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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.

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)

#1

A Klamath Chief Stands On A Hill Above Crater Lake, Oregon, 1923

A Klamath Chief Stands On A Hill Above Crater Lake, Oregon, 1923

Edward S. Curtis Report

#2

An Apsaroke Man On Horseback, 1908

An Apsaroke Man On Horseback, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

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Mitchell Davis
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

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

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Yvonne Bernal
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

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

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Yvonne Bernal
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

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

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Yvonne Bernal
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

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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#7

A Tewa Girl, 1906

A Tewa Girl, 1906

Edward S. Curtis Report

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Yvonne Bernal
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

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

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Ronja Rövardotter
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

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.

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#14

A Kwakiutl Wedding Party Arrives In Canoes, 1914

A Kwakiutl Wedding Party Arrives In Canoes, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

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Mary Dominguez
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

It is important to know the customs of the tribe to understand what exactly is going on. Very interesting boats and Indian dress for this occasion!

#15

Nakoaktok Dancers Wear Hamatsa Masks In A Ritual, 1914

Nakoaktok Dancers Wear Hamatsa Masks In A Ritual, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#16

Eskadi, Of The Apache Tribe, 1903

Eskadi, Of The Apache Tribe, 1903

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#17

A Kwakiutl Shaman Performs A Religious Ritual, 1914

A Kwakiutl Shaman Performs A Religious Ritual, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

#20

A Qagyuhl Man Dressed As A Bear, 1914

A Qagyuhl Man Dressed As A Bear, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#22

A Qahatika Girl, 1907

A Qahatika Girl, 1907

Edward S. Curtis Report

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Shannon Withrow
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This reminds me of the photo of the Afghan girl from Time magazine

#24

Crow Encampment With Tipis, Tents, Wagons, Horses And Men As Seen From The Distant Shore Of The River, 1908

Crow Encampment With Tipis, Tents, Wagons, Horses And Men As Seen From The Distant Shore Of The River, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

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ALISSA C
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

'as far as Im concerned, its a four seasons' finally a city!

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#25

Maricopa Child, 1907

Maricopa Child, 1907

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#26

Navajos, 1905

Navajos, 1905

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#27

A Qagyuhl Woman Wears A Fringed Chilkat Blanket And A Mask Representing A Deceased Relative Who Had Been A Shaman, 1914

A Qagyuhl Woman Wears A Fringed Chilkat Blanket And A Mask Representing A Deceased Relative Who Had Been A Shaman, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

#28

Piegan Girls Gather Goldenrod, 1910

Piegan Girls Gather Goldenrod, 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

#29

A Koskimo Man Dressed As Hami ("dangerous Thing") During A Numhlim Ceremony, 1914

A Koskimo Man Dressed As Hami ("dangerous Thing") During A Numhlim Ceremony, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

#30

A Hidatsa Man With A Captured Eagle, 1908

A Hidatsa Man With A Captured Eagle, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#31

Medicine Crow, Of The Apsaroke Tribe, 1908

Medicine Crow, Of The Apsaroke Tribe, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

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Sissy Hankshaw
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

everyttime i see those faces full of natural dignity and knowledge, i want to leave all the smartphone and central heating and nine-to-five b******t behind me and move into a tipi

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#32

Hakalahl, A Nakoaktok Chief, 1914

Hakalahl, A Nakoaktok Chief, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#33

Indian Woman Holding Rushes, 1908

Indian Woman Holding Rushes, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#34

A Young Member Of The Apache Tribe, C. 1910

A Young Member Of The Apache Tribe, C. 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#36

Apsaroke Man Wearing Medicine Hawk Headdress, 1908

Apsaroke Man Wearing Medicine Hawk Headdress, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#37

A Kwakiutl Man Wearing A Mask Depicting A Man Transforming Into A Loon, 1914

A Kwakiutl Man Wearing A Mask Depicting A Man Transforming Into A Loon, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#38

The Primitive Artists-paviotso, 1924

The Primitive Artists-paviotso, 1924

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#39

A Kwakiutl Gatherer Hunts Abalones In Washington, 1910

A Kwakiutl Gatherer Hunts Abalones In Washington, 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#40

A Hupa Spear Fisherman Watches For Salmon, 1923

A Hupa Spear Fisherman Watches For Salmon, 1923

Edward S. Curtis Report

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ALISSA C
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

yes, Great Hair- so thick, it seems like a wig- but real- nice hair!

