Edward S. Curtis: Plains Indians

The Edward S. Curtis collection of photographs of the North Americans is one of the largest photographic archives ever produced by a single artist. More importantly, it is the most profound representation of unadulterated Indian cultures that has ever been compiled.

The thirty-six plates on vellum in this exhibition are from his portfolio of the Plains Indians. Whether he was recording the culture of the Blackfoot, the Blood, the Cheyenne, or any of the other tribes, Curtis had a true appreciation for the people and a great respect for their ways of life.

Featured in this exhibition are portraits of men, women and children that constitute a testimony to Curtis' ability to break down the barriers that had heretofore prevented outsiders from establishing working relationships with the native populations. His portraits of Bear Bull, Apio Mita and Sysimoki resonate with a fierce pride and determination, but also bespeak a sense of spiritual loss in the face of a recognition that a way of life was about to vanish.

The portraits are complemented by photographs depicting tribal ceremonies, such as the "Water Rite Purification", and tribal dwellings. Additionally, photographs such as "As It Was in the Old Days" and "Bow River" suggest both the untamed land and the harmony with nature that was so central to the Plains Indians.