Indian Ink! 12 Tattoos Expressing Iroquois Pride by A. Jacobs ICTMN
O’siyo. Natives have been using tattooing and body art as means of expressing their culture for many years. After the spread of Christianity, this art form disappeared. Today the art of tattooing is back stronger than ever among Native Indians. In celebration, The Iroquois Museum is presenting an exhibition entitled Indian Ink, Iroquois & The Art of Tattoos, which runs May 1 through November 30, 2013.
“As European explorers and Native chiefs set-up the translation protocol of their meetings, in the background, sailors and warriors would check out each other’s tattoos and piercings. You could say those were the first cross cultural exchanges in the Americas.
Tattooing and body art was widespread among most tribes but because of Christianity and acculturation it disappeared or went underground for a century or so. Since the late 1960’s, modern society has seen a resurgence of all types of tattooing, with tribal designs especially trending.
Tribal tattoos now reflect Clan symbols and legends, totems and spirit protectors, family traditions and Native languages. Tribal members now modernize traditional arts like wampum designs and pictographs into body art to update and re-affirm cultural identity.
During the annual Labor Day Weekend Festival of the Arts, August 31 and September 1, there will be high quality painted and airbrushed temporary tattoos by Mohawk artist Peter Loran, with artwork by Iroquois artists Peter B. Jones, Carson Waterman, John Thomas and A. Jacobs.”
The Iroquois Museum is located at Howe’s Cave, NY, 40 miles west of Albany. For further info:IroquoisMuseum.org or call (518) 296-8949.
“You may lose your most valuable property through misfortune in various ways. You may lose your house, your wife and other treasures. But of your moko, [tatoo] you cannot be deprived except by death. It will be your ornament and companion until your last day.” ~ Māori Netana Whakaari of Waimana~
There are many legends about how the Indians learned about the Talking Feather/Talking Stick. Here is one of them…
Long years ago, when gods walked this earth and the land beyond, Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei, were together enjoying the warm summer day. It was a day when the crickets chirrupted in the waving, green grass,when they noticed a figure moving towards them.
As the figure approached closer Kanati said “Look, that woman is crying, what could be the matter?” “I can not imagine why anyone would cry on such a glorious day.” Replied Asgaya Gigagei. “Let’s ask her.”
As the woman drew nearer, they could see her buckskin was decorated with beautiful designs and colors. She carried a bundle filled with leaves, sage, and colorful stones and feathers. They knew immediately this woman was a holy being.
Kanati asked her “Holy mother, why are you crying so?” The woman looked up in wonder, because she had been walking with her head down. “I’m crying because the men of my village are fighting constantly! Each thinks his ideas for leading the tribe is the best!” Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei glanced at one another, in perplexity. “Why, if there are so many good ideas for leading your tribe, why are the men fighting? And why aren’t you and the other members happy!” The poor woman shook her head sadly and replied, “Yes, you are right, the men do have very good ideas, but every man wants to speak his own ideas, and not listen to anyone else. They all shout and scream at one another so loudly, that it frightens the children who run and hide behind their mothers. The women are sad because their husbands come to the house upset and angry. Furthermore, the tribe is suffering, because no one can seem to make a decision.” Just then a beautiful Eagle was soaring overhead, Kanati called out “Brother Eagle, may I have one of your feathers, there are poor humans in desperate need!”
Bother Eagle replied “Yes” and shook himself until a single iridescent, large feather fell to the ground. “Many thanks and Blessings on you” said Kanati. Kanati made secret signs and prayers over the Feather. Asgaya Gigagei helped him with the blessings. Kanati then said to the woman “This is the sacred Talking Father, it holds great power for the one who holds it. Go back to your people, hold this feather up in the air, all who see it will fall silent, and listen to what you have to say. Tell all who listen that from now on, who ever holds this feather, all present within the Circle Council must listen to his words. The feather must then be passed on to the next speaker.”
The woman thanked Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei and hurried back to her village where there was total chaos!. Everyone was talking at once, children were crying, men were screaming at each other. As soon as she held the feather over her head, all became quiet! No one could utter a sound! the holy woman proceeded to give the directions given to her by the gods. She then passed the feather to the first man. He called the Talking Circle together, and each man had his say as he held the feather. From that time on that tribe flourished because they now had direction, and each person could hear and understand what their peers said. The people worked together, to build a great nation. Along the way, they shared the wonders of the Talking Feather with other tribes they met. “And that my friends is the true story of how the Talking Feather came to be!”