American Indian photos of 100 years ago

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by woolly|1, Apr 10, 2013.

  1. Remarkable historical photos. Their faces reveal life's hardships.
     
  2. Very interesting portraits. I have been to an exhibition of portraits at the National Portrait Gallery twice this year. The paintings are interesting but somehow, I think the photographic portraits here brought me closer to the subjects than the idealised brushwork. I love the first picture rather a lot and the one of the stream where they are on the other side.
     
  3. Of the photo books that are always on my coffee table, one is of Curtis's work.
     
  4. I saw an exhibition of Curtis's work, many years ago and was knocked out. The photos still knock me out.
    Thanks for the link
    <Chas>
     
  5. This totally confirms what Ive been seeing for decades. We have better gear now (supposedly), but worse photographers. Wonder if there's a correlation? Those photos are simply outstanding. Thank you for posting them. Anyone who is serious about their work has to look at these with a full understanding of where the bar is really set at.
     
  6. "We have better gear now (supposedly), but worse photographers..... Anyone who is serious about their work has to look at these with a full understanding of where the bar is really set at."
    Steve, I think the value in these photos is in the epic scale in which it was made which would have been a massive undertaking, even for a modern photographer:
    "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 photographer did the best he could given the available technology and under the challenging circumstances, but that's not to say the images are necessarily of the greatest artistic merit just because we find the subject matter compelling.

    There was a scientific and surveying expedition which took place in 1922 in Canada's North documented in a 12 minute film. The images are similar to what we see here, but I don't think any of us will suggest it'll put any of today's documentaries to shame.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUwcDIyv_7U
     
  7. Maybe this is a bit off topic but has anyone ever noticed the faces of people in photos 100 years ago and older look different than people today ignoring, of course, clothing and hairstyle.
     
  8. Tom, I noticed that too. It must have been a rough existence back then where life expectancy of someone born in the mid-late 1800s was less than 50 years.
     
  9. Maybe this is a bit off topic but has anyone ever noticed the faces of people in photos 100 years ago and older look different than people today ignoring, of course, clothing and hairstyle.​
    I think of it may be due to inter-marrying with non-Indian people. I wonder if there are any statistics to back this up?
     
  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It's worth noting that there are some real issues with ethnography in Curtis' photos. Not that it was malicious, but a lot of the photos are filled with inaccuracies. Given that most people don't even know about the Trail of Tears (which was forced upon my wife's ancestors,) it's important to understand exactly what went on with native americans, and Curtis tried but did a lot of things that were probably better left undone.
     
  11. "I think of it may be due to inter-marrying with non-Indian people. I wonder if there are any statistics to back this up?"
    Alan, in fact there's a paper written on the subject:
    http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/cde/cdewp/85-26.pdf
    I'm not very familiar with native culture, but in Canada intermarriage with non-natives appears to be discouraged by natives - one risks ostracism from the reserves and losing native status privileges.
     
  12. Michael: While I don't know what's going on with Canadian Indians, the first page abstract of the paper you linked indicates that there is huge inter-marriage between American whites and American Indians. It says that Indians are as likely to marry to whites as to Indians. So I think it does provide a substantial reason why the look of American Indians have changed over time.
    Many tribes only require a member have less than 25% Indian blood to be considered part of the tribe, indicating their own acknowledgement of this major inter-marriage statistic. This has become a major issue economically because of the earnings many tribes distribute to their members from gambling casinos on their lands. Some white people falsely claim Indian heritage to get in on the money but have no Indian blood. Conversely, many Indians who no longer look Indian due to inter-marriage, but still qualify as members of their tribe.
     
  13. Intermarriage was very common in the U.S. during the late 1800s-early 1900 among a particular category of migrant Americans. My dad and grandmother did quite a bit of genealogy research that, in the end, mostly confirmed anecdotes by non-scholarly historians and fiction writers in the Western genre. Long story short: Many ostensibly "white" natives of Texas, Oklahoma and surrounding states have American Indian ancestry, often at least three generations removed.
    Typically these marriages were among men of unprivileged European descent, such as my original Jenkins ancestor, a Welsh teenaged boy who came to the U.S. as an indentured servant in Virginia. My ancestors migrated westward after being pushed out of Virginia, where property ownership was next to impossible among lowborn whites. Some settled in Ohio and Tennessee, while others continued west until settling in Texas and Oklahoma.
    In some cases the original wives of these migrants died along the way, and the men married Native American wives. Others took Native women as first wives. At around the same time many Native Americans were being forced westward and they too lost spouses and found new husbands or wives among whites. My dad's genealogy research found Cherokee, Chowtaw, Creek and, if I'm recalling correctly, one of the "Florida" tribes, although I don't think it was Seminole.
    I'll need to ask my dad whether he's been able to confirm the ancestry of my great-grandmother on my dad's side, but she was very obviously of American Indian descent with strong Cherokee features. In fact, she looked like a slightly smaller version of my granddad - my father's father - who was 6'3" with typical Cherokee features, especially the ears and nose. She was 6' tall, heavily built but not fat, with dark skin and very strong American Indian features. If I had to guess I'd say she was 100% Native, but I haven't seen enough research of her background to be certain.
    One of the challenges to determining Native American ancestry among "whites" in this part of the country - Texas and Oklahoma - is that by the 1930s the westward immigration had settled down and the second and third generations of these intermarried couples had begun denying their ancestry. My mom recalls her mother's angry denials when anyone mentioned the Native ancestry on their side of the family. Add to that the relative lack of records documenting the forcibly displaced Native Americans, and it becomes almost impossible to accurately determine ancestry from conventional means.
    I have no idea which fraction of my own ancestry is American Indian, but a rough guess would be around one-quarter at most. There may be some DNA tests available but I've never sought any special benefits or concessions made to Native Americans because I have never suffered any hardships or deprivations. I look white, like a very typical Welshman or Irishman, and experienced a very ordinary life without suffering bigotry or intolerance based on my mixed ancestry. So while I wouldn't mind being counted among the Native rolls if asked, I don't feel it would be right to receive reparations when neither I nor my parents or grandparents ever suffered any form of discrimination based on that ancestry.
     
  14. Curtis is he best! He didn't get the recognition he deserved. If the US Federal Government had not stuck their two cents into it, they would have been even better....truer to life. Look closely at their clothing. The government had some tribes wear the same style because in their minds that's the way "Indians" were suppose to look. Had they worn their own tribal garments it would have been historically correct. One of the photographs, if you look really close, you can see the tag. As you can tell, this is a sore spot for me. I am an advocate for the American Indian's heritage. I have been working on an alternative project for the last 10 years depicting his work.
     
  15. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The government had some tribes wear the same style because in their minds that's the way "Indians" were suppose to look.​

    Curtis picked out the clothes for many of them.
     

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