Native Americans: Portraits From a Century Ago

In 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.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.
Jump to Comments

Most Recent

  • Bill Ingalls/NASA

    Photos of the Week: 3/21-3/27

    This week, we have photos of the Germanwings flight crash scene, preparations for launch at the Baikonur cosmodrome, a sinkhole in New Jersey, unrest and airstrikes in Yemen, Alaskan Wood bison returning to the wild, the last Jew in the Turkish town of Edirne, a memorial to Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, and much more.

  • AP

    On This Day 36 Years Ago: The Signing of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty

    Thirty-six years ago, on March 26, 1979, Egypt and Israel signed a historic peace treaty that has held to this day.

  • Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images

    The Big Thaw

    Friday was the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, despite continued wintry conditions in a few places (I'm looking at you, New England).

  • Google, Inc.

    A Virtual Drive Through Bhutan

    I'd like to show you a few views of Bhutan, its remarkable landscape, and colorful architecture, courtesy of Google's Street View team (with links, so you can explore more on your own).

Join the Discussion