July 17, 1916

Corn Dance, Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico 1916

Corn Dance, Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico 1916

Santa Fe, Sunday
Dear Alta:

Your two letters arrived the same day, finally…

Well, Friday, I went off with… Mrs. Baritell to Cochiti to see the Indian dance. It was blistering hot down there. It is thirty miles from here and cost five dollars apiece to go by automobile. I paid Mrs. B’s way as she is going to give me my room and breakfast for a sketch.

I wanted her to help me find a place to work, which she did and held an umbrella over me. We crawled up a ladder on top of one of the flat adobe Indian houses, and we almost drew a bigger crowd than the dance. There were a couple dozen Indian men right around with their noses almost into the paint….

There were a good many artists there, but I was the only one that painted. I could only make notes, but still it was a beginning and some day I’ll have these dances nailed down. I guess nobody else is doing them, so that’s my job. The next one is at San Domingo Aug 4.

We go by rail most of the way. They are expensive trips but well worth it. The [Indians] charge photographers sometimes a dollar for every picture and just follow them about…. I don’t blame them so much for hating to have these automobile loads of whites come banging into their fun. Some of them just run their machines [cars] right in among crowds of women and children and make a lot of dust and get right in the way. Some Indians climb right in [the automobiles] like young ones.

The villages are built around an open square where the dances are given. These are the Corn Dances they are giving now. [The dancers] are divided as a rule into Summer people and Winter people.

The women are mostly in black with red sashes and lots of silver jewelry and beads and a sort of tablet headdress of turquoise green. [They wear their hair] hanging and …their faces [are] painted with a big round blob of red paint on their cheeks. The Summer men have their bodies painted a dull white, and the Winter, a bluish white. Some have buckskin breeches with fringe down the seams and huge silver belts and silver necklaces.

The men knot a red silk handkerchief across their foreheads and tie it at the back of their heads of heavy black hair, which is done in a tail, like they do up horses’ tails sometimes.

One chap had a jacket of beautiful cerise velvet, another a rich plum color…Some of black velvet with a belt of silver…With short white linen breeches and buckskin leggings and that mop of black hair, they are very picturesque.

This drum is a hollow piece of cottonwood log, covered with skin and painted in colors, and they drum with one stick only. These men had on mostly white duck trousers and American light cotton shirts, which they wore tails outside. I said it was certainly a lesson to our men. Just showed you could wear a shirt that way if you wanted to. Their dancing is much like our marking time; the men and women alternate and carry out different figures in long lines. They are led by a chap carrying a long pole ornamented quite nattily with hanging skins and feathers and painted and woven ornaments. These are religious dances, and they pray for a good crop or for rain or whatever is in season. The women carry bunches of evergreen in their hands.

Preceding the dances, there are always several “delight makers,” whose almost naked bodies are painted in spotty black and white. Their hair is braided to stand upright and wound with a bunch of dried cornhusks. They sing and go all through the town making jokes, rather coarse and clumsy, like our clowns…