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#41

Kwakiutl People In Canoes In British Columbia, 1914

Kwakiutl People In Canoes In British Columbia, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

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Arnoud Lievers
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Intriguing picture. Also still kindof painfull to see such an old picture with the Natives in their land called "British" Columbia

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#42

Ron Breast, A Piegan Man, 1900

Ron Breast, A Piegan Man, 1900

Edward S. Curtis Report

#43

Okuwa-tsire, Also Known As "cloud Bird," Of The San Ildefonso Pueblo, 1903

Okuwa-tsire, Also Known As "cloud Bird," Of The San Ildefonso Pueblo, 1903

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#44

A Cahuilla Woman, 1924

A Cahuilla Woman, 1924

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#45

A Kwakiutl Chief's Daughter, 1910

A Kwakiutl Chief's Daughter, 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#46

Members Of The Qagyuhl Tribe Dance To Restore An Eclipsed Moon, C. 1910

Members Of The Qagyuhl Tribe Dance To Restore An Eclipsed Moon, C. 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

#47

Qagyuhl Dancers, 1914

Qagyuhl Dancers, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#48

Iahla, Also Known As "willow," Of The Taos Pueblo, 1905

Iahla, Also Known As "willow," Of The Taos Pueblo, 1905

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#49

Luzi, Of The Papago Tribe, 1907

Luzi, Of The Papago Tribe, 1907

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#50

A Kutenai Duck Hunter, 1910

A Kutenai Duck Hunter, 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#51

Kwakiutl People In Canoes In British Columbia, 1914

Kwakiutl People In Canoes In British Columbia, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#52

An Apache Man, C. 1910

An Apache Man, C. 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#53

A Hupa Woman, 1923

A Hupa Woman, 1923

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#54

A Mariposa Man On The Tule River Reservation, 1924

A Mariposa Man On The Tule River Reservation, 1924

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#55

A Maricopa Woman, 1907

A Maricopa Woman, 1907

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#56

A Cahuilla Child, 1905

A Cahuilla Child, 1905

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#57

Spearing Salmon, 1923

Spearing Salmon, 1923

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#58

A Qagyuhl Dancer Dressed As Paqusilahl ("man Of The Ground Embodiment"), 1914

A Qagyuhl Dancer Dressed As Paqusilahl ("man Of The Ground Embodiment"), 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

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Gillian Higson
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

These pictures are wonderful, but I have to say that I find your comments mostly inane.

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#60

The Hopi Maiden, 1905

The Hopi Maiden, 1905

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#61

A Zuni Woman, 1903

A Zuni Woman, 1903

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#62

A Papago Woman, 1907

A Papago Woman, 1907

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#64

Kominaka Dancer, 1910

Kominaka Dancer, 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

#65

Vash Gon, A Jicarrilla Man, C. 1910

Vash Gon, A Jicarrilla Man, C. 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#66

A Maricopa Woman With Arrow-brush Stalks, 1907

A Maricopa Woman With Arrow-brush Stalks, 1907

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#67

Nesjaja Hatali, Navajo Medicine Man, 1904

Nesjaja Hatali, Navajo Medicine Man, 1904

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#68

At The Old Well Of Acoma, 1904

At The Old Well Of Acoma, 1904

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#69

Two Dakota Men Playing Hand Drums Outside Of A Tipi, 1908

Two Dakota Men Playing Hand Drums Outside Of A Tipi, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#71

A Dancer Kisses The Grandfather, 1908

A Dancer Kisses The Grandfather, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#72

An Apache Woman Reaps Grain, C. 1910

An Apache Woman Reaps Grain, C. 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#73

An Apsaroke Shaman, 1908

An Apsaroke Shaman, 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#74

Skokomish Couple Outside House Made Of Reed Mats, One Seated Beside Canoe That Has Been Pulled Onto The Riverbank, The Other Standing Holding A Paddle, 1913

Skokomish Couple Outside House Made Of Reed Mats, One Seated Beside Canoe That Has Been Pulled Onto The Riverbank, The Other Standing Holding A Paddle, 1913

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#75

A Sioux Hunter, 1905

A Sioux Hunter, 1905

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#76

Group Of Arikara Women. 1908

Group Of Arikara Women. 1908

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#77

Piegan Chiefs, 1900

Piegan Chiefs, 1900

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#78

Mowakiu, A Tsawatenok Man, 1914

Mowakiu, A Tsawatenok Man, 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#79

Navajo Man Bedecked In Hemlock Boughs And Mask Of A Clown Associated With The Mischievous Rain God Tonenili, 1905

Navajo Man Bedecked In Hemlock Boughs And Mask Of A Clown Associated With The Mischievous Rain God Tonenili, 1905

Edward S. Curtis Report

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Doris Leyba
Community Member
7 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Native Hemlock - Officially called Tsuga, this is type of Conifer tree in the Pine family. Unlike poison hemlock (conium), the species of Tsuga are not poisonous. Western Hemlock, technically called west coast of North America. It was often used by area tribes as a dye, for tanning hides, making baskets and wooden items. The pitch was often applied topically as a poultice or slave for colds and to prevent sunburn. A decoction of pounded bark was also used in the treatment of hemorrhages. Another species, commonly known as Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga Mertensiana) was also used by Native Americans. The Menominee and the Forest Potawatomi used the inner bark and twigs it in a tea to relieve colds and fever. It was also used to treatflu, kidney or bladder problems, diarrhea, as a gargle for mouth and throat problems, and externally to wash sores and ulcers.

#80

Mnainak, A Yakima Chief, 1910

Mnainak, A Yakima Chief, 1910

Edward S. Curtis Report

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#81

A Kwakiutl Person Dressed As A Forest Spirit, Nuhlimkilaka, ("bringer Of Confusion"), 1914

A Kwakiutl Person Dressed As A Forest Spirit, Nuhlimkilaka, ("bringer Of Confusion"), 1914

Edward S. Curtis Report