Gallery Index > Northwest Coast
In 1895 Edward Curtis became interested in the Native Americans living in and around Seattle and began to photograph them. One of his earliest subjects was Princess Angeline, the aged daughter of Chief Sealth, the Suquamish Indian from whom Seattle took its name. At the National Photographic Exhibition of 1899 Curtis was awarded the grand prize for several of his soft-focused, sepia-toned photographs of Indians collecting clams and mussels along the beaches of Puget Sound.
Curtis traveled extensively throughout the Northwest Coast of the United States and British Columbia during his fieldwork for The North American Indian. He was particularly fascinated with the Kwakiutl, a spectacular maritime people of the coast of British Columbia. In 1914 Curtis wrote and produced his first full-length motion picture, a drama based on a Kwakiutl legend and entitled In the Land of the Head Hunters. The first screening took place at the Casino Theater in New York and was a great success.
In the summer of 1927 Curtis, along with his daughter Beth Curtis Magnuson, set sail for Alaska in what would turn out to be one of Curtis' most dangerous and exhausting expeditions. Upon reaching Nome, Curtis purchased a forty foot boat and began the treacherous voyage through the Bering Sea to Nunivak, three hundred miles away. Curtis had estimated a three-day voyage but after many weather-related setbacks they finally reached Nome in twelve days. The material for the final volume was obtained at a terrible cost to Curtis' health. By now fifty-nine years old, he returned to Los Angeles and commenced work on the text for Volumes XIX and XX. Published in 1930, these final two volumes completed the North American Indian project.
Of the twenty volumes and portfolios that comprise The North American Indian, three of these focus on the Northwest Coast, and one, the final volume, features Alaska:
Vol. IX, 1913. Quinault, Skokomish, Quilcene, Suquamish, Squaxon, Chimakum, Quilleute, Willipa, Cowichan, Snoqualmu, and Lummi.
Vol. X, 1915. Kwakiutl.
Vol. XI, 1916. Nootka, Haida and Makah.
Vol. XX, 1930. Nunivak, King Island, Hooper Bay, Noatak, Selewik, Kobuk, Little Diomede Island, Cape Prince of Wales, and Kotzebue.
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