FAQ Follow On:Twitter Google+ Facebook Tumblr subscribe by RSS or Email

Native Americans: Portraits From a Century Ago

|

In the early 1900s, Seattle-based photographer Edward S. Curtis embarked on a project of epic scale, to travel the western United States and document the lives of Native Americans still untouched by Western society. Curtis secured funding from J.P. Morgan, and visited more than 80 tribes over the next 20 years, taking more than 40,000 photographs, 10,000 wax cylinder recordings, and huge volumes of notes and sketches. The end result was a 20-volume set of books illustrated with nearly 2,000 photographs, titled "The North American Indian." In the hundred-plus years since the first volume was published, Curtis's depictions have been both praised and criticized. The sheer documentary value of such a huge and thorough project has been celebrated, while critics of the photography have objected to a perpetuation of the myth of the "noble savage" in stage-managed portraits. Step back now, into the early 20th century, and let Edward Curtis show you just a few of the thousands of faces he viewed through his lens. [34 photos]

Use j/k keys or ←/→ to navigate  Choose:
Portrait of a Native American named Big Head, ca. 1905. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis)
Portrait of a Native American named Big Head, ca. 1905. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis)
At left, Yellow Bull of the Nez Perce. At right, a Hopi Girl, ca. 1905. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Six Navajo on horseback, ca. 1904 (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: A Mojave man, wearing a robe of rabbit skin, ca. 1907. Right: A young Yakima man, shell disk earrings, ca. 1910 (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Zosh Clishn, Apache, ca. 1906. Right: Bear Bull, illustrating an ancient Blackfoot method of arranging the hair. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Jajuk, Selawik from northwestern Alaska, ca. 1929 (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: A Navajo man in ceremonial dress as Nayenezgani, a Navajo deity. Right: Tobadzischini, Yebichai war god, ca. 1904. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Black Hair, ca. 1905. Right: Red Cloud, December 26, 1905. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Sitting Owl, Hidatsa, 1908. Right: A Taos girl, ca. 1905. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Cheyenne profile, ca. 1910. Right: Bull Chief, Apsaroke (Crow), ca. 1908. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Koskimo person, Kwakiutl, wearing a full-body fur garment, oversized gloves and mask of Hami ("dangerous thing") during the Numhlim ceremony. ca. 1914. Right: Hamasilahl, Kwakiutl, ceremonial dancer during the Winter Dance ceremony. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Nunivak Island man, wearing headdress with a wooden bird head in front, ca. 1929. Right: Mosa, Mojave, ca. 1903. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Wife of Modoc Henry, Klamath tribe, on June 30, 1923. Right: Three Eagles, Nez Perce, ca. 1910 (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Morning Eagle, Piegan, ca. 1910. Right: Tah It Way, with peace pipe on right, ca. 1905 (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Bird Rattle, Piegan, ca. 1910. Right: Nesjaja Hatali, medicine man, Navajo, ca. 1904. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Wedding guests, Kwakiutl people in canoes, British Columbia, ca. 1914. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Let: Pah Toi (White Clay), Taos, New Mexico, ca. 1905. Right: A Kato woman, California, ca. 1924. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Ben Long Ear, ca. 1905. Right: Hastobiga, Navajo Medicine Man, ca. 1904. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #
Left: Slow Bull's wife, Dakota, ca. 1907. Right: Pomo girl, California. (Library of Congress/Edward S. Curtis) #

Related links and information

Previous gallery | Next gallery | View All Back to top

Recent Entries

Join the Discussion

blog comments powered by Disqus

On Newsstands Now

Subscribe and SAVE 65%
10 issues JUST $2.45/COPY

The Atlantic Monthly

The Technology Issue: Why kids sext (and what to do about it), the new technology of adultery, what Silicon Valley's best minds think about everything from drones to Uber, the Steve Jobs of beer, and more