Native American culture is rich with magical customs and captures the spirit of living free, but during the 20th century it was quickly vanishing. Because of this, Edward Sheriff Curtis dedicated decades of his life to capturing and recording the lifestyle of indigenous tribes in North America and his extensive work includes some of the most captivating photos from that era.


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In 1906, wealthy financier and banker J.P. Morgan provided Curtis with $75,000 to produce a series on Native Americans. Together they produced a 20-volume series, called The North American Indian. Edward spent more than 20 years traveling across the continent and made over 40,000 images of over 80 tribes. He also recorded songs and language, transcribed oral stories and biographies.

Curtis' methods to record the disappearing way of life were later criticized by some anthropologists. He occasionally posed individuals from unrelated tribes in the same clothing, removed them from natural settings and used overly romantic ones, and so on. Nonetheless, his work still features a lot of authenticity and is regarded as one of the biggest Native American research.

More info: edwardcurtis.com (h/t: mashable)

#2 An Apsaroke Man On Horseback, 1908

An Apsaroke Man On Horseback, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

Mitchell Davis 8 months ago

Unfortunately these are staged. The chief's headdress was ceremonial and not worn for hunting. I don't believe native Americans used bridles on their horses either as they did not work steel for the bite.

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#4 A Group Of Navajo In The Canyon De Chelly, Arizona, 1904

A Group Of Navajo In The Canyon De Chelly, Arizona, 1904

Edward S. Curtis Report

Yvonne Bernal 8 months ago

I've been to Canyon de Chelly several times. The bottom floor of the canyon requires a back country permit and an authorized Navajo guide. There are roughly 40 or so families that still reside within the National Monument boundaries. Being part Indian I have been given several tours of the Navajo Nation. This photo is very indicative of how the Canyon still looks today.

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#5 An Apsaroke Mother And Child, 1908

An Apsaroke Mother And Child, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

Yvonne Bernal 8 months ago

The cradleboard can then be carried in the mother's arms, worn on her back like a backpack for travel, propped up on the ground like a baby chair, or secured to a sled for longer journeys. After horses were introduced to the Americas, cradleboards in some tribes began to be designed to hang off the side of a horse as well. Not all Native Americans used these baby carriers -- families didn't traditionally bring infants out of the village in some tribes, so they didn't need a special way to carry them.

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#6 Sioux Chiefs, 1905

Sioux Chiefs, 1905

Edward S. Curtis Report

Yvonne Bernal 8 months ago

As the Indian Wars became fewer and further between; and gunpowder made its' way west. The Spear (or staff) became more of a symbolic thing. However; the Spear still showed fur from the "big hunt", maybe a scalp and a feather from a lucky throw. Originally used as a thrusting weapon in hand-to-hand combat, after the introduction of horses, war lances became a prestigious weapon of mounted warriors, and took on symbolic and ceremonial importance in some tribes as well.

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#8 A Tewa Girl, 1906

A Tewa Girl, 1906

Edward S. Curtis Report

Yvonne Bernal 8 months ago

This hairstyle was known as a butterfly whorl. The Tewa People mostly lived on the Arizona and New Mexico vicinity.

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#10 Piegan Tepees, 1910

Piegan Tepees, 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

Ronja Rövardotter 8 months ago

So many childhood memories coming to my mind now. I loved Karl May's books. I remember like I was imagining myself sitting next to teepee or riding horses with Winnetou...lovely times. Thanks for all these pictures they are interesting and beautiful.