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A Crow dancer from the early 1900s. Richard Throssel/University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center
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Arrowmaker, an Ojibwe man. 1903.Detroit Photographic Co. Source/Library of Congress
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Big Turkey. Lakota. 1912.F.W. Glasier & Co. Source/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Blackfeet girl. Montana. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Blackfeet group. Montana. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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In the snowy prairie. Blackfeet. Montana. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Blackfoot camp. Horse tipi on left, snake tipi, antelope, and winter tipis. Early 1900s. Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Broken Arm (Isto Nawege). Oglala Lakota. 1898. This photograph was taken by Frank Rinehart. Rinehart was commissioned to photograph Native Americans attending the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in Omaha, Nebraska.F.A. Rinehart (with hand-coloring by Adolph Muhr)
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A second photo of Broken Arm. Oglala Lakota. 1899. This picture was taken by Herman Heyn. Heyn took more than 500 pictures of Native Americans, mostly
Sioux, in 1898 and 1899.Herman Heyn
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A Blackfoot couple. Montana. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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A Blackfoot man. Montana. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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"Coming Running." Blackfeet woman with children. Montana. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Brings Down the Sun. Blackfeet. Montana. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Buffalo Rock Tipi. Early 1900s. This photo, taken by Walter McClintock, was likely colorized by a Chicago artist named Charlotte Pinkerton.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Cayuse Twins (Tax-a-Lax and Alompum). This photo was taken by Lee Moorhouse, an Indian agent for the Umatilla Indian Reservation, in 1898. Between 1888 and 1916 he produced over 9,000 photos of urban, rural, and Native American life in the Columbia Basin. Lee Moorhouse
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Cheyenne Chief Wolf Robe in 1898. This image is a color halftone reproduction of a painting based on a Rinehart photograph. Rinehart's portraits have been described as "one of the best photographic documentations of Indian leaders at the turn of the century."F. A. Rinehart
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Chief Fast Horse. Lakota. 1899. Heyn Photo
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Chief Jack Red Cloud, son of chief Red Cloud. Oglala Lakota. 1899.
His father resisted the development of a road through Wyoming and Montana — a conflict now known as "Red Cloud's War."
Red Cloud once said, "They made us many promises, more than I can remember. But they kept but one — They promised to take our land... and they took it."Heyn Photo/Denver Public Library
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Chief James A. Garfield. Jicarilla Apache. 1899.
After receiving a peace medal from President James Garfield, the leader of the Jicarilla Apache Nation is said to have taken on his name. He later adopted the surname Velarde.
"Portrait photography never had any charms for me," said William Henry Jackson, the photographer. "So, I sought my subjects from the house-tops, and finally from the hill-tops and about the surrounding country." William Henry Jackson/Montana State University Library
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Chief Last Horse. Oglala Lakota. Circa 1893. This photograph's colorization comes from the modern age. George E. Spencer, Fort Sheridan (Illinois)/Colorized by John Gulizia Photography
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Chief Lazy Boy. 1914. By 1900, Native American tribes had half as much land as they had had in 1880. Harris & Ewing
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Chief Left Hand Bear. Oglala Lakota. Circa 1899.
Today, many Oglala Lakota people live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. Heyn Photo
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Chief Little Wound and family. Oglala Sioux. 1899.Heyn Photo
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Chief Little Wound. Oglala Lakota. 1899.
Chief Little Wound was an advocate for the "Ghost Dance" movement in the 1890s. Heyn Photo
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Chief Red Cloud. Oglala Lakota. 1902.
Born in 1822, Chief Red Cloud successfully resisted developments of the Bozeman trail through Montana territory.Heyn Photo/Denver Public Library
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Chief Wets It. Assiniboine. 1898.
The Assiniboine people were powerful, but outbreaks of smallpox in the 1830s greatly reduced their numbers. Shortly after that, most of the surviving members were moved to reservations. F.A. Rinehart
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Deer Tipi of Short Robe. Blackfoot camp. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Eagle Arrow. A Siksika man. Montana. Early 1900s.
Before the 1800s, there were around 18,000 Siksika people. By 1890, one of their main tribes was down to just 600 to 800 members. Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Medicine man at back of Otter Tipi with medicines and sacred bundles. Blackfeet. Montana. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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The name used in this photograph appears to be a nod to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Song of Hiawatha."Detroit Photographic Co./ Library of Congress
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Bone Necklace. Oglala Lakota Chief. 1899.
Adding color to old photographs allows the viewer to see details — like the color of the bow.Heyn Photo/Library of Congress
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Old Coyote (aka Yellow Dog). Crow. Original photo circa 1879 (color tinted circa 1910).Denver Public Library Digital Collections
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Painting the tipi possibly with "the sign of his medicine" as described by the photographer. Crow camp. Montana. Early 1900s.
Unlike many of the other photographers featured here, Richard Throssel was a quarter Cree. His heritage offered him more intimacy with his subjects. In his lifetime, Throssel took about 1,000 photos of Native Americans, many of whom were Crow people. Richard Throssel/University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.
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Pine Tree Tipi with Sioux warriors in front. Blackfeet camp at night. Montana. Early 1900s.
Colorized images like this capture the vibrancy of Native American life. Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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A Siksika woman. Montana. Early 1900s.
Among this collection, this photograph stands out for featuring a woman, and for taking place inside a teepee. Walter McClintock/Source -Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Snake Whistle. Cheyenne. Fort Keogh, Montana. 1880.L.A. Huffman
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"Songlike," a Pueblo man. 1899.F.A. Rinehart/Boston Public Library
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Strong Left Hand and family. Northern Cheyenne Reservation. 1906.
