Saturday, March 14, 2015

An Intriguing Narragansett & Wampanoag Image from 1925

I've been a little behind lately in my blog postings because I've been busy curating a new exhibit on Iroquois and Wabanaki beadwork that will open this spring.  More on that in a future posting.  I did want to share with you a compelling image that I came across recently. As a portrait artist, I am often drawn (excuse the pun) to powerful images of people from times past and this one certainly fits the bill. It’s one of the more intense group portraits that I have seen in a long time. The inscription on the bottom of the photograph reads:  “N. E. Annual Pow-Wow of Algonquin Indians. Providence, R.I. October 14, 1925.” The image was vaguely familiar so I spent some time looking through my library and lo and behold, it was published in 1975 in The Narragansett People by Ethel Boissevain, pages 76 & 77. In Boissevain book the image is captioned: “Concerned Native Americans sustained a council of Eastern Algonkian Indians for several years during the 1920’s. This 1925 photograph shows a group of the Council composed of members of the Narragansett and Wampanoag tribes.”

I thought I would share the image with you as some of you might recognize family members. The gaze on the face of many of these people is quite compelling and can cut right through you. I scanned the photo at a high resolution and added many detail shots of the group.  If anyone can identify someone I would love to hear from you. The photograph appears to have been taken in the front of a Masonic lodge, most likely in Providence, RI as evidenced by the Square and Compass, the single most universally identifiable symbol of Freemasonry, which is displayed on the wall of the building behind the group. The photographer was L.W. Thurston, 166 Peace Street, Providence, RI.

After I posted this two of the individuals depicted were identified as Nipmuck. I added that info below.



Two of the individuals in this image have been identified. The woman on the left back row in front of the window is Sarah Cisco Sullivan. She was the Sachem of the Hassanamisco Band of Nipmuc Indians (now known as the Nipmuc Nation) during most of the 20th century. Her father, Chief Cisco, is standing to the left of her wearing a plains-style headdress which many men wore back then. Thank you Cheryll Toney Holley for this information.
Burne Stanley-Peters said that she and Slow Turtle knew Sarah well. They knew her as Zara - Zara Cisco-Brough and she lived in the house on the Hassanamisco Reservation.