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Lifestyles and practices varied among the geographic regions of North America in the centuries before the European settlers arrived. The families usually arranged marriages between their children because marriage created economic and social ties with another group. Most Plains Indian tribes pursued a nomadic lifestyle to follow the buffalo herds, their primary source of subsistence. Men and women were equally powerful and respected in traditional Plains Indian life, each gender possessing important skills critical to the well being of the community. Each Plains Indian tribe comprised septic societies, groups of people who shared a common experience or talent.
The Woodlands people lived in a climate where they enjoyed an abundance of water, game, and forest resources.
Edward Curtis’s brief expedition to the Great Plains in the summer of 1900 was undoubtedly the most profound experience of his life.
During Curtis’s time, the Indians of the Great Plains lived primarily in North and South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, a territory once traversed by great herds of migrating buffalo. Curtis’s photographs of Indian life on the Great Plains comprise perhaps his most popular body of work; for many people, his photographs of the chiefs and warriors, the beadwork, the horses, and the Plains landscape have come to exemplify the American Indian. An Assiniboin Lodge – AssiniboinThe semi-nomadic culture of the Plains Indian tribes centered on the magni?cent buffalo that roamed the region. The buffalo provided a rich resource for Plains Indians and created an unprecedented demand for horses and, later, guns. Drying Meat – CheyenneMany of the Indians who lived on the Great Plains at the time of Curtis’s visit had migrated there from areas east of the Mississippi, some from as far east as present-day New England. Curtis’s photographs vividly convey the Plains peoples’ prowess as skilled horsemen, hunters, and warriors. Warfare on the plains was a very real and deadly struggle for tribal superiority and survival.
Apsaroke in Black CanyonOne method by which young men acquired medicine was the vision quest, a male puberty ritual involving fasting, prayer, and isolation. Sadly, Curtis’s written ethnographic record of Native Americans has been overlooked in the recent assessments of his contributions, primarily undertaken by photographic historians rather than by anthropologists. Curtis witnessed entire tribes, thousands of individual lodges, converging for the ceremony. One of the most dramatic aspects of the Sun Dance involved the self-torture of young braves, beginning at sunup and lasting till sundown. Incisions are made on each breast, the skin loosened between the parallel slits and bone skewers slipped under the strips of skin. The young brave is moving his legs in time to the music, his body arched back in agonizing pain as the pole is bowed and the skull jerks up and down, the full strain centered on the stretched skin and ?esh of breast and back.
Does the youth endure the torture, the physical pain and twisting of his inner pressures, until the sun has crossed over the heavens and sunk below the burning prairie?
Piegan CampThe tribes of the Great Plains were the most formidable and powerful in the United States, and they inspired Curtis by the majesty of their way of life.
The rich history and diverse cultural heritage of the California Indians have never been widely known outside the state. By the time Curtis reached California in 1916, he often traveled by automobile rather than train, horseback, or on foot, but the convenience of the car did little to make his work easier.
For the purposes of The North American Indian, Curtis divided California Indian cultures into three broad regions: northern, central, and what he called desert west.
During the several years Curtis spent doing ?eldwork in California, he lived with and studied more than ?fteen northern and central California tribes and six tribes from the desert west. Hupa Mother and Child – HupaTribes of the desert west inhabited some of the most arid territory in the United States, extending from the Mojave Desert to west-central Nevada, and included the Cahuilla, Dieguenos, Pavisto, and Chemehuevi. The northern and central California Indian tribes enjoyed a more temperate climate than those of the desert west.
The reduced pressure for subsistence made it possible for the northern and central California Indians to develop a more elaborate and complex social and material culture than their desert neighbors. Tribes of these regions also created intricate ceremonial regalia and fashioned other artifacts of wealth. Wealth was the indispensable foundation of chiefship, or rather, chiefship inevitably followed the possession of wealth.
A Klamath Costume – KlamathCeremonies, feasts, and dances could only be held with the inclusion of ceremonial regalia owned by wealthy individuals. Equally rare and valuable were the large, oblong obsidian blades so prized by these tribes. California Indians had little, if any, intertribal political organization; similarly, within individual tribes, social cohesion was loose and informal. It is not mere coincidence then that the great Ghost Dance religion of the 1880s found ready acceptance among California Indians.
