Blackfeet Men Sitting in Sun Dance Lodge, Very Early 20th Century
March 03, 2021
Taken in the first decade of the 20th century, this remarkable photo captures some Blackfeet men sitting in a Sun Dance lodge. They are wearing a variety of different forms of clothing, from traditional beaded buckskins and a vertical eagle feather bonnet on the man nearest the camera to variations of western attire on the other men.
Also visible in the photograph is a willow-back rest, a traditional and surprisingly comfortable way to sit made out of small willow branches set tightly together to create a surface, and often hung from a tripod of larger branches, often with a loop at the top created out of skin.
The Sun Dance, or Okan, is a yearly festival held in the summer at the ripening of the Sarvis berries (or juneberries as they are sometimes known). The Sun Dance is a ceremony of renewal and sacrifice. The Blackfeet people have asked that the specifics of the ritual remain obscure, as, in the past, the sacred nature of the Sun Dance has been exploited for tourism or spectacle. It lasts up to a day and a half, during which hundreds of songs are sung.