North American Indian: Photos by Edward S. Curtis
Beginning in 1900 and continuing over the next thirty years, Edward Sheriff Curtis, or the "Shadow Catcher" as he was later called, took over 40,000 photographic images and recorded rare ethnographic information from over eighty American Indian tribal groups, ranging from the Eskimo or Inuit people of the far north to the Hopi people of the Southwest.
He captured the likeness of many important and well-known Indian people of that time, including Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Red Cloud, and Medicine Crow.
Curtis collected and published his years of fieldwork into twenty volumes of narrative and twenty portfolios of larger sepia-toned photogravures. The twenty volumes, each with its accompanying portfolio, are organized by tribes and culture areas encompassing the Great Plains, Great Basin, Plateau Region, Southwest, California, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. The North American Indian was issued in a limited edition and sold just under three hundred copies.
One of Curtis's major goals was to record as much of the people's way of traditional life as possible. To that purpose, Curtis made 10,000 wax cylinder recordings of Indian language and music. In addition he recorded tribal mythologies and history, and described tribal population, traditional foods, dwellings, clothing, games, ceremonies, burial customs, biographical sketches and other primary source information: all from a living as well as past tradition. "The passing of every old man or woman means the passing of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rites possessed by no other," wrote Curtis. "Consequently, the information that is to be gathered, for the benefit of future generations, respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost for all time."
This exhibit features twenty images reproduced from the Curtis portfolios housed in the Special Collections Department. These images were selected by Hannah McGaha, Dixie Robinson, Laura Peery, and Andie Duplantis, members of the Honors Film Studies Association, who worked in conjunction with the University of Arkansas Native American Symposium for this project.
(Click thumbnail image to enlarge.)