Although it was originally established in the 1870s, interest in the Ghost Dance was rekindled in the 1880s through a Paiute Indian prophet named Wovoka, and it quickly spread among Indians of the western United States.
About 1888 [Wovoka] announced that he had received a revelation promising a complete change of conditions, the elimination of the white race, the recovery of the Indian land in all its former abundance of buffalo, the return of the dead. Wovoka traveled extensively, preaching and performing miracles; his teachings spread to distant tribes through messengers, travelers, and apostles. East Side of Walpi – WalpiIn the summer of 1900, Curtis made his first independent, self-financed trip into the field. The Indians of the Southwest lived primarily in Arizona and New Mexico, although their presence extended into parts of Texas, California and northern Mexico.
Blanket Weaver – NavahoOne of the reasons Curtis was drawn to Southwest Indian tribes initially was that they afforded him an unusual glimpse into pre-white Indian life.
Curtis’s immersion in the landscape and cultures of the Southwest Indian is clearly evident in the photographs he made in the region. And when the last red man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall become a myth among the white men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe; and when our children’s children think themselves alone in the ?eld, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the pathless woods, they will not be alone.
Although Edward Curtis formally began his thirty-year odyssey of studying and photographing Native Americans in the summer of 1900, he ?rst made photographs of Indians in his adopted Paci?c Northwest several years earlier.
He apparently started this work without a great deal of speci?c ethnographic intention, yet several of his early Native American images won multiple awards. Quilliute GirlThe Northwest Coast volumes of The North American Indian included tribes from Washington, British Columbia, and southeast Alaska. Curtis was so fascinated by Northwest Coast cultures that he chose the region as the basis for a feature ?lm, the ?rst ever done on Native Americans. The topology and climate of the Northwest Coast were unique among the regions Curtis visited. This wealth of natural resources reduced the demands on time and energy that native peoples had to devote to meeting subsistence needs.
Masked Dancer – CowichanThese hardy, sea-going people had developed the ceremonial life until it was a veritable pageant. During the winter months, when less outdoor work was undertaken, Northwest Coast Indians used the additional time to create the extraordinary carvings, weavings, and weaponry for which they are known.
The potlatch was one of the most widespread, dramatic, and important ceremonies of the Northwest Coast and served a variety of religious and social purposes.
Northwest Coast societies were intensely attuned to hierarchical social standing, and the potlatch played a critical role in creating, affirming, or changing the social standing of both the host and guests.
Among the Cowichan of Vancouver Island the potlatch in honor of the dead assumes a form in which the deceased is represented as actually presiding over the celebration.
By remembering the dead and honoring them in living ceremonies such as the potlatch, the people believed the dead could receive what they most needed. Northwest Coast tribes traced their ancestry through membership in clans and societies, and winter ceremonials provided a time for communities to gather to remember ancestors and tribal history. During these ceremonies, people performed dances and songs and displayed their most important ceremonial objects. Shamanism, a mystical practice that mediates between the worlds of spirits and the living, was a pivotal part of Northwest Coast culture. Curtis’s ?eldwork for The North American Indian came to a close during the summer of 1927, when he spent the season with the Eskimos of subarctic and arctic Alaska. Below the Arctic Circle, the Eskimos of King Island, Little Diomede Island, and Cape Prince of Wales hunted throughout western Alaska, from Bristol Bay to Norton Sound and across the Seward Peninsula. The site's mission is to help and assist people of the Cherokee descent and the general public in learning about and preserving the History, Culture and Traditions of the Cherokee people.
Official site of the Hau de no sau nee (known by the French term Iroquois), comprised of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora Nations. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history.
Metepenagiag people - where spirits live, site about New Brunswick's Oldest Village, its people and their Mi'kmaq heritage.
US Government page about hundreds of Navajo Indians served in the United States Marines, using their native language as the basis for an unbreakable military code used during wartime.
The Suquamish people, a fishing tribe whose leader was Chief Seattle, after whom the city took its name.
