Native American Regalia

Weekly Photo Challenge: Intricate
Intricate: what does it mean to you? Show us your interpretation.

With my iphone, I have become a drive-by photographer–one of those people who take photos that catch the eye. I’ve taken photos of big things like artfully/weirdly colored cars, of which there is no short supply of in Berkeley and small things such as a quirky card that I have no interest in buying, but is nifty enough to text “share” with friends. The technology of cameras in phones have desensitized us to notions of privacy. So much so that there’s a great deal of permissiveness in the idea of taking a photo of something you like or would like to memorialize for positive or negative reasons. Before cameras-in-phones, it was unlikely that you would take the liberty of taking a photograph of a stranger or someone else’s property.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a powwow at UC Berkeley. This was an unplanned activity as we saw the crowd and tents and heard the drumming from our seats outside a local African-Caribbean restaurant and decided to check out what was going on. We were pleasantly surprised to walk into a powwow.

The dancers’ regalia was stunning. The patterns, beadwork, and integration of feathers were done with such care that you could tell that for each person it was more than just clothing. It was a representation of a legacy that endured in spite of marginalization and near genocide. In a heartbeat I would have pulled out my handy camera-in-a-phone and taken photographs.  However, I agonized over whether or not to take a photo. I was dying to do so, and yet I couldn’t. I remembered learning eons ago in 4th grade Social Studies that Native Americans were not keen on photographs and that you had to ask permission if you wanted to take a photograph.

I ended up not taking a photograph (above photo is from the internet). I saw some people with actual cameras taking photos and I could have probably taken one without consequence. Yet I felt in my heart that to do so would be a violation of the sacred. These people were strangers. I would probably never see any of them again. Yet the gathering was sacred and it needed to be honored because it was an honor to catch a glimpse of a culture I know very little about. Not everything is meant to be consumed.

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