The photos above were all taken by Edward Sheriff Curtis, a man who by a large number of white ethnographers has been described as something of a super hero, but who, in reality, was a terrible contributor to the tired, old-fashioned idea of Native Americans as homogenous, history-less people, stuck in the past.

Hipster chicks wearing war bonnets? Blame Curtis.

Topshop selling ‘Native inspired clothes’ that have little or nothing to do with real, native fashion? Blame Curtis.

Curtis’s photos are great examples of how indigenous people have been and continue to be othered by the West, through a discourse where they’re turned into objects, rather than subjects and I believe the photos above are rather telling examples of how Edward S. Curtis documentation of ‘dying cultures’ had fuck all to do with reality and everything to do with a romantic idea of Native Americans as the proverbial noble savages that had to be saved by the white man.

Just have a look at the shirt worn by the four different men in the photos above. Two of these men come from the same tribe, the other two are members of different branches of the Sioux Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. 

Yes, you’re right, it is indeed the same hide shirt, because Curtis was a wanker who staged all his photos and deliberately made people look like his idea of what a Native American would look like, rather than actually depicting the reality of Native Americans’ lives.