Indian summer

By: usermattw

Oct 06 2013

Tags: ,

Category: Children


Click here to view it larger.

What it is:

Two photos, each measuring 3.5 x 5.75 inches.

What I know about it:

Both are date stamped May, 1956.


Here in San Francisco, we are enjoying our Indian summer, the unseasonably warm weather we typically get for a few days in October.  The term reminded me of these photos, and while these photos aren’t the most spectacular in my collection, they help illustrate something that was on my mind.  I had always been curious about the etymology of the term “Indian summer” until somebody explained to me “Indian” in this case means “false”, that the term refers to a summer that turns out not to be summer in the same way that the term “Indian giver” refers to a bearer of gifts that turn out not to be gifts, based on the old stereotype that Native Americans are inherently untrustworthy.  I’ve never heard that explanation since, and even now, as I do a quick internet search, the explanations of the term are so contradictory that I can’t be sure.  Still, the explanation made sense, and while my political correctness may be laughable to some (myself included sometimes), I have to admit that the term has chafed slightly ever since.  Still, what else are we to call this season?  And it’s not like I hear a great movement raising its voice against the term, clamoring to have it changed as they do with things like stereotypical school mascots.  Time will tell, I suppose.  Which brings me back to these photos, and old photos in general.  I certainly don’t peruse old photos hoping to be offended (and I’m not actually offended by these), but I do look for ways in which things have changed over time, or not changed.  This is such a classic childhood cliche of the Indian, and I’m sure he whooped around his yard, “Woo-woo-woo”-ing and saying “How!” with a raised hand in mock serious greeting.  A couple decades later, I could be found doing the same thing (though I don’t recall owning such finery as that headdress).  But as society and culture as a whole become more sensitive to native culture, I wonder how long it will be before such sensitivity filters down to child’s play, if it hasn’t already.  In any case, one of the fascinating things about old photos is the way they help measure progress.  By the way, while I have nothing to positively identify this boy, it came with some other family photos that I think include pictures of him, and which suggest that this might be in Texas.

2 comments on “Indian summer”

  1. The only “Indian headgear” I ever remember you having was a construction paper headband with a few paper feathers attached for Thanksgiving celebrations during elementary school.

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