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Course & Subject Guides

Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian, Spring-Summer 2018: The Offering

This library guide is an overview of the Archives & Special Collection exhibit on Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian.


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The Offering - San Ildefonso

Photogravure of The Offering - San Ildefonso

The Offering - San Ildefonso, 1925

A pinch of cornmeal tossed into the air as an offering to the numerous deities of the Tewa, but especially to the sun, is a formality that begins the day and precedes innumerable acts of the most commonplace nature.

Print caption by Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, Portfolio XVII, Plate no. 586, 1926.


Observations on the Sun and Moon

Some of the most conspicuous stars and constellations are named and supplicated, notable the morning and the evening star.  The rising sun is addressed somewhat as follows:  “My old Sun, here, eat this.  Give health to me and my village.  Give me deer, game, long life.  This I ask for myself, my old Sun.”  In praying to this all-powerful one “we hold the sun in our left hand and take from it with the other and draw its life into the mouth, asking for help.”  The moon is said to be supplicated by men, and the prayer is for its intercession with the sun, dispenser of health and long life.

Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, Text XVII, 81, 1926.

Curtis device

Offerings to the Gods

Offerings to the gods consist of sacred meal, especially ground for the purpose and carried in small pouches or cloth packets, and bunches of feathers bound with cotton string, each bunch containing a feather of a goose, a turkey, a magpie, an eagle, an oriole, a summer warbler, and a duck. These messages to the spirits are supposed to be carried by eagle, hawk, and hummingbird.  The meal is tossed in small pinches, either in the general direction of the supposed abode of the deity addressed or directly on the sacred objects representing the spirits…

Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, Text XVII, 44, 1926.

Curtis device

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