New Traditions

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Indian War Dance at White Earth, Minn. June 14, 1910.

The maintenance of endangered traditions requires the constant care and devotion of their practitioners. This first photograph of a group of men dancing at White Earth in 1910 shows them Trooping the Colors of the American flag directly next to the traditional eagle staff at the opening ceremony. Contemporary pow wows open the same way, generally with veterans of the Viet Nam, Iraq or Afghanistan Wars holding the flag and staff.

This new tradition to help Native people cope with colonialism’s depredations spread extremely quickly – the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society, for example, has one of the earliest extant Jingle Dresses. The piece was collected in 1905 – among the Dakota at Upper Sioux. The dress quickly began to morph from a shirt and skirt combination with a simple line of tin cone jingles on each garment to more elaborate styles like the caped dress in this photograph taken at Mille Lacs in the 1930s.