This Thanksgiving holiday, give thanks for all the blessings bestowed upon us one and all. And please also take time for a special remembrance of the true Americans. The Native Americans who were massacred in this very country, this sacred soil, that we call the home of the brave, and land of the free. Ironic, because there’s not a better description of these very people that we conquered, caged, and crippled. Labeled as Godless, savage, animals by a group that was oddly enough fleeing their own persecution, oppression, and judgement. These beautiful people, here before us, whose land was brutally stolen. Their beliefs, culture, and art were almost completely erased, not for a lack of trying, but by the grace of God. And in the name of, what? A shameful chapter in American history, any way you look at it. Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged. Now go and enjoy your turkey.

The Apache.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930. Edward S. Curtis, a professional photographer in Seattle, devoted his life to documenting what was perceived to be a vanishing race. His monumental publication “The North American Indian” presented to the public an extensive ethnographical study of numerous tribes, and his photographs remain memorable icons of the American Indian. The Smithsonian Libraries holds a complete set of this work, which includes photogravures on tissue, donated by Mrs. Edward H. Harriman, whose husband had conducted an expedition to Alaska with Curtis in 1899.  via

Kotsuis and Hohhuq – Nakoaktok.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

Dancing to Restore an Eclipsed Moon – Qagychl.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

Hastobíga, Navaho Medicine-man.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

Kwakiutl House Frame.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

Vash Gon – Jicarilla.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

The Wedding party – Qagyuhl.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

Jicarilla maiden.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

A Nakoaktok Chief’s Daughter.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

Masked dancers – Qagyuhl.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

A Paguate Entrance.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

circa 1900, Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada– Curtis’ notes: These two heraldic columns at the Nimkish village Yilis, on Cormorant Island, represent the owner’s paternal crest, an eagle, and his maternal crest, a grizzly-bear crushing the head of a rival chief. Published by Edward S. Curtis. –Image by © Stapleton Collection/Corbis

Eskadi – Apache.  Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, taken c. 1907-1930.

1914– A photograph of a Kwakwaka’wakw wedding party published by Edward S. Curtis. The staged wedding was a scene in a film made by Curtis. –Image by © Stapleton Collection/Corbis

11/4/1925, Vancouver, British Columbia–  Probably the most distinctive Totem Pole ever photographed is this treasured idol which stands in Alert Bay, British Columbia. This pole is distinctive because of its bird like wings attached to its erect body, and the carvers there might have selected some Northern bird for worship, due perhaps to the fact that its capture may have brought good luck to the settlers. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

Alert Bay, North West Territory, Canada– General view along street at Indian Village, showing totem poles. –Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

1884, British Columbia, Canada– Totem Poles in the Haida Village of Masset, Queen Charlotte Islands –Image by © Canadian Museum of Civilization/Corbis

August 1941, Saxman, Tongass National Forest, Alaska– Civilian Conservation Corps enrollee, Henry Denny, Sr., and grandchildren, at the base of the Giant Oyster Totem Pole. –Image by © Corbis

September 1947, Tongass National Forest– Totem poles at Klawak, in the Tongass National Forest, Alaska. –Image by © Corbis

1941, Alaska– Alaska Natives Carving a Totem Pole –Image by © Corbis


  1. Thanks so much for this post. If we could learn to love and respect our land like these noble people our earth would be a much better place. It seems like these “savages” had a way better grasp on what is important in life than “modern man”. We’ve got It ass backwards people!

  2. Happy thanksgiving day!I’m very happy to see Amerika has still a chance since there are people with feelings and soul in them.

  3. First time posting, but certainly not the first time reading. I love this blog. I just wanted to say that showing images shot by Edward Curtis is a nice way of showing how prejudice never changes. Here is a man who put his own self serving vision above his responsibly to his fellow man and abused and misrepresented several different cultures of Native Americans. A great example of how the same sentiments that led to Native American genocide are passed along generation after generation. Be vigilant my friends.

  4. I remember hearing in one of my college art history classes that Edward Curtis was one of the last people to document the Native Americans as they, no doubt, would have liked to be remembered. Incredible photographs. Thanks for another great post.

  5. Stunning photographs, as Simon said, very intriguing. Thank you for this thoughtful post, I must go find Curtis’ book…

  6. wonderful words Jon!

    very nice selection of photos as well!

    I have always enjoyed the company of my good native American friends and feel guilty for the ways our forefathers treated theirs.

    • No need to feel guilty. It doesn’t change anything. Just make things as right as you can moving forward.

      Great post. Loved the photography. I grew up in Southeast Alaska and always love seeing old historic photos of the area.

  7. Curtis’ photographs of the Native American Indians capture an incredible silent beauty…thank you for sharing and we all need to remember to be grateful not just on Thanksgiving Day, but always.

  8. Thank you….these photos are a great representation of history but, despite all efforts, we’re not extinct…check out photographer Zig Jackson as well.

  9. The native Americans did a pretty good job of slaughtering each other before the white man showed up. This drivel about the indians being one with the land and each other is crap. There are examples where they over farmed and destroyed the land. They also warred with and took slaves from conquered tribes. Yeah, the native Americans were just living in perfect harmony with nature and each other. then came the white man…

    • Steve,

      Nice redirect, man. Does not change or justify the wrongs committed by the white man. Kinda like saying, “yeah she was raped, but she was no virgin.” Just wrong.

