By Her Hand: Native American Women, Their Art, and the Photographs of Edward S. Curtis

By Her Hand: Native American Women, Their Art, and the Photographs of Edward S. Curtis

September 22, 2018 through January 20, 2019

Over the decades, photographer Edward Curtis’s sepia-toned prints of Native people have shaped the ways that many people think about American Indians and the American West. At the start of the 20th century, amid changes brought about by industrialization and the forced removal of American Indians to reservations, Curtis undertook the enormous project of photographing Indigenous people and recording ethnographic information from over 80 tribes across North America. The project took him over 30 years and came at significant personal cost, but it resulted in 20 bound volumes, over 2,000 photogravures and numerous recordings of Native languages, music and ceremonies.

Marking the 150th anniversary of Edward Curtis’s birth, By Her Hand: Native American Women, Their Art, and the Photographs of Edward S. Curtis features Curtis’s photographs of women and the art they created from the Christopher G. Cardozo Collection. The High Desert Museum will also include historical and contemporary works of art created by Indigenous artists from our permanent collection to broaden this story.

Curtis’s legacy is a complicated one. He left us with thousands of photographs and recordings of Native people that otherwise would not exist. But he also brought the biases of his era to the project, photographing American Indians as a “vanishing race”—a stereotype that continues to negatively affect people’s lives. By highlighting works of art created by Native women alongside Curtis’s photographs, this exhibition celebrates Indigenous artistic traditions that have existed for centuries and continue to thrive within Native communities today.

By Curator of Western History Laura Ferguson, Ph.D.

This exhibition has been organized by the Christopher Cardozo Collection and is circulated through GuestCurator Traveling Exhibitions.

This exhibit has been funded in part by the Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

With support from