This Native American woman had a beautiful, knowing smile. It was the smile of someone who has seen a lot in life. During the 1970s, Uptown was the hub of Native American life in Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune, Uptown had more than 20 Indian organizations at the time. Many Native Americans told me that virtually every tribe in America was represented here. An article in the Chicago Reporter describes how Native Americans have dispersed since then. According to the Reporter’s census analysis, Uptown is no longer the center of the Native American culture in Chicago.
Many Indians did not want to have their photographs taken. They told me they believed the camera would “capture their spirits.” I couldn’t tell whether they really believed this or were just concerned about their privacy. Some years later, I came across this passage in an 1877 U.S. government publication called the “Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs of North American Indians” by the famous photographer, W. H. Jackson. The preface says, “The American Indian is extremely superstitious, and every attempt to take his picture is rendered difficult if not entirely frustrated by his deeply-rooted belief that the process places some portion of himself in the power of the white man, and his suspicion that such control may be used to his injury.” However, this woman readily agreed to be photographed. She had a great sense of humor. When she laughed, her whole body shook.