native americans

Slideshows With Meaning

“Face to Face” portraits by Alison Wright, who works for the for the National Geographic, shows people from around their world in their traditional clothing, usually with solemn faces and eyes that look through the screen directly to you.

These photos document the beauty in the different cultures around the world, showing you through dress or caption a small piece of the world outside of the United States. The pictures are simple, but gorgeous with sharp focus and bright eye catching colors.

I find it inspiring that she was able to truthfully document different individuals in such a distinct pattern that it makes them look similar. The traditional clothes are beautiful and in some of those captured they seem proud to be photographed in such a way.

So, do you think these photos show the beauty of being different? Or do these photos show that through our differences we are similar?

“Greatest Photos from the American West” groups photos by a variety of photographers for the National Geographic and other news sources to combine notable images from the American West in order to show a glimpse into the varying lives of America’s homeland.

These photos document everything from the rolling prairie grasses sprawling across open fields, to good ole cowboys lounging in a lonesome dim-lit bar, to Native Americans perched on top of horses surrounded by teepees and buckskin dresses. They show the diversity in just a single region of the United States. Each of these photos have an earthy feel to them, with nature being either lurking in the background or being the prominent feature, which is what many Americans (myself included) think of when they think of the West.

I think these photos are inspiring because they show that you don’t have to look for diversity in small dark corners of the world, it’s everywhere.

Also, (since I am the daughter of an environmental scientist) I have a small fascination with the simplistic beauty of nature. These photos are shot without the effects of exposure lighting, mostly outdoors, with colors given to us by the Earth.

“Windows of the Soul” pictures by Alexandra Avakian depicts Muslims in various shoots that she took over a period of twenty years. The photos show Muslims, throughout different parts of the world (including the United States) in an array of situations.

One shows women in strict Hijab with facial masks taking a break from shopping. The photo is so striking to see women so concealed, but the situation is common, many women go shopping everyday. Another shows a group of children playing and laughing, faces stretched in full giggles, with nothing out of the ordinary but simple head coverings. Others, depict fearful situations, a protestor jumping to escape high rising flames, snipers who had been attacking the photographers hotel for several days surrendering to military police.

These photos show that despite the unfortunately common terrorist portrayal of Muslims, they’re just like the rest of us. I think the most striking photo to me was the image of a woman covered from head to toe pushing a lawnmower in front of her home. It’s so ordinary and basic that it’s pretty.

I also think the photos could inspire some of those with prejudice to briefly put aside their ideals to see that they aren’t the bad guys, it’s just unfortunate that every religion has a few violent nut jobs who claim their criminal intentions have God at its base.¬†

A Not So Epic Clash of Cultures

My parents divorced when I was young, so young that I barely remember anything about them being married. When I was 5, my mother remarried to my wonderful dad, Alex, and my father began dating my wonderful mom, Michelle.

I lived with my mom during the school year, wherever in the world that turned out to be. My dad is in the military and we move pretty frequently, so my living locations would change often. Two years after they remarried I got a little brother, Matthew, seven years my junior, and later Allison, nine years my junior.

My mom, dad, and family

My mom, dad, and family

During the summer I stayed with my dad in Idaho. The first time I spent the summer with Michelle was a bit overwhelming. ¬†Michelle had been married before and had four kids of her own, Joe, two years younger than I, Tyler, my age, Lynne, four years older than I, and Josh, seven years older than I. I hadn’t really ever been around that many kids my own age before outside of school, so I didn’t know how to react other than whine and sit in the corner and read. Gradually though, I became more outgoing and consider each of them my brothers-and-sister-from-anotha-motha. (bringing my sibling count to a wonderful I-will-never-be-out-of-family-reach six).

My father, Michelle, brother-in-law, niece, and siblings

My father, Michelle, brother-in-law, niece, and siblings

Now here’s how it relates to this blog- my stepfamily is a mixture of culture all their own. Mexican, Yugoslavian, Native American, and other things I’m sure I’ll learn eventually. Most impacting on their identity is Native American. Specifically, their Lakota heritage (though I believe they have a history of other tribes in their ancestry). The first time I stepped into my step-grandparents house I was fascinated with the finely feathered dream catchers, hand woven quilts, and beautifully painted horse statues. The first time I went to a pow-wow I was enchanted with the beat of the drums and the colorful twirling and shining of the handmade dresses. The beadwork coin pouch I got from one of the stalls there is so worn from my 7-year-old fingers rubbing over the leather that the woven image of a girl droops in the middle.

Before I met them, my only introduction into Native Americans had been Disney’s Pocahontas singing “Colors of the Wind” as her luxuriously long black hair swirled and her cute not-rabid-at-all raccoon stuffed crackers into its mouth. My stepfamily showed me (at a very early age) that while your cultural identity was a part of your background, more than just a little checkbox on a survey, and something to be proud of, it did not dictate how you must act or who you have to associate with. My siblings are just like me, except my older sister and I can’t share base makeup and my brothers don’t have to slather on sunscreen when we go fishing.

My niece in a pow-wow outfit

My niece in Lakota dress

On the same note, your ancestry can be fascinating and learning about others ancestry is equally as enthralling. I was blessed in a Mormon church after I was born (I’m not Mormon, but my ancestors are) and I was given an exceptionally pretty Lakota blanket to celebrate my accomplishments when I graduated high school. My family in Texas prides itself on BBQ and pecan pie and my sister mixed her modern day wedding with her grandfathers Lakota prayers and blessings.

My step-grandpa in a Lakota ceremony

My step-grandpa during the ceremony

Ignorance is one way stereotypes are created. Just because my siblings are Native American doesn’t mean they wear moccasins and weave feathers in their hair. Similarly, just because I’ve got some Irish roots doesn’t mean I look for leprechauns and get hogwash drunk at the local pub.

So, keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to ask someone about their cultural heritage. Some of the stories might be fascinating and each one will open your eyes to cultures outside of your own. Never be afraid of a little learning.

My nieces and I

My nieces and I

“Give me knowledge so I that may have kindness for all.”- unknown Plains Indian