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Course & Subject Guides

Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian, Spring-Summer 2018: The Southwest, 1904-1907

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

A Chronology of the Life of Edward S. Curtis: The Investigation of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Publication of The North American Indian, and the Death of Upshaw, 1907-1909

                 Map of Alaska and map legend    Map of continental U.S.

Map of North America: Showing the research areas, cities, and rail routes important in Edward Curtis's Life by Eric Elias. In Lawlor, Laurie. Shadow Catcher: The Life and Work of Edward S. Curtis. New York, [1994].


  • Hires Ella E. McBride and Imogen Cunningham to work as a photographers and photoengravers in the Curtis photography studio in Seattle.  
  • MARCH 2.  Indian Love Letters, written by Marah Ellis Ryan is published with a photographic frontispiece and illustrated chapter headings by Edward S. Curtis.

  • SPRING.  Alexander B. Upshaw begins his field investigations into the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which forces commanded by Crazy Horse and Chief Gall of the Lakota Sioux defeat Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Calvary Regiment of the United States Army on June 25-26, 1876.

  • SUMMER.  Curtis, Upshaw, and three Crow eyewitnesses that fought as scouts with Custer - Hairy Moccasins, Goes Ahead, and White Man Runs Him - investigate and survey the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

  • FALL.  Curtis, Myers, and Upshaw begin writing the text for volume three, along with the results of their investigation into the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which is a dramatically different scholarly analysis of the battle from the approved American narrative.  The conclusion of their inquiry is omitted from volume four due to political pressure.

  • LATE FALL.  The first volume of The North American Indian:  Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska is published with the foreword by Theodore Roosevelt.  This volume is devoted to The Apache. The Jicarillas. The Navaho.

Curtis device


  • EARLY SPRING.  The second volume of The North American Indian is published on The Pima. The Papago. The Qáhatika. The Mohave. The Yuma. The Maricopa. The Walapai. The Havasupai. The Apache-Mohave, or Yavapai.
  • JUNE - AUGUST.  American newspapers, including The New York Times, print reviews praising Curtis and volumes one and two of The North American Indian.
  • The third volume of The North American Indian is published and comprises the Teton Sioux, the Yanktonai, the Assiniboin.  It is printed without the results of the investigation into the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  Much of the field work for this volume was collected in 1905, 1907, and 1908. 

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Andrew and Louise Carnegie say farewell to Pittsburgh, circa 1914.

Courtesy of Library of Congress.


  • FEBRUARY 25.  Curtis and Upshaw visit President Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. on February 25, 1909.  Andrew Carnegie subscribes to a set of The North American Indian.    

  • The Flute of the Gods, written by Marah Ellis Ryan, is published with photographic plates by Edward S. Curtis.

  • The fourth volume of The North American Indian is published and comprises the Apsaroke, or Crows, and the Hidatsa.  This volume is considered to be an outstanding work on the ethnology of the Plains Indians. 

  • The fifth volume of The North American Indian is published and comprises the Mandan, the Arikara, and the Atsina.  

  • JUNE 1 - OCTOBER 16.  The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition is held in Seattle, in which over 3.7 million viewers attend by end of the world’s fair.  Curtis has the five published volumes of The North American Indian on display.

  • JULY 28.  Clara gives birth to the youngest Curtis child, Katherine.

  • THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21.  Alexander B. Upshaw dies.  Curtis memorializes Upshaw in the introduction to Volume VII:    

    …It is with profound sorrow that the author announces the death, in the autumn of 1909, of Mr. A. B. Upshaw, his Crow interpreter and informant, whose assistance in collecting the material for Volumes III, IV, and V was of such inestimable value…

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