Edward S. Curtis
THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN. LIST OF LARGE PLATES SUPPLEMENTING V. 1-20. n. p.; n. d.

A set of 20 portfolios of numbered plates, supplement to the multi-volume publication The North American Indian: Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States, and Alaska; Written, Illustrated, and Published by Edward S. Curtis; Edited by Frederick Webb Hodge; Foreword by Theodore Roosevelt; Field Research Conducted Under the Patronage of J. Pierpont Morgan and published in Seattle by E.S. Curtis; and in Cambridge, Massachusetts by The University Press, 1907-30.

Woman and Child Nunivak, 1928, Volume Twenty, Plate 694
Woman and Child Nunivak, 1928
Volume Twenty, Plate 694
[xffE77 C8 v.20 pl. 694]

Because the division of labor demanded frequent separation of husbands and wives, Nunivak women were left in complete charge of early child rearing. Children of both genders spent their entire infancies next to their mothers, carried in the ample parkas they sewed.

Following a birth, the family was expected to avoid work and remain very quiet for three days, according to Curtis. The father took goods to the men's house to barter for wood, which he then offered for a sweatbath in celebration.

The firstborn boy was given the father's name and the girl the mother's name, after which the parent was known as "Father of . . ." or "Mother of . . . " Other children were given the names of relatives. If a couple died childless, their names were lost to their family.

In 1896, Edward S. Curtis began a project to record on film and text all available information on North American Indians. With financial support from J. Pierpont Morgan, Curtis continued this effort through 1930. In the course of his work Curtis created 40,000 negatives, with the majority of images prepared on glass plates. The result is a book of twenty volumes; each accompanied by a portfolio of plates.

Curtis sought to complete his work before the "vanishing race" of American Indians disappeared from the continent. This body of work has engaged historians, anthropologists, other scholars, and, most notably Native Americans, in an ongoing debate about the nature of documentary photography.

Curtis, with his stylized, romantic photographs generated great interest in the Native American as the "noble savage." The authenticity of the Curtis inventory, however, remains a crucial question to many observers. Do these images perpetuate a myth and reinforce a stereotype? Are the images more illuminating of the person who created the image, rather than the intended subject? As historian Gerald Vizenor writes, are photographs a poor and damaging substitute for the narrative? Are these Indians "the wounded fugitives of the camera?"

EARLY
ETHNOGRAPHY
(9 of 17)

PREVIOUSNEXT

EXHIBITION
HOME

PORTRAYALS
OF NATIVE
AMERICANS

THE NINE
MILLIONTH
VOLUME

TIMELINE

EXHIBITION
CHECKLIST



| Bancroft Home | General Information | Collections | Research Programs |
| Reference and Access Services | News, Events, Exhibitions, Publications |
| Friends of The Bancroft Library | Site Map | Search The Bancroft Library Website |
| UC Berkeley Library Home | Catalogs | Search the Library Website |
Copyright (C) 2006 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Document maintained by The Bancroft Library.
Last update 12/08/06. Server manager: Contact