Bonnie J. Clark, Ph.D., is a professor of anthropology at the University of Denver. She has investigated the archaeology of Colorado, especially at its historic sites, beginning with her work at Boggsville in 1993. Dr. Clark recently co-authored a revised National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Boggsville, recognizing the national significance of the site. She has also led research at Colorado’s World War II-era Japanese American incarceration camp, which came to be known as Amache in honor of Amache Prowers. You can read more about that work in Finding Solace in the Soil: An Archaeology of Gardens and Gardeners at Amache(University Press of Colorado, 2020). She is also the author of On the Edge of Purgatory: An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic Colorado (University of Nebraska Press, 2011).
Composed around 1870, the photographic portrait of Amache Ochinee Prowers is a window into her complex world. Amache’s direct gaze at the camera exudes a confident strength. She seems at home in the Victorian studio setting, and her garb is fitting for a woman of that era, complete with heavy jewelry and a ruffled shirtwaist. Yet the careful observer might note that she lacks the foundation upon which proper women’s dress of that time was constructed: a corset. This, and her distinctly Indigenous facial features, let us know that she was no ordinary consumer of Victorian fashions. Amache was a full-blood member of the Cheyenne nation.