« Lipstick Traces | Main | The IndiVisible Memory Book »

November 18, 2009

Snapshots of Transition: Native American Reservation Life in the Early 1900s


Chiricahua Apache women from the sewing society work on a quilt together. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, N53228.

In celebration of American Indian Heritage Month, NMAI's Photo Archives has posted a blog entry, Snapshots of Transition: Native American Reservation Life in the Early 1900s, to the Smithsonian's Photo Initiative (SPI) blog, The Bigger Picture. The article, by Emily Moazami, highlights a collection of photographs, by Reverend James O. Arthur, recently contributed to the NMAI's Collections search and the Smithsonian Flickr Commons photostream. Please take a look and post comments to the blog. A second entry will post next week highlighting fieldwork photography and the object collection.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Snapshots of Transition: Native American Reservation Life in the Early 1900s:


I am interested to know what advantage there has been if any in setting aside reservations for Native Americans ?

Do they have their own legal system applicable to their own people there?

Do they have control over their own people? Do they have their own health care etc

Wow your writing skill is very nice Laughing I couldn't agree more about there tips. They are very interesting and usefull for me.
I think I must visit your blog regular to get more ideas and more tips for learning.
Thanks alot!
Toan Nguyen Minh
Make Money Online

The development of this nation created any number of legally binding agreements and laws to guarantee the authority of tribal governments. American needs to honor those agreements and commitments each day of the year. American Indian Heritage Month allows us to, as a nation, reflect on the contributions of Native Americans and to acknowledge our responsibilities to continue to meet obligations that were created as America emerged as a new nation.

it's amazing to me that there are not more resources to learn about the real history of our nation.

most of the information I have run across is not very informative on the subject.

thanks for posting the photos.

Awesome information on early 19th century Photography this is a great post for aspiring photographers

Very vintage and interesting shot! Thanks for sharing...


This is a really interesting piece on lives of Native Indians in the 1900s, that picture is truly incredibly, I'm quite moved by it.

Native American author Gertrude Simmons Bonnin won a scholarship to the Boston and was a strong political voice for Native Americans in the early 1900s.

This is the first entry in a series celebrating National Native American Heritage Month. In this series we will be highlighting photos from the National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) Photo Archives that were recently contributed to NMAI’s Collections Search and the Smithsonian Flickr Commons photostream. NMAI holds a diverse photograph collection of over 90,000 ethnohistoric images, which range from daguerreotypes to digital images, and is considered one of the most significant collections of American Indian images.

thanks for good subject

I am writing to you from Peru, I always admired the American Indians, for their faith and courage to defend their territories. the spirit of freedom still remains. Beautiful post.

It's always cool to see old pics and see how people lived back in the day.

Love these American Indian Photos.. a lot like the "Images of America" series that has catalogued almost every city in the US.. its a great look back into our history.

I am studying photography, and as I am researching about some old American photos, I found this as amazing. It is really incredible photo! Thanks :)


Stumbled across this, it would be nice if you could upload more pictures Natives in the early 1900s.

Interesting photography... When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in B&W, you photograph their souls! I heard this somewhere. It's not really like that when you're shooting weddings!

Amazing how images from this era have such an unsettling feeling to them. Probably due to the long exposures/uncomfortable posing situations.
Either way, its cool to have a glimpse into the past like this!


I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and always enjoyed studying Native American Cultures. It's really sad to see the state of affairs on some of the reservations.

Black and photos really tell the story huh? I love turning portraits into black and white but quite a few people snub their nose at it. I really envy the photographers that shoot for National Geographic.

It is inspiring to see photos that are taken years ago. What makes it more interesting is the fact that the women here are helping hand in hand in working on the quilt. Thanks for posting this.

Beautiful image that captures family life, and I love how it's in black and white. It makes no difference what type of photography you do, we're image magicians, great work.

I am actually writing an expository essay in college and came across this picture while doing research. Absolutely incredible!

Native American reservations make me sad. The photo just has a "sad" feel to it. Thanks for sharing, look forward to seeing more.


