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The North American Indian - Photos

By one of the best photographers of the day Edward Curtis.

An expansive photo record of Native American life in the early 1900s

1905 - Sioux chiefs.

Born on a Wisconsin farm in 1868, Edward Sheriff Curtis grew up to become a commercial photographer in Seattle. In 1895 he photographed Princess Angeline, the daughter of the Duwamish chief Seattle, for whom the city was named.

e998babdfc883f9096163c5eab0a99eb.jpg   Chief seattle.jpg  25C3BEDD00000578-2957360-An_self_photo_o

Princess Angeline                                     Chief Seattle                                       Edward Curtis

That encounter sparked Curtis' lifelong fascination with the cultures and lives of Native American tribes. He soon joined expeditions to visit tribes in Alaska and Montana.

In 1906, Curtis was approached by wealthy financier J.P. Morgan, who was interested in funding a documentary project on the indigenous people of the continent. They conceived a 20-volume series, called The North American Indian.

With Morgan’s backing, Curtis spent more than 20 years crisscrossing North America, creating over 40,000 images of more than 80 different tribes. He made thousands of wax cylinder recordings of native songs and language, and wrote down oral histories, legends and biographies.

In his efforts to capture and record what he saw as a vanishing way of life, Curtis sometimes meddled with the documentary authenticity of his images. He posed his subjects in romanticized settings stripped of signs of Western civilization, more representative of an imagined pre-Columbian existence than the subjects’ actual lives in the present.

“Noble savage” stereotypes aside, Curtis’ vast body of work is one of the most impressive historical records of Native American life at the beginning of the 20th century.


1914 - A Kwakiutl wedding party arrives in canoes.


1914 - A Kwakiutl shaman performs a religious ritual

curtis-6.jpg1914 - Qagyuhl dancers.


1914 - Nakoaktok dancers wear Hamatsa masks in a ritual.


1908 - An Apsaroke man on horseback.

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Wikipedia says there's only one known photo of Chief Seattle:

Fixed, but I like the old picture better :)

I do too. Maybe you could put it here as well. It's probably a painting. 

It's pretty confusing because some pretty legit sites show the younger warrior looking picture as Chief Seattle, but that could be what helped it spread to other sites, such is the nature of the internet.

upload.jpg  3g08927u-11.jpg  chief-seattle-2.jpg

Yeah, I can believe it's the Internet that did that. I like the pictures! Thank you for adding them Janill.

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