Site of the Mundo Maya Organization (MMO) with information on Mayan culture and the Organization's aim to achieve social development and sustainable tourism within the Mayan regions. Research and education organization dedicated to wider understanding and appreciation of the ideas and knowledge of indigenous peoples and the social, economic and political realities of indigenous nations. NIEA was founded in 1969 to give American Indians and Alaska Natives a national voice in their struggle to improve access to educational opportunity. The National Tribal Environmental Council (NTEC) was formed in 1991 as a membership organization dedicated to working with and assisting tribes in the protection and preservation of the reservation environment.
A federal inter-agency Native American Web site designed specifically to deliver electronic information from government agencies and other organizations to Native American communities.
University Libraries - University of Louisville: List to online resources of Native American History.
American Indians in two cultural areas of the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest Coast and Plateau. The site focuses primarily on the Amerindian Mound Builders, Amerindian Civilizations, Early Explorations of the Americas and Correcting the History and Heritage of the Americas. Collecting and archiving the products of the Native press and materials related to Native press history, collecting and documenting the works of Native writers, and constructing bibliographic guides to Native writing and publishing.
A pilot program for Aboriginal Canadians to preserve, celebrate and communicate their heritage. Aboriginal Peoples Television NetworkFirst Nations, Inuit and Metis people have the opportunity to share their stories with the rest of the world on a national television network dedicated to Aboriginal programming. Organization of Indigenous Peoples from North, Central, South America and the Pacific working for the Sovereignty and Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition and protection of Indigenous Rights, Traditional Cultures and Sacred Lands.
Oldest, largest and most representative national Indian organization serving the needs of a broad membership of American Indian and Alaska Native governments, founded in 1944. ATNI is a nonprofit organization representing 43 Northwest tribal governments from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Southeast Alaska, Northern California and Western Montana. Chiefs of OntarioChiefs of Ontario is a coordinating body for 134 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the Province of Ontario.
ITBC is a non-profit tribal organization and is committed to reestablishing buffalo herds on Indian lands in a manner that promotes cultural enhancement, spiritual revitalization, ecological restoration, and economic development.
Intertribal GIS CouncilIGC is a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting tribal self determination by improving management of geographic information and building intertribal communication networks.


NARF is the non-profit legal organization devoted to defending and promoting the legal rights of the Indian people.
Native Council of Nova ScotiaCouncil of the Mi'kmaq community and off-reserve Aboriginal people.
Eastern Band of Cherokee IndiansCherokee Indian Reservation Tribal Travel and Promotions Web Site. Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. United Native AmericaNation wide grass roots movement to bring about a federal national holiday for Native Americans. Nations Online Project is made to improve cross-cultural understanding and global awareness.
The tribes of California lived in a variety of climates, and their daily activities in different areas re?ected the diverse geography of their territory. People from the settlements would visit the village for ceremonial, social, or economic reasons, and villagers ventured into surrounding territories in search of food resources or to visit the settlement dwellers. The families of those to be married would typically exchange goods, and the wife would move to the husband’s village, where she learned the traditions of her new village from her mother-in-law. Because of this, all their possessions had to be portable, small enough to be mounted on a travois pulled by a horse.
Early Plains Indian men are often stereotyped as having been avid warriors, but battle occupied only a small portion of their lives. For the men, some societies were based on battle exploits, others on religious experiences. Among the Cheyenne and Lakota, there were quillworker societies that taught young women the sacred art of adorning objects with porcupine quills. Both structures were made from a framework of young trees that was covered with bark and thatch.
That summer, Curtis accompanied George Bird Grinnell, his friend and early mentor, on a trip to Montana and witnessed one of the last great enactments of the Sun Dance.
Curtis was strongly attracted to the ?ercely independent lifestyle of tribes such as the Lakota, Apsaroke, and Piegan and seemed particularly adept at transforming their dignity and pride into extraordinary photographic images.
However, his photographs of the Plains Indians also documented many other aspects of tribal cultural life, including hunting, warfare, vision quests, and religious ceremonies.
By the late 1890s the herds were gone and the buffalo was on the verge of extinction due to the white settlers’ careless decimation.
