A Happy Family

A Happy Family

courtesy of Geoffrey C. Ward The West

4 responses to “A Happy Family”

  1. What a nice picture! When I lived in Portland, OR, I once read that the Chinook Indians, whose villages lined the Columbia and Willamette every mile or two, due to the abundance of fish (particularly salmon) and game, were estimated to have spent a mere 2 to 5 percent of their waking hours engaged in work that could be conceived as arduous or mundane. I’m not saying it was an idyllic life, but that they were observed by the early trappers, missionaries and the like, to have spent the majority of their time engaged in family activities, and that the men were seen openly laughing and playing with their wives and children – something almost unheard of in public for white Europeans and early settlers.
    Also, its just plain rare for photographs, any photographs, to show people smiling in the early days of photography – as evidenced by the legions of grim faced families lining up as though they are about to be shot. I know the few pictures I have of my own ancestors are devoid of a single smile!
    A lovely photo indeed.


    • I adore this photo for the very reason you said–it’s rare to see people smiling in old photos–but they do exist even among white people 🙂
      I was just reading today about the constant state of fear and anxiety that the plains Indians were in once they became nomads. Yes, there was a sense of freedom, but a sense of worry, too about their next meals especially during the winter and bad seasons. My feeling is that some whites and some Indians and some of every population enjoy their kids more. Some not so much. I just hate the competition about which group of people did things best in the misty past. The white invasion brought with it harm and good (many, many Indians just assimilated). The earliest Indians killed off the larger mammals that existed on the continent before whites arrived so we’re all a part of extinction and greatness.


      • You’ve hit on a really fascinating subject and one that gets very little attention within the ‘serious’ class of historians. The plains Indians comprise a particularly complex group since they compose of tribes that were uprooted from the East along with the indigenous tribes that had lived on the plains for thousands of years. Add horses, the odd wandering trapper and the ‘overcrowding’, that lead to an almost constant state of war among many tribes, and you have the Hollywood image of ‘The West’ that many of us carry around with us today. But what life was like over the long stretch of history prior to all this is difficult if not impossible to gauge.
        I agree with your premise though – throughout history, whatever the state of the wider world families have always found time to share a smile, even if the early photographers of the day did not think such moments worth capturing.


      • I think people spend a lot of time trying to prove that one ethnic group or another are responsible for the sorry state of the world, instead of realizing that everyone and everything is in a constant state of flux. Most people have just tried to survive and have a nice time with their loved ones. An interesting tidbit this week was learning that many Indians saw the honey bee as the first invader. Whenever the honeybee was found they knew the Europeans where not far behind. I think honey bees are cute.


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