Masked Dancer - Cowichan, 1912, Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Masked Dancer - Cowichan, 1912 Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) Photogravure on Van Gelder paper Volume 9 12.5" high x 9.5" wide, paper size
This image depicts a dancer wearing a Sxwayxwey mask. One of the most sacred dances of the Coast Salish Nation, the dancer carries a rattle of scallop shells and attempts to shake the ground as a means of bring back the Hamatsa who is being initiated into a secret society.
Born in 1868 near Whitewater, Wisconsin, Edward Sheriff Curtiswas to become one of America’s premier photographers and ethnologists. When the Curtis family moved to Port Orchard, Washington in 1887, Edward’s gift for photography led him to an investigation of the Indians living on the Seattle waterfront. His photograph Homeward won Curtis the highest award in a photographic exhibition contest.
Having become well-known for his work with the Indians, Curtis participated in the 1899 Harriman expedition to Alaska as the lead photographer. He then accompanied George Bird Grinell, editor of Forest and Stream, on a trip to northern Montana. There they witnessed the deeply sacred Sundance of the Piegan and Blackfoot tribes. Traveling on horseback, with their pack horses trailing behind, they stopped at the precipice. Below them, the view of the valley floor stretched with over a thousand teepees – an awesome sight to Curtis.
This event would transform his life and inspired him to create The North American Indian.Consisting of over 700 large portfolio images, over 1500 volume size images, and over 7000 pages of text, The North American Indian is a part of American history in both its imagery and its creation.