Primary Source

Seri Children Sliding on Turtle Shells [Photograph]

Annotation

Six children of the Seri indigenous people slide down a hill using the shells of sea turtles as sleds, illustrating the universal ability of children to create play activities including equipment out of things in their environment. These children belong to a group that has been indigenous to the area for many generations, so it is likely that this game has a long heritage on the beaches where sea turtles come to breed. The place is Tiburón Island in the Gulf of California, the state of Sonora, Mexico. The island is named Tahéjöc in the language of the Seri, which is a linguistic isolate, or language distinct from all others in the region. Clans of Seri lived in the area of Tiburón Island for many centuries if not millennia. Their heritage was recognized by a decree of the Mexican government in 1975, granting them a title of communal property ("reconocimiento y titulación de terrenos comunales). Today Tiburón Island is a nature reserve.

The photograph was taken in 1924 by Edward H. Davis (1862-1951) who owned a ranch near San Diego, California. He explored the vicinity, photographed its indigenous inhabitants, and collected native objects. Through his knowledge of the region and familiarity with the people, he was able to capture this revealing, unusual image. George Heye, founder of the Museum of the American Indian, hired Davis in 1916 to help add to his collection.

Source

Silver gelatin print by Edward H. Davis, 1924, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, http://www.nmai.si.edu/searchcollections/item.aspx?irn=319492&catids=2,4&des=children&src=1-5 (accessed July 28, 2009).

How to Cite This Source

"Seri Children Sliding on Turtle Shells [Photograph]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #267, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/267 (accessed September 21, 2014). Annotated by Susan Douglass