The incredibly rich culture of indigenous Americans slowly declined over a long period, before it met its swift demise in the early 20th century. Photographer and ethnologist Edward S. Curtis has dedicated almost his entire working life at capturing the lifestyle of the American West and Native Americans. His extensive work is considered to be one of the most alluring documents on Indian tribal culture.
Curtis, born in 1868, left school in sixth grade and built his own camera soon after. He spent more than 20 years traveling across the continent and captured more than 40,000 images of over 80 tribes during their period. He has also done extensive ethnological work in recording Indian languages and songs as well as transcribing oral stories and biographies.
Check out twelve astonishing photographs of the treasure trove that is the work of Edward Sheriff Curtis.
1. An Apsaroke Mother and Child, 1908
The Crow, called the Apsáalooke in their own Siouan language, are Native Americans who lived in the Yellowstone River valley, which extends from present-day Wyoming, through Montana and into North Dakota.
Today, the Apsaroke people are a Federally recognized tribe known as the Crow Tribe of Montana and have a reservation located in the south-central part of the state.
2. A Tewa Girl, 1906
Tewa people mostly resided in today’s Arizona and New Mexico. This particular hairstyle was known as a butterfly whorl.
3. A Sioux Chief, 1905
The Sioux, also known as Dakota, are groups of Native American tribes and First Nations people in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation. Historically, they resided east of the Dakotas, in Minnesota, northern Iowa and Montana, as well as in Western Canada.
4. Apsaroke men on horseback, 1908
5. Black Eagle, an Assiniboine man, 1908
The Assiniboine, also known as “Stone Sioux” are Native people originally from the northern Great Plains. Today, they are centered in Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada, parts of Alberta, northern Montana and western North Dakota.
6. A Jicarilla girl, 1910
7. A Klamath Chief stands on a hill above Crater Lake, Oregon, 1923
The Klamath people are natives of Southern Oregon and Northern California.
8. Piegan tepees, 1910
The Piegan are Blackfoot-speaking people who dominated much of the northern Great Plains during the nineteenth century. After their homelands were divided by the border between Canada and the United States, they were forced to sign treaties with one of those two countries and settle in reservations on one or the other side of the border. Today, they live in Montana, USA, and Alberta, Canada.
9. Navajo man, 1904
The Navajo are a Native American people of the Southwestern United States. They are the second-largest federally recognized tribe in the United States after the Cherokee, with 300,460 enrolled tribal members as of 2015.
10. Piegan women, 1910
11. Man dressed as a bear, 1914
12. An Apache, 1903
The Apache are culturally related tribes from the Southwestern United States that have traditionally lived in Eastern Arizona, Northern Mexico, New Mexico, West Texas, and Southern Colorado – areas collectively known as Apacheria.