These additions yielded even greater prosperity as they greatly increased the Indians’ ability to track and kill the buffalo; but they also led to new intertribal con?icts. These tribes had been forced west at various times by the relentless white expansion, which reached its zenith during the 1800s. The two primary symbols of a warrior’s wealth and status, horses and guns, often appear in his images. For the Plains Indian male, success in war and in accumulating material wealth was directly attributed to his spirit power, or “medicine,” on which ascendancy through tribal leadership and respect as a warrior were dependent. This is unfortunate because his writing contains a wealth of information about the tribes he visited and often provides insights that are not available elsewhere. The second time … a voice said, “Look at your village!” He saw four women going around the village with their hair on the top of their heads, and their legs a?ame. In a way that paralleled the individual’s pursuit of medicine, community religious ceremonies focused on supplication to the Great Mystery—the divine power that permeates the universe. Then the call goes out to all neighboring tribes and thousands come to feast, give presents to the poor and form alliances with hostile tribes.
The great expanses of land and sky, the horses, the lodges, the stunning ceremonies—all are depicted in Curtis’s powerful Plains landscapes. Many of the tribes that survived the incursions of white settlers, especially the in?ux during the Gold Rush era, sought refuge in the remote and inaccessible hills and arroyos throughout the region. Curtis delicately pieced together a coherent ethnographic study from many sources, and the three volumes and portfolios of The North American Indian dedicated to the California Indians give us an excellent understanding of these tribes and their histories.
They migrated with the seasons, moving from barren mesas, desert lakes, and dry canyons to the more hospitable mountainside forests of the Sierra Nevada. Tribes in the central region, among them the Pomo, Wintun, and Yokut, tended to settle in coastal areas or along inland waterways, where food was readily available and abundant. They were skilled basket makers; in particular, Curtis spoke of the Pomo women as the most skilled basket makers in North America, and he photographed California basketry more extensively than that of any other area.
They had an elaborate system of assigning speci?c values to various items that they bought, sold, and traded as currency. Among the most precious of the highly valued ceremonial regalia were headdresses and costumes made with red woodpecker scalps and white deerskins.
This tribal structure, coupled with a general absence of either a history of or an instinct for warfare, made these tribes especially vulnerable to the white incursions. The Ghost Dance was the most signi?cant and widespread of the Native American revitalization movements that emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the all-pervasive devastation the California tribes suffered played a crucial role in the importance of the Ghost Dance in the region. For many Indians, the Ghost Dance brought a much-needed message of hope and a chance for cultural and spiritual renewal.
For this important trip, he chose to photograph the Hopi, Navajo, and Apache of the Southwest.
Because of the scarcity of native vegetation and game and the sporadic availability of water, the tribal peoples of the Southwest, by necessity, became largely dependent on agriculture for their subsistence. In the early 1900s, many people still lived in traditional ways, strongly tied to their ancient culture and religious traditions.
These images, and the written records of the Southwest that Curtis produced over several decades, mirror his deep understanding of the unique geocultural interplay of people and place. A professional studio portrait photographer by training, Curtis was also an avid outdoorsman and amateur landscape photographer. Curtis studied many of the Salishan tribes from the Washington Coast, including the Cowlitz, Quinault, and Upper and Lower Chehalis. The ?lm, In the Land of the Headhunters, preceded Robert Flaherty’s famous Nanook of the North by a decade and was a ground-breaking contribution to the nascent ?eld of visual anthropology. Rugged mountains that often ran to the sea combined with high levels of precipitation to create lush, dense forests and numerous rivers and streams.
The Northwest Coast tribes were thus free to develop their material and ceremonial cultures to a degree that was matched by very few, if any, other tribes. They placed these objects prominently throughout their beautifully constructed villages and their magni?cent wooden lodges. Individual guests and entire tribes, from both neighboring and distant areas, attended these extraordinary ceremonies. The generosity the host displayed could greatly enhance or diminish his social rank, as he presented gifts to his guests according to their established social standing and his personal relationship with them. Many Northwest Coast Indians believed that once a spirit passed from the living it could only be happy, or taste life again, through human memory. The potlatch host anticipated his own need for human remembrance after death, and the gifts from the potlatches functioned to perpetuate the host’s own memory by serving as reminders of him and his generosity. Masks, special blankets, tools, and weapons often carried representations of the animals, stories, or ?gures historically associated with groups to which individual participants belonged. Shamans courted, controlled, and acquired power from spirits, and they were respected and feared as the most powerful members of the tribe.
Above the Arctic Circle, the Nakoaktok and Kobuk lived and hunted from Cape Lisburne to Camden Bay.
