Salish man Sam Resurrection Pictured in Full Regalia
May 18, 2022
There's a lot of wisdom, pathos and experience in the eyes of this elderly Salish man pictured in his regalia. His figure is bent with age, but there's an undeniably spriteliness in his look. You can almost see a slight smile on his lips.
The subject of the photo is Sam Resurrection, a Salish man well known for his thoughtful letters to Congress lobbying for recognition of Salish rights. He died a few months after this photograph was taken. But as his Native-American surname implies, it wasn't the first time he'd died.
When he was 12, his mother was certain he was dead. Details are scarce, but perhaps the boy fell into a coma, or some other sleeping sickness. His mother was in the process of knitting him some new ceremonial leggings to go with his funereal clothes when, suddenly, he came back to life. He thereby earned his name: Resurrection.
This photograph, like so many of Montana's best historical photography, was taken by the legendary R.H. McKay. McKay came out West to be a barber, but quickly discovered a love of photography. He set up a professional studio in Missoula in the early 1910s and enjoyed a bustling trade in photographing western Montana for many years until his retirement in the 1940s. That makes this a very late photograph for McKay, who is probably best known for portraits of Native-American life.