The North American Indians
in Early Photographs
By: Paula Richardson Fleming and Judith Luskey
The three hundred magnificent photographs in this book, taken from the collection at the Smithsonian Institution, offer a unique record of the Indians of North America.
In the 19th century, the earliest photographers, prompted by curiosity and a sense of adventure, were followed by those whose aim it was to capture the uniqueness of the Indians as well as the turmoil and pathos of change as the Indian way of life confronted that of the white man. The 19th century photographers trace the first peaceful encounters between red and white, the bloody military clashes, the uncertain search for new lands and the eventual settlement of the Indians on reservations and Indian schools.
Following large-scale western expansion of the whites and the tragic massacre of the Indians at Wounded Knee, the photographs of the early 20th century resonate with a new spirit, nostalgically recreating the era before the Indians' contact with their white conquerors.
Recorded here are noble portraits of Indian leaders such as Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph and Geronimo, whose fame surpassed that of their white conquerors, the grizzly aftermath of Wounded Knee with Big Foot lying dead in the snow, and hundreds of images of everyday life and ritual. Not only do we find here the earliest photograph taken of an American Indian, but also the first Indian (Sitting Bull) taking a photograph. From the work of the early daguerreotypists through the dramatic recreations of Edward Sheriff Curtis this book also shows the evolution of photographic technique. Included are short biographies of over two hundred important photographers of the Indians.