Instead, you must outline the chapter in 2-4 pages by Wednesday.Wesward Expansion Interactive Map - click on the map legend items to see Americans pushing westward.
Exhibition of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History about belief systems, philosophies, and practical knowledge.
Throughout California, men usually hunted and ?shed, and women harvested wild plants and small game.
When a young man wanted to join a military society, he either had to be invited or had to petition to join. In winter, the most difficult time of the year, men hunted and trapped wild game for food, clothing, and trade, while the women cared for their homes, made and decorated clothing, and prepared food. As Curtis viewed the Sun Dance—a ceremony that few whites, or natives, would see again for nearly seven decades—his vision for the grand photo-ethnographic undertaking that would become his life’s work crystallized. These images remain an unparalleled vision of the strength and nobility of the Plains Indian peoples who had once held dominion over tens of thousands of square miles. Curtis’s photographs and his ethnographic writings clearly show that he understood the central importance of the buffalo to traditional Plains Indian culture. Intertribal con?ict intensi?ed as more tribes were pushed onto the Plains and competed for buffalo. A system evolved among Plains Indians for measuring war honors, which they referred to as “counting coups.” Capturing horses and guns garnered distinct honors, while other honors were earned by striking an enemy. To a Plains Indian, possessing medicine ensured that he would kill enough game to feed himself and his family and protected him in warfare and raiding. Curtis was particularly adept at eliciting highly personal information that individuals would not share with other outsiders. The largest and most spectacular of these ceremonies was the Sun Dance, which had had such a profound impact on Curtis in 1900 when he joined Grinnell on a journey to the Piegan Reservation in Montana. The Indian brave was brought out of con?nement and the medicine man prepared him for the test of strength. His portraits of Plains Indians evoke the warriors’ emotional gravity, ?erce pride, and independence. The tribes of the region tended to be small and, while the groups interacted socially and economically, they did not have the strong political organization of many Native American groups in other parts of the continent. The devastation suffered by these tribes was extraordinary, and it is estimated that the total population had been reduced from several hundred thousand before the arrival of the Spanish to some twenty thousand. The territory the California Indians inhabited actually extended well beyond the present state borders. The tribes of the desert west moved in familial bands between seasonal camps to harvest resources that became available in different areas at different times of the year.
Northern tribes, including the Hupa and Yurok, also lived on the coast or near inland rivers in northern California.
This currency system held particular importance in California Indian culture, as material wealth was the primary determinant of an individual’s stature. Assembling the hundreds of scalps and several skins that some pieces required was difficult and tedious work, but the effect was striking. Even though the American government began suppressing the Ghost Dance in the early 1890s, its lasting signi?cance is evidenced by Curtis’s record of its continuing in?uence several decades later.
The great popularity of the Ghost Dance and the widespread uprising it triggered caused a powerful backlash from the whites.
From 1900 to 1925 Curtis would study and photograph the various tribes of the Southwest more frequently than those of any other area. As their reliance on agriculture grew, the Indians of the Southwest adopted an increasingly village-oriented culture. Curtis was also fascinated by the strong relationship Southwest Indians had with their ancestral land, which in both its physical and metaphysical manifestations was at the center of their history, tradition, and beliefs. It was while pursuing these latter activities in the Puget Sound area surrounding Seattle that he began to photograph Native Americans and their daily life.
Farther north, in British Columbia and southeast Alaska, he studied the Kwakiutl, Nootka, and Haida.


The environment also yielded an extraordinary abundance of both food sources and raw materials for housing, clothing, and canoes—the basic necessities of life.
For example, they developed carved objects such as masks and totem poles that are as spectacular as they are complex.
Their tradition of highly stylized and elaborate craftsmanship was also evident in the ancient regalia the tribes displayed and wore during ceremonial dances.
Officially, the potlatch was performed to honor the dead, but a central part of the event involved the host giving gifts to his guests. Guests receiving unusually generous gifts became more esteemed; those receiving less signi?cant items might lose status in the eyes of others. Chilkat blankets, in particular, were magni?cent and intricate pieces of ceremonial regalia that were created with exceptional artisanship.
