Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sepia Saturday: A'aninin People





Edward S. Curtis was fascinated by native peoples and memorialized them in photographs taken as he traveled the American West in the early 1900s. One of the tribal groups whose images he captured was the A’aninin, the White Clay people as they called themselves. 



The people were also known as the Atsina or the Gros Ventres of the Prairie. They were a nomadic plains people who followed bison hers and generally were found between the Missouri and Saskatchewan Rivers. 



Like most plains groups, they lived in tepees and engaged in trade with other native groups. However, they had received guns and ammunition from the British, which gave them an advantage over many Plains bands like the Shoshone. Unfortunately, their choice of the Blackfoot nation as an enemy left their ranks depleted by war just as the western smallpox epidemic stuck. The combination decimated their numbers and as of the 1990 Census, there were only about 2800 known descendants of the tribe that.



The A’aninin spoke an Algonquian-related language and were related to the Arapaho, but they may have broken off from the Arapaho tribe as early as 1700. Their particular language was unusual because men and women used different pronunciations of the same words. Women used the “k” sound, while men used the “ty” or “ch” sound. Only a handful of elders speak the language today, and in reviving the language, only the male pronunciations were preserved.





They managed to avoid removal to Oklahoma, accepting a reservation in Montana shared by their allies, the Assiniboine people.

(All images reproduced are by Curtis from November 1908 and were retrieved from the Library of Congress photo collection.)

13 comments:

Little Nell said...

Thanks for this fascinating post. It's always interesting to see photographs of these native American tribes. They were extremely vulnerable.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Meri, these are fascinating. Thank you for sharing them with us. My heart sinks whenever I think about what our Native Americans went through.

Kathy M.

Bob Scotney said...

I'm fascinated too. In 2010 I met James McClurken when he spoke about his book "Our People, Our Journey" the story of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, a tribe in Michigan. Before then I only had a slight apprecaition of how native Americans had been treated. Thanks for your post.

Kristin said...

Interesting about the differing pronunciation between men and women. Sort of too bad only the male version is being kept.

Jana Last said...

Interesting history lesson! I wonder why the men and women pronounced the same words differently.

Peter said...

A very informative post, Meri. Obviously we knew things didn't go too well for the native Americans but we never read about it.
It seems that in the first picture the faces have been blurred? I wonder why that is.

barbara and nancy said...

I'm a real fan of Edward Curtis. I have one of those giant books of his native American photos and just love to look at it. I priced some Curtis photos in Santa Fe, New Mexico once and they go for thousands of dollars - and not originals, but what they call folios. Wish I could have afforded a few!
Nancy

Kathy said...

I am enjoying the introduction to photographers and their work today! Thanks for sharing these.

Postcardy said...

I think the sepia color really adds to the interest and impact of the photos.

Wendy said...

Aren't these amazing photos of a culture that is mysterious and captivating! I never knew the men and women had different pronunciations for words.

Kat Mortensen said...

We forget how an epidemic would have had an effect on nomads such as these. One tends to think merely of tribal wars and not natural causes.

Why were they called, "White Clay", I wonder?

Pat transplanted to MN said...

That was really top notch, interesting, educational and very different...I have seen works by Curtis in our travels but this was enlightening. A sad commetary on our history.

Karen S. said...

They lived an amazing life. What a wonderful series you posted for us. The Library of Congress has a great resource for just about everything you could ever want to see!