The photographer, Julie Tuell, lived among the Cheyennes, the Sac and Fox tribe in Oklahoma, and with the Lakota Sioux in South Dakota. Like other photographers of the age, Tuell sought to capture the beauty of Native American culture with her camera. Julia Tuell/Tuell Pioneer Photography
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Thunder Tipi of Brings-Down-The-Sun. Blackfoot camp. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Walks-In-The-Water (Soya-wa-awachkai) and her baby Koumiski (Round Face). Siksika. Montana. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Woman chopping firewood, Eagle tipi in foreground, Star tipi on left. Blackfoot camp. Early 1900s.
The color in this photo allows the viewer to experience the intense colors used on teepees. Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
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Amos Two Bulls. Oglala Lakota. 1900.
Gertrude Käsebier, a New York photographer, took several photographs of Native Americans at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.Gertrude Käsebier
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Young girl in stream near tipi. Blackfeet. Montana. Early 1900s.Walter McClintock/Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
44 Historic Photos Of Native Americans Brought To Life In Striking Color
As the 20th century approached, Native Americans faced mounting challenges to their lives, cultures, and traditions. After the Civil War, white settlers moved in droves toward the West. The completion of railroads leading that way only accelerated this migration — which would change the frontier forever.
Not only did farmers plow through the natural grasses to plant their crops, they also wiped out countless American bison that roamed the land. In the conflicts that followed, Native Americans often found themselves outnumbered by not only white settlers but also the U.S. government.
By the 1880s, most Native Americans had already been confined to reservations, many of which were placed in the least desirable areas. Many feared that their traditional way of life would soon be wiped out for good.
Meanwhile, some photographers like Edward Curtis, Walter McClintock, and Herman Heyn sought to preserve Native American culture through film. The colorization of these images adds a striking element — which can be seen in the gallery above.
Photographing A Disappearing People
Edward Curtis/Library of CongressTitled "The Vanishing Race," this Edward Curtis photo depicts Navajos on horseback in 1904.
At the turn of the 20th century, the construction of railroads had dramatically and aggressively changed the western United States. It allowed white settlers to have easier access to the West. So it didn't take long for them to force Native American tribes onto reservations so they could take advantage of the best land.
To make matters even more difficult, the bison population — which was a food source for many tribes — had been decimated. Herds once numbered in the millions. By 1889, only about 1,000 bison were estimated to remain.
Edward Curtis, a photographer from Seattle, believed he was in a race against time when it came to capturing the culture of Native Americans. By the time he had arrived on some reservations, he had already lost the race. Many Native American children were in boarding schools, forbidden from speaking their own languages or practicing their cultures.
Still, Curtis persisted. He sought to preserve what he called a "vanishing" people on camera. In his lifetime, Curtis took over 40,000 pictures of Native Americans. Although he sometimes leaned heavily on the traditional — encouraging his subjects to pose in ceremonial clothing — Curtis succeeded in producing an incredible body of work.
But Curtis wasn't the only photographer interested in capturing Native American culture. Walter McClintock — a Yale graduate whose photos are featured in the gallery above — also journeyed West to take pictures.
At first, McClintock was supposed to simply work on a federal commission investigating national forests. But along the way, he became friends with the expedition's Blackfoot scout, Siksikakoan (also known as William Jackson). After McClintock's official work was done, Siksikakoan introduced him to the Blackfoot communities in northwestern Montana.
Much like Curtis, McClintock believed that he had a chance to preserve a vanishing people with photography. And, like Curtis, McClintock tended to focus on the traditional. Historian William Farr notes that McClintock was "curious about what he could still find of the fabled American West before the last remnants of it had slipped away."
McClintock, however, took things one step further than Curtis when it came to presenting his photographs. McClintock added color.
Capturing Color In Old Photos
Wikimedia CommonsBefore the modern-day image projector, there was the "magic lantern."
Between 1903 and 1912, McClintock took more than 2,000 photographs of the Blackfoot people in Montana. He sent a selection of his negatives to a Chicago slide colorist named Charlotte Pinkerton.
Using McClintock's field notes, Pinkerton worked to add the appropriate shades to his photographs. She likely employed the techniques of colorists of her day — applying pigments with oil, varnish, watercolor, or aniline dyes.
McClintock showcased his photographs by using a "magic lantern" — which was basically an early version of the image projector used for showing photographic slides. This machine would shine light through an image on a glass sheet in order to produce a larger picture — and wow your audience.
Seeing photographs of Native Americans in color breathes new life into their history. In color, the viewer can appreciate the vibrancy, depth, and texture of their lives. In addition, people are more likely to remember a color photo than a black and white photo.
In fact, a new generation of artists and historians have sought to color old photographs. Marina Amaral, a Brazilian artist who specializes in colorizing historical photographs, says, "Color has the power to bring life back to the most important moments."
Mads Madsen, a Danish artist who colorizes old photos, notes that the reaction to his work is often one of empathy and connection. "I love how colorized photos enable me to imagine these guys walking around today," one commenter raved.
Another powerful modern example is They Shall Not Grow Old, a colorized World War I film by director Peter Jackson. A New Yorker review mused that the addition of color adds a new intimacy to a well-known story: "Things that we're accustomed to experiencing abstractly through a distancing veil of archaisms and antiquity are suddenly real before us."
As for the colorized photos of Native Americans, you can make out facial expressions, the color of the sun as it dips behind a teepee, and the vibrant blankets used to wrap babies. With a touch of color, the photographs in the gallery above pull the past closer to the present.