December 6, 2016

2895 UNITED STATES (California) - Chief Lemee from Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley was a protected area (at least theoretically) since 1864, but even in the early 20th century was very little visited, due to the  transport difficulties. In order to encourage families to visit, many activities were planned in 1920's, among which was the presentation of Indian culture through dance performances in traditional dress, basket-making demonstrations and sales, and a event called Indian Field Days. During this period Chris Brown began his dances, under the name Chief Lemee.

Christian Jorgensen "Chris" Brown (1896-1956) was born in Yosemite Valley, and in his youth, his family lived near El Portal. His mother was Lena Brown, usually called a Southern Miwok, who married Johnny Brown in 1900. He probably had some Paiute ancestry, through a band called the Kucadikadi living near Mono Lake, and may also have had Chukchansi Yokut ancestry as well. Brown was named after Norwegian-born artist and basket collector Christian August Jorgensen, who lived in Yosemite Valley for many years.

"Well-acquainted with Miwok ritual and religion", Brown was known as "one of the most popular personalities in Yosemite", famous for performing "dances of his own invention, wearing elaborate beadwork and featherwork of his own design". He also played tricks on the superintendent of the park, and made up many of the so-called "Miwok tales" . Once, he went into a trance in front of some officials, and told them that they were walking on sacred burial grounds, just to give them the creeps.

Brown incorporated a Sioux vest and moccasins into his costume, and a photo taken in 1929 also shows him wearing a war bonnet typical of the Plains Indians. His attitude at that time was to "give his audiences the tribal regalia they expected". In the 1930s, he incorporated costume elements more traditional among the Miwok and other California tribes, such as the temakela, a feathered flicker-quill headband, which he made. One of his examples incorporated elements of Pomo, Maidu and Wintun traditions.

He learned the Eagle Dance from Pedro "Petelo" O'Connor, a Northern Miwok shaman and healer active from 1910 until his death in 1942, and demonstrated survival skills such as arrowhead making, and the use of soaproot as a fish poison. He also built a replica of a Miwok village next to the Yosemite Museum, which included a sweat house, traditionally used for pre-hunt purification ceremonies.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of the series International Youth Year, issued on October 7, 1985. All four stamps have the same face value (0.22 USD).
• YMCA Youth Camping
• Boy Scouts
• Big Brothers / Big Sisters - It's on the postcard 2895
• Camp Fires

The second stamp was issued in 2016 to honors two of the most important festivals in the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, and is part of the series Holiday Celebrations, about which I wrote here.

The last stamp is part of the series Classics Reproductions, designed by Antonio Alcala, and issued on June 1, 2016. All six stamps are forever stamps.
• George Washington, 1732-1799 (black, GRM)
• Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790 (blue, GRN)
• George Washington, 1732-1799 (black, GRO)    
• George Washington, 1732-1799 (blue, GRP)
• Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865 (black, GRQ) - It's on the postcard 2895
• Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790 (blue, GRR)

Chris Brown (dancer) - Wikipedia
Chief Lemee - Not Miwok - Yokut and Washoe - Jrhoan's blog

Sender: Stephen Chan (direct swap)
Sent from Camarillo (California / United States), on 25.11.2016
Photo: Ralph Anderson (Yosemite Collections, National Park Service)

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