They performed rites to bless hunters and ensure their safety and success, but shamans were also healers. Eskimos rarely settled inland, almost always inhabiting permanent coastal and island villages. Goes from the Treaty of Paris of 1783 (ending the American Revolution) to the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, which was the final addition to the mainland U.S. Tribes in the northwest region of California depended on salmon, but in the central region the major source of food was acorns, which were harvested in the fall. Even though men and women had diffierent responsibilities, each gender was equally respected in the community.
Young men often accompanied warriors, acting as “support.” They would bring water to the warriors, carry their goods, or hold their horses.
A longhouse had a central hall running the length of the interior, with separate rooms ?tted with sleeping platforms on each side.
Dependence on the buffalo meant that entire villages and tribes moved along with the herds’ migrations.
The increased availability of horses expanded the range within which they could hunt, trade, and raid, and many tribal alliances were formed to counteract the competition for resources. The Plains male, the archetypal Indian warrior, prominently displayed the symbols of his war honors on his person to indicate his stature. Individuals took great care to maintain the strength of their medicine and to preserve the connection with their spiritual “helpers” through prayer and supplication. Particular dreams might inform the youth of the location of an enemy camp or of enemy horses. For example, Curtis describes one of Red Hawk’s visions and the signi?cance those visions held for the great Ogalala leader.
A few days later came news that of ?ve who had gone against the enemy, four had been killed; one returned alive, and followed the four mourning wives around the camp singing the death song.
The Sun Dance was primarily a ceremony of supplication and sacri?ce for supernatural aid and spiritual power, but it also served as an af?rmation of community, demonstrating the community’s devotion to and reliance on the power of the Great Mystery.
The placing of tribes and dignitaries, the herding of the common people, all this is arranged by masters of ceremony and criers carrying tufted, beaded wands.5 plains Indians undertook the Sun Dance both for the strength of the community and, not unlike the vision quest, for ful?llment of their personal vows. Long thongs have been attached to the willowy tip of the pole and the lower ends now fastened to the breast skewers. Curtis would not ?nd a more dramatic example of the notion of the “American Indian” in his travels. Before the devastating incursions of Europeans and Americans that began in the eighteenth century, there were hundreds of tribal villages in this region, each generally with a few hundred to a thousand residents. Curtis’s efforts were hindered by the Indians’ wariness of whites and their physical isolation and were compounded by the linguistic differences among the splintered tribes. The climate of the northern and central regions was similar in many ways, but the arid desert west was distinctly different. The Indians believed objects of extraordinary wealth possessed an element of spirit, and especially sacred were regalia and obsidian blades. When used in public ceremonies, the pieces were dazzling; the Indians prized them for their rarity and beauty as much as for the great wealth they symbolized.
Not only did it prevail in various California tribes, but also in tribes as distant as the Sioux in the Great Plains and the Cheyenne in the southern Plains. Memories of the Ghost Dance were still fresh at the time Curtis visited the California Indians in the early 1900s. He ultimately devoted more volumes of The North American Indian to the Southwest than to any other region.
In fact, some of their villages and pueblos have been inhabited continuously for hundred of years, making them among the oldest permanent settlements still in use in North America today.
This early success undoubtedly earned the Northwest Coast peoples a special place in Curtis’s heart. The tribes of the Northwest Coast had the most elaborate and sophisticated material culture of any Curtis visited.
Rather than bolstering the funding for The North American Indian as he had hoped, the ?lm project actually put Curtis further in debt. This bounty, in addition to the dense vegetation and rugged terrain, meant that the tribes rarely ventured far inland.
Curtis was obviously fascinated by what he found along the Northwest Coast, and he documented the elaborate cultural systems with their many ceremonies and rituals as well as the intricate and complex material culture of many tribes in the region.
A potlatch took enormous preparation, and people sometimes spent years acquiring the wealth necessary for the event. By being so generous in his material dispensation, occasionally to the point of ?nancial ruin, the host sought to gain respect, admiration, and status; but he also expected to be similarly reimbursed at subsequent potlatches performed by others.
They were woven with crests that represented the owner’s heritage and were usually fringed.
The people thought that when the uninitiated or untrained had contact with the spirits, or with places or objects of great power, the result could be physical or spiritual harm.
