For the next month or so, I’ll be posting a series of photos by Edward S. Curtis, a photographer and ethnologist who documented Native Americans in the 19th to 20th centuries. He photographed over 80 tribes west of the Mississippi. His work isn’t without controversy — he’s been criticized for posing his subjects and creating images to reflect an earlier period of history. But Curtis was the first to photograph Native Americans as something other than objects of curiosity, and to involve Native Americans as collaborators in the process of creating their portraits. He worked with a former journalist and an anthropologist/historian to document native languages and traditional ways of life. He was also on the cutting edge, technologically speaking, of photography at his time, and created over 40,000 beautiful and dramatic images. When Curtis began his work, the American government had caused Native Americans to live on reservations for 30 years already. By the time he finished, tribes had been confined to reservations for 60 years. Governmental policy also forbade the speaking of native languages, and the practice of traditional ceremonies, religions, and customs. Curtis realized that if native cultures weren’t documented, then the centuries-long heritage of many tribes would disappear completely. His images are beautiful and unique, and I hope they inspire you to learn a little bit more the cultures and traditions Curtis helped to preserve.