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Course & Subject Guides

Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian, Spring-Summer 2018: The Sun Dance, the Southwest, & Chief Joseph, 1900-1903

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: Expeditions to Montana, the Southwest, the Plains, and Photographing Chief Joseph, 1900-1903

                 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].

Sun Dance Encampment

Sun Dance encampment

Sun Dance Encampment - Piegan, 1900

Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, Portfolio VI, Plate no. 192, 1911.

Courtesy of Northwestern University Library, Digital Collections.

Curtis device



  • SUMMER.  Curtis rides the Great Northern Railroad from Seattle to Browning, Montana, where he meets up with George Bird Grinnell, and together they observe the Piegan Sun Dance and encampment.  Grinnell encourages Curtis and his idea to photograph the Indians of North American, but advises him to get his information directly from the Indians themselves.


  • Curtis makes repeated photographic and ethnographic expeditions to the desert Southwest, the Badlands of South Dakota, and the Great Plains to photograph the Hopi, Apache, Mohave, Navaho, the Sioux, and other tribes of the American Southwest and the Interior Plains.  Curtis uses the wax-cylinder recorder in his fieldwork for the North American Indian project.
  • Curtis travels to Hopi Land in 1900, 1902, 1904, 1906, 1911, 1912, and 1919. 


  • Hires Adolph F. Muhr, photographer and photoengraver, to run the Curtis photography studio in Seattle.  Curtis travels to New York in search of a patron and a publisher to finance and publish his project on the Indians of North America.  There he meets with Walter Page at Doubleday.  Curtis then swings south to Washington, D.C., where he consults with Frederick Webb Hodge at the Bureau of American Ethnology.   
  • NOVEMBER.  Curtis photographs Chief Joseph of the Nez Percé, during Joseph’s visit to Seattle in late November 1903.

Curtis device