Not unlike Plains Indian men of today, male ancestors also had responsibilities to their children, their elders, and their community. Men could excel at hunting and warfare and be recognized for their exploits, but women who excelled at creating beautiful utilitarian objects were also acknowledged for their work. Once a young man became part of a military society, he was required to uphold its rules and regulations. Only when they were inducted were they taught the artistic skills and the meaning of sacred designs. Several related families would live in a longhouse, an arrangement that fostered community and kinship. A warrior might affix painted sticks to his hair to denote the number of times he had been shot or injured, or hooves might be embroidered onto a leather pouch to indicate the number of horses he had stolen. The numerous distinct languages and dialects he encountered made translation a continual challenge.
These vast climatic and geographic differences were re?ected in the varied lifestyles and cultures of the California tribes. Although their material culture was limited by their need for travel, the severity of their environment, and the scarcity of natural resources, these tribes possessed a rich spiritual culture with strong mythological and religious traditions.
The abundance of resources in these regions allowed the northern and central tribes to settle in relatively permanent villages, which tended to be small and isolated.
Obtaining wealth and maintaining the status it brought were central to California Indian thought and consciousness, and individuals undertook mental and spiritual preparations for attaining wealth that were similar to the dreaming or visioning found in other Native American cultures. The more perfect and regular the blade’s shape and detail, the greater its value; artisans carefully and deliberately chipped each one into an oblong form. His photographs indicate an acute awareness of the impact its suppression had on their culture. He felt that, of all the cultures he had encountered, the peoples and customs he found there were the least tainted by European in?uence. Concentrating their villages and their daily activities at or near coastal waters, Northwest Coast tribes relied heavily on ?shing for subsistence; they also hunted waterfowl and other game, including seal, bear, and elk. A host would work endlessly so he could present his most distinguished and honored guests with appropriate symbols of his generosity.
Harriman organized an expedition of scientists, naturalists, and friends to study and explore the still-remote Alaskan territory, Curtis was invited to be one of the expedition’s two photographers. In the southern region, the Chumash made large plank canoes that allowed them to hunt sea mammals such as the sea lion, which was highly regarded for its meat and oil. After beads were introduced, many quillworking societies adapted their techniques while continuing their artistic traditions.
The most signi?cant dreams were those in which a supernatural or spiritual helper appeared. Wooden plank dwellings provided the principal source of shelter, and the people subsisted primarily on the abundant supply of ?sh and seasonal harvests of fruits and vegetables. Most of the traditional costumes are gone; a sense of defeat and resignation can be seen in some of the images. Various plants and roots that grew freely along the coast supplemented these primary food sources.
The power shamans received from spiritual and supernatural helpers largely determined their effectiveness in curing illness, and they received compensation when a patient was successfully helped or healed. It was on this trip that Curtis met George Bird Grinnell, and the friendship they formed in Alaska led directly to Curtis’s watershed experience on the Great Plains of Montana less than a year later. For instance, in battle, particular clothing had to be worn and a member was never to leave a comrade alone.
In the fall, the garden was harvested and wild rice collected from the shallows of the lake areas.
29), clearly reveal that he had been touched by the magni?cence of the Indian nations and the overwhelming depth of their culture. Allied tribes also attempted to control the ?ow of critical goods from the East, both for their own bene?t and to deprive their rivals. The helper might take the form of a man or woman, an animal such as a snake or bird, or it might appear as a great cloud.
While his portraits from this region may seem less dramatic, they possess a rare power and a quiet, subtle beauty that clearly re?ect the life Curtis encountered among these people. Similar to hunting ceremonies of other tribes throughout the country, the Tolowas’ ceremony paid homage to the animal for giving its life to the people in order for the people to survive. These photographs formed the beginning of the vast, elegant portrait of Native American cultures that Curtis would bring to the world over the next thirty years. Competition for territory and resources was a key motivation for the frequent warfare that came to characterize Plains Indian life and, at times, destroyed entire tribes. A vision of a helper was an indication of divine or supernatural favor that could be called upon in times of distress.
Sometimes the helper taught magic songs or chants designed for speci?c occasions, such as songs that could be sung to ensure success in battle or to bolster stealth and calmness when raiding rival camps. Society training helped young men to mature and to become responsible to their tribes and families. Receiving a vision was extremely signi?cant, yet not all vision-seekers were rewarded; the realization of a vision, when it occurred, could take years.



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