Native Americans: Portraits From a Century Ago

Hat- tip  The Atlantic

Native Americans- Portraits From a Century AgoIn 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.

About SouthernGirl2

A Native Texan who adores baby kittens, loves horses, rodeos, pomegranates, & collect Eagles. Enjoys politics, games shows, & dancing to all types of music. Loves discussing and learning about different cultures. A Phi Theta Kappa lifetime member with a passion for Social & Civil Justice.
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17 Responses to Native Americans: Portraits From a Century Ago

  1. CherokeeNative says:

    Thank you for this article. My heritage has always been very special to me and this is an awesome article to the tribes. The gallery of photos reminds me of the photos I have of my great grandparents. Awesome…thanks so much SouthernGirl.

  2. What happened to the comments? They all disappeared. I restored Carol’s but all of mine are gone.

  3. Native American Culture

    Perhaps no other group of people has quite the rich and storied culture as those of the Native Americans. They have a history rich in struggle, strife, and triumph. So many aspects of our modern life were adapted from the old Indian cultures practiced centuries ago. Many familiar symbols that we take for granted were originated by Native Americans.

    The teepee, totem pole, peace pipe, and moccasins are just a few examples, but each of these symbols were actually integral pieces of a larger picture that wove together the tapestry of Native American life. Everything from native plants and animals to housing to the weather became a part of the culture in Indian life. The animals were revered as spirits, and although they were hunted and killed, their skins and hides were used as clothing and drums, their meat was never wasted, and their spirits lived on in the mind of the tribes. Plants were cultivated and harvested, and used for various things such as dyes for blankets. The rain and sun were considered to be Gods, giving a sign to the Indians as the seasons changed.

    Totem poles were a very integral part of Native American culture. The Indians believed that each person was assigned the spirit of a particular animal, and that their spirit was absorbed into this animal in death. The totem pole was a large, tall wooden carving of various animals, each representing a family member of a loved one who had passed away. Many people see dream catchers hanging from peoples’ car rearview mirrors, but few know their significance. The dream catcher is based on a legend told by the Lakota tribe. It symbolizes holding onto good things in life, while the holes in the catcher are there to filter out bad thoughts and feelings. Smoke signals are another interesting aspect of Native American culture. They were used to communicate to others over a long distance and are yet another symbol of the proud heritage of the Native American.

  4. The buffalo was an essential part of Native American life, used in everything from religious rituals to teepee construction.

    The Mandan tribe used the skull as a religious altar
    Horns were carved into cups, spoons, ladels and decorations.
    Teeth became tools and decorations, and were used in ceremonial rattles.
    The Cheyenne used brains to process leather.
    Bones were made into knives, arrow-heads, shovels, sleds, clubs, and dice.
    Hides became teepee covers, clothes, shoes, belts, bags, arrow quivers and dolls.
    The Lakota nations used the hair in head-dresses, and to stuff pillows, pad saddles and weave ropes.
    The tongue, heart and liver were eaten right away.
    Muscles were cut into strips and preserved as jerky.
    The four chambered stomach was dried and formed into buckets, cups and pots.
    Kiowa hunters used sinews as bow strings, and bladders as water canteens.
    Tails became whips and brushes.
    The fat was used in soap, cooking oil and candles.
    Hooves were boiled down for glue.
    And even the dung was dried and burned as fuel.

  5. Many thousands of years before Christopher Columbus’ ships landed in the Bahamas, a different group of people discovered America: the nomadic ancestors of modern Native Americans who hiked over a “land bridge” from Asia to what is now Alaska more than 12,000 years ago. In fact, by the time European adventurers arrived in the 15th century A.D., scholars estimate that more than 50 million people were already living in the Americas. Of these, some 10 million lived in the area that would become the United States. As time passed, these migrants and their descendants pushed south and east, adapting as they went. In order to keep track of these diverse groups, anthropologists and geographers have divided them into “culture areas,” or rough groupings of contiguous peoples who shared similar habitats and characteristics. Most scholars break North America—excluding present-day Mexico—into 10 separate culture areas: the Arctic, the Subarctic, the Northeast, the Southeast, the Plains, the Southwest, the Great Basin, California, the Northwest Coast and the Plateau.

  6. CarolMaeWY says:

    We drove through the Rapid City area lots and songs similar to this one would be on the radio. The area isn’t far from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

  7. CarolMaeWY says:

    I love 3 chicspolitico, I learn about new stuff or stuff I’m interested in that’s on the web, but hadn’t seen before. I’d like to add a YouTube video I found after Pres. Obama signed the VAWA. I’ll be back with it soon. Hope you will like it.

  8. Ametia says:

    Awesome story of a people and an incredable galley.

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