Beginning in 1906, 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' 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. [19 photos total]

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Portrait of a Native American named Big Head, ca. 1905. (LOC) #
At left, Yellow Bull of the Nez Perce. At right, a Hopi Girl, ca. 1905. (LOC) #
Six Navajo on horseback, ca. 1904 (LOC) #
Left: A Mojave man, wearing a robe of rabbit skin, ca. 1907. Right: A young Yakima man, shell disk earrings, ca. 1910 (LOC) #
Left: Zosh Clishn, Apache, ca. 1906. Right: Bear Bull, illustrating an ancient Blackfoot method of arranging the hair. (LOC) #
Jajuk, Selawik from northwestern Alaska, ca. 1929 (LOC) #
Left: A Navajo man in ceremonial dress as Nayenezgani, a Navajo deity. Right: Tobadzischini, Yebichai war god, ca. 1904. (LOC) #
Left: Black Hair, ca. 1905. Right: Red Cloud, December 26, 1905. (LOC) #
Left: Sitting Owl, Hidatsa, 1908. Right: A Taos girl, ca. 1905. (LOC) #
Left: Cheyenne profile, ca. 1910. Right: Bull Chief, Apsaroke (Crow), ca. 1908. (LOC) #
Left: Koskimo person, Kwakiutl, wearing a full-body fur garment, oversized gloves and mask of Hami ("dangerous thing") during the Numhlim ceremony. ca. 1914. Right: Hamasilahl, Kwakiutl, ceremonial dancer during the Winter Dance ceremony. (LOC) #
Left: Nunivak Island man, wearing headdress with a wooden bird head in front, ca. 1929. Right: Mosa, Mojave, ca. 1903. (LOC) #
Left: Wife of Modoc Henry, Klamath tribe, on June 30, 1923. Right: Three Eagles, Nez Perce, ca. 1910 (LOC) #
Left: Morning Eagle, Piegan, ca. 1910. Right: Tah It Way, with peace pipe on right, ca. 1905 (LOC) #
Left: Bird Rattle, Piegan, ca. 1910. Right: Nesjaja Hatali, medicine man, Navajo, ca. 1904. (LOC) #
Wedding guests, Kwakiutl people in canoes, British Columbia, ca. 1914. (LOC) #
Let: Pah Toi (White Clay), Taos, New Mexico, ca. 1905. Right: A Kato woman, California, ca. 1924. (LOC) #
Left: Ben Long Ear, ca. 1905. Right: Hastobiga, Navajo Medicine Man, ca. 1904. (LOC) #
Left: Slow Bull's wife, Dakota, ca. 1907. Right: Pomo girl, California. (LOC) #

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