Edward S. Curtis is famous for his monumental effort to photographically document traditional Native North Americans in the early twentieth century before they succumbed to assimilation. He is equally infamous within scholarly circles for fabricating a romantic and stereotyped image of Native people at odds with their actual lives at the time. Based on extensive research with one of the tribes prominently featured in Curtis’s work, including the collaborative restoration of his spectacular 1914 melodramatic feature film, In the Land of the Head Hunters, Dr. Aaron Glass will address the controversy surrounding Curtis’s pictures and assert that we can read a history of Indigenous agency and modernity through the veneer of his colonialist nostalgia.
Aaron Glass is an Associate Professor at Bard Graduate Center in New York City. His research focuses on First Nations art, media, and performance on the Northwest Coast of North America, as well as the history of anthropology and museums. Glass’s books include The Totem Pole: An Intercultural History; Objects of Exchange: Social and Material Transformation on the Late Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast; and Return to the Land of the Head Hunters: Edward S. Curtis, the Kwakwaka’wakw, and the Making of Modern Cinema.