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US American Indian Museum Showcases Kiowa Photographer Horace Poolaw

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Robert “Corky” and Linda Poolaw (Kiowa/Delaware), dressed up and posed for the photo by their father, Horace. Anadarko, Oklahoma, ca. 1947. 45HPF57 © 2014 Estate of Horace Poolaw. Reprinted with permission. VOA
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US, April 13, 2017: One afternoon when she was about seven years old, Linda Poolaw and her older brother, Robert, stepped off of the school bus to find their father, Kiowa Indian photographer Horace Poolaw, waiting in ambush, his camera in hand.

“He put cowboy hats on our heads and gave us pistols to hold,” Linda remembers. Whether the photo was meant to be ironic or not, Linda isn’t sure. All she knows is that she never much cared for it.

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“No, it’s not because of the ‘cowboyness’ of it or the whiteness or racism or anything like that,” she said. “It’s just that Dad made us pose for him all the time. We had to be still. We had to wait for him to get the shot just right when all we wanted to do was go play.”

That photo is among a collection of more than 80 currently on display at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington in an exhibit entitled “For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw.” The collection documents the gradual – if enforced — assimilation into Western concepts of modernity and challenges, say critics, conventional views of Native Americans as “others.”

From tipi to mainstream

Horace Monroe Poolaw was born in 1906 in Mountain View, Oklahoma, a small town that grew up around the railroad.

Up until the late 19th Century, Oklahoma’s Indian Territory belonged to the tribes that lived or had been relocated there. In the 1860s, the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache were consigned to a nearly three-million-acre reservation. But 20 years later, a law known as the Dawes Act allowed Congress to divide communal land into plots of up to 160 acres in size, which they assigned to individual Indians. The rest was opened up to non-Native settlers.

Kiowa Camp at Base of Mount Scott Near Fort Sill,1867. 01162100. (Photo by William S. Soule, 1867 courtesy National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.) VOA

 

Kiowa Camp at Base of Mount Scott Near Fort Sill,1867. 01162100. (Photo by William S. Soule, 1867 courtesy National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.)

Horace’s father, Kiowa George, was the son of a distinguished warrior and is said to have kept a tribal calendar, a record of historic events that Kiowa traditionally painted onto buffalo hide or in ledgers. Horace’s mother was descended from a Mexican woman who had been captured during a Kiowa raid.

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“It was a way to make up for a shortage of women,” Linda said. The truth is a little more complex than that. A diminishing buffalo population and outbreaks of smallpox and cholera among the tribes led the Kiowa and their allies to conduct a series of devastating raids on Texas and Mexico for horses and human captives.

At first, the Poolaw family lived in a traditional tipi, but they eventually moved into frame house that remains in the family today.

The recently-built Rock Island railroad line brought an influx of settlers from the east, including itinerant photographer George W. Long, who set up shop in Mountain View. He served as a mentor to Poolaw and gave the youth his first camera.

Poolaw would spend the next 50 years of his life documenting the daily lives of family, friends and fellow Kiowa at work and play, as they made the transition, says his daughter, “from tipi to mainstream.”

 

Detail: Horace Poolaw (Kiowa), posing for a photo during his work as an arts and crafts supervisor. Old Town Anadarko, Oklahoma, ca. 1940. 45ACOT6 © 2014 Estate of Horace Poolaw. VOA

“He developed his own pictures, even though there was no electricity or water in the house back in those days,” said Linda. “He had to send to Chicago for film and developing supplies.”

The high cost of paper and film meant Poolaw worked hard to get his shots right on the first try, and he only developed a fraction of the photos he took. He took all of his photographs outdoors because it eliminated the need for flashbulbs.

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Horace would occasionally print photo postcards on large sheets of paper, which his children would trim and peddle at the bus station for five cents apiece as a way to make money.

“We were poor, dirt poor,” said Linda. “But we didn’t know it because everybody around us was poor too.”

Today, those postcards sell for as much as $50 on internet auction sites.

Poolaw married twice; Linda is the daughter of his second wife, Winnie Chisholm (Delaware/Seminole/ Creek). He wore many hats in his life, he was a farmer and raised cattle. For a time, he worked for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Then, in 1943, he enlisted in the Army, where he was trained in aerial photography. At the end of World War II, he moved to Anadarko, where Linda was born.

Poolaw continued taking pictures until the 1970s, when his eyesight began to fail. In 1979, the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko organized a retrospective exhibit of his photographs. It would be the only showing of his work during his lifetime.

When he died in 1984, he left behind 2,000 negatives. In the late 1980s, his daughter collaborated with Stanford University to develop and catalogue his photos. The resulting exhibit and accompanying catalogue, “War Bonnets, Tin Lizzies and Patent Leather Pumps: Kiowa Culture in Transition 1925-1955” toured the United States and was the subject of a documentary film.

Challenging stereotypes

Today, art historians and critics view Poolaw’s work as equal to many better-known photographers working in the Western frontier in the early 20th Century. His photographs are most often described as documenting the transition from 19th Century traditional ways of life into mainstream Americana.

Left to right: Newton Poolaw (Kiowa), Jerry Poolaw (Kiowa), Elmer Thomas “Buddy” Saunkeah (Kiowa). Mountain View, Oklahoma, ca. 1928. 57FK1. © 2014 Estate of Horace Poolaw. Reprinted with permission. VOA

 

But Laura E. Smith, art historian and author of a book on Poolaw, sees him through a different lens.

“One of the things that I would like to refute is this idea of transformation between traditional and modern, as if something historic had died and as they modernized, they became less authentic as Indians,” she said. “Indigenous people survived and they continue to live and thrive. Sure, not everything is the same, but neither is any culture the same as it was in the 19th century.”

His work documents the tribal community as it really lived and evolved, said Smith, as both Native Americans and American citizens, simultaneously assimilating and resisting.

“If we situate his work within the legacy of Kiowa art, then Poolaw maintained ancestral practices of visually documenting Kiowa history,” she said. “If we situate his work within documentary photography, then Poolaw puts a face on the 20th Century Kiowa experience.

And if viewers regard his work simply as portraiture, then, says Smith, Poolaw gives “thoughtful, loving, sometimes comedic and ironic representations of his modern community.”

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)