American Indian Women

This selection from Edward Curtis's 1920's photographs of the North American Indian reflects Curtis's sensitivity to the life of the Indian woman as well as his respect for a marvelous culture that was being inexorably destroyed. The Curtis collection is one of the largest photographic archives ever produced by a single artist and probably the most profound representation of pure Indian culture and its spirit ever assembled.

Curtis's complete publication, The North American Indian consists of 20 volumes of text with 1,500 small plates, plus 20 portfolios of 36 unbound gravure plates, comprising a total of approximately 2,500 images. The plates on vellum in this exhibition feature portraits of females from various tribes.

The photographs capture the beauty of the women of the various tribes. For example, "The Burden Basket" depicts a coast Pomo matron ready for a day of harvesting wild seeds in the fields; her basket is supported by a tumpline passing across her head. "A Chukchansi Matron," "Aged Pomo Woman" and "A Pomo Girl" serve as moving and remarkable reflections of a bygone era. The brave and quiet "Yaudanchi Yokuts Woman" is a survivor among survivors. Her tribe, the Yaudanchi, formerly controlled the territory around the headwaters of the Tule River in Tulare County, including the present Tule River reservation where the survivors are quartered.