  10. thank you thank you thank you for this post! I love E.S. Curtis’s work. There is some doubt to the authenticity of some of his photos, but most of it is brilliant.

    And I agree with your sentiment completely. I have to tell you that when the headline for this entry came up in my blog reader, I was really suspecting yet another person who turns yet another holiday into a celebration of American wars/military might. (Pay attention on Labor Day and various other holidays. Seems like it all gets back to wars some how.) You did quite the opposite.

    Thanks – Selvedge Yard rulz!
    P.S. Hoping my comments don’t spark a flame war. I love American soldiers; I just tend to dislike their bosses who send them on fool’s errands all the time.

  11. Whoaa there a minute ..

    Going down that road on Thanksgiving after many historic references pimping American excesses of fuel,oil,alcohol,violence,sex, et al is hypocrisy at the worst, naivete at best. Lots of respect for the Indian from me but this seems well out of place.

    I’ll keep reading though, mind open and all

    • Gutshot:

      It’s all cultural, and it’s all historic, and it all really happened. Nothin’ outta place or naive about it. I can like rods, bikes, and pinups, and still care about the crimes and brutality committed against Native Americans on this very soil.

      I wouldn’t really call TSY pimping, but thanks fro the nod.

      Happy Thanksgiving.

  12. Beautiful photos, thanks.
    We tend to over-romanticize the Native Americans. I know I do–I love them. And I have known a lot of them, good people and good friends all.
    While not excusing our governments deplorable treatment of the indigenous people, I think it would be fair to remind ourselves that they could be as bloody, vicious, violent and untrustworthy as any of us. All cultures have had their faults and struggles, as well as episodes they would rather forget.
    Because of the vast differences in numbers and technology–as well as world-views–the Native Americans never had a chance. Still, it could have been done differently. On the other hand, if we had let them keep their lands and traditions, 90% of us would not be here now, and that’s worth thinking about too.
    Like the song says, there are three sides to every story: theirs, ours, and the cold, hard truth.

    • I think the cold, hard documentation does a pretty good job of telling the reality of the history (not story) of the injustice committed against the Native Americans.

      “…the Native Americans never had a chance…” – not simply because of “differences in numbers or technology” as you say (don’t forget, they kept the first settlers alive teaching them how to live off the land), but for the sole reason that they took us at our word.

  13. Steve:
    True, American Indians in general have been known to wage bloody wars with other tribes and overfarm, and overhunt. I don’t recall too many stories of them traveling overseas to wipe out entire civilizations or to convert the people they encounter to a religion they know nothing about as a way of controlling them, or buying their land for nothing, because they had no previous knowledge of monetary systems. So they come at least seventh, behind Vikings, Spaniards, Nazis, Romans, Greeks, and the English(English settlers and Americans included )
    Just saying….
    Now I will probably soak my Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow with my own tears. Thanks ALOT!

    • Well, maybe spaniards were as evil as nazis, or even more! But english settlers first and american soldiers little after wiped out the natives much more viciously. Go to any american town and search for a real native, then go to any mexican, peruvian, bolivian, etc town and look at the people.

      I’m not saying spaniards were gentle with the natives but the black legend of fact and myths about the conquerors seems like child play compared to the industrial slaughter of north american indians.

    • Did you know the settlers bought Manhatten twice? The tribe that sold it first didn’t own it. So it had to be paid for again, to the rightful owners.

  14. History teaches us nothing stays the same, while nothing ever changes. All indigenous cultures hold that belief in it’s purest form and I think anything beyond that is just human behavior playing itself out. Natives living during those times certainly had a better grasp on that and maybe that’s why it seems their spiritual bond with life/nature is so revered now.

    Love the pics and the blog btw, as a native I have my own gripes about the truths behind Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, etc., but these images are an ingrained part of this “holiday” and if you take them for what they are, a history lesson, then they fit perfectly.

  15. Go watch Ford’s “The Searchers” & finish up reading T.R. Fehrenbach’s “Lone Star”. Due to my kith & kin living on the Texas frontier, I enjoy a high tone standard of living. Enuff said.

  16. The first white settlers in my little valley in Utah exterminated the local Timpanogot residents, and then went on to pilfer nearly all of the area’s natural resources. Within just a few decades they extinguinshed, along with the Indeginours people, Utah Lake’s Bonniville Cutthroat, as well as several other species. They over grazed the foothills and started a cycle of errosian that will never end. They (we) continue to pollute the air and the water to levels of toxicty that rival cities 10 times as populated. It all started with a pleasant little massacre on Valentines day of 1849. New Mormon settlers rounded up as many Ute men, women, and children they could; shot them at point blank range; and the decapitated them for scientific study.

  17. TSY,
    I know your not one to get controversial, but thanks for making us think.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your’s.

  18. Photo’s Remind of Vreeland’s book about Emily Carr’s work THE FOREST LOVER – – – amazing how much has been erased from our memories –

    Thanks for the Reminder!

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