollection of these actions are among the few extant accounts that describe these events from a Native American perspective.


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