Some beautiful old school black and white photography there. Work like this has a certain character that today's polished digital shots just seem to lack. It's funny to note both the similarities and gaping differences between work like this and then work like mine, for example (I hope you don't mind my linking a picture of a Thai fishing lady I took a few years ago):


It's the top middle shot.

I can't help but think it looks shiny and fake in comparison...however I still like it :)

It's always cool to see old pics and see how people lived back in the day.

i've been in canada and i saw many controversial opinion about the natives american.. just about nowdays. I think is good idea to show the path of trasformation of these cultures.
Now i'm in Mexico, travelling all around and i'm try to write something about the traformation of the "Mexica" culture.
There are too many incomplete information.
Soon i gonna post a video about the izcateopan meeting of thousands sundancer in http://www.longwalk.it

This is a great piece of history, amazingly the picture quality is awesome.

Funny to know they took sewing seriously back then.

This is beautiful photography.

Very interesting is the history of Native Americans!
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Indians in the U.S. were crammed into reservations. They stood there under the control of government officials. This set of laws had the task to control the use of the land, and tribal funds deposited and disbursed from the contractually guaranteed pensions. In the distribution of supplies allocated to the Indians there were a number of scandals, because corrupt agents terrorized the Indians, cheated them or bought them with bribes for their land. In 1905, the government managed to defeat by a large-scale reform of the Indian Service corruption. In 1911, the American Indian Society was founded for the protection and preservation of Native American culture.

I just found your blog while searching for articles about Native American culture. Very informative post and useful links to the full photo collection. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Very cool .


It truly is amazing how one photo really can say a thousand words. I love how this shows the family dynamic back then and how it is different from today.

Wow, I'm honestly surprised at how great the picture quality of this photo is.

There's a great sense of community you get from this picture that I think should be more present in today's society.

It's always cool to see old pics and see how people lived back in the day.

Thanks for creating such a wonderful site. this site was not only knowledgeable but also very stimulating too.The collection of photography Smithsonian in Flickr really nice. We find very few people who can think to create not so easy articles that creatively.

This is an amazing site and I'm looking forward to taking more time looking at everything. A photo can tell a wonderful story.

I would have to agree with a previous comment about the quality of the picture itself.

Has it been enhanced at all for clarity?

It really does show a different side and time in our culture.

Ella Lu
Photographer, Orlando

This is where the commencement of modern American civilization. an explicit expression of appreciation to fairness and equality, a reflection of strong democracy. A very nice photo and very inspiring.


Black and white photos you have is really great. Another thing I can't miss noticing is that the surrounding environment seems very clean.


It was nice to have found this blog on the early pictures of the Native American Indians. I am a photographer who specializes in wedding photography in Miami Fl and would of love to have seen some wedding pictures of the Native American. I was raised in Haiti where it was the very fist land that Christopher Columbus set his foot to the new world and came in with his conquistador. We unfortunately do not have any pictures of them because the Spanish had enslaved them and had killed them for gold. I am so glad to see Native Indians celebrating their existence.

very informative site. the photos substantially keeps the present generation closer to history.

Viewing old images is like turning back in time. They're so expressive (at least in what concerns me)

Anyway, enjoyed looking at this 100 years old picture and reading about life in the 1900s.

Barry (Macrame and vintage enthusiast)

Indians took part in a series of trance-inducing rituals and dancing, believing that they would one day bring back their old way of life and traditions and eliminate the whites. The strength and numbers of the Americans made this a dream unlikely to be fulfilled, but kept the flame of the American Indian culture alive.

I appreciate the work you share with us.

This is such a wonderful and fine blog.

I hope you don't stop on sharing your work.

This is one of the best site I found.

A very informative blog.

Ritual dancing is deep stuff. My uncle is into it and he swears by it.

In America you call them reservations, in South Africa we called them homelands, same poverty, same terrible living standards. We have got rid of them!

I always enjoy history. I landed in the right place to get a piece of it. Nice quality picture. I will bookmarked this page and come back for more information later on. Thanks for sharing

The comments to this entry are closed.