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About The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) 1881-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 22, 1905)
THE SUNDAY OKEGONIAtf, PORTIANB, JANUARY 22, IMfi.
PHOTO-HISTORIAN OF A VANISHING RACE
E. S. Curtis, of Seattle, Has Won a World-Wide Rep
utation as a' Photographer of Indian Life.
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ES. CURTIS, "the photo - historian
of a vanishing race," as he has
come to be known, has won dis
tinction in a new and unusual field. He
Is- cqgagod in collecting: and preserving
for present use and future ages original
materials for the history of a race of men
whose fate it has been to be outcasts in
their native land; a race which, un'der the
withering touch of civilization, is destined
to vanish from the face of the earth. It
is said that history has never recorded a
more touching and melancholy story than
that of the Indians of North America, but
their history aa told by the Curtis pic
tures lacks that pitiful strain, and shows
them as they actually are.
Goes Where the Indian Lives.
The best possible material for Indian
history is found in Mr. Curtis pictures
of their men, women and children; of
their forest and desert homes and sur
roundings; of their camps, fetes and fes
tivals; their implements of the chase and
of war; and of all that goes to make up
the everyday life of such a people. To
gather such pictures he goes where the
Indian lives. He makes his studies in
the forest and on the plains; in the wilds
of Alaska and along the shores of Puget
Sound; In the hopilelds and on the reser
vationwhether In the Dakotas, Montana
or in the burning sands of the far south
deserts. "Wherever Indians are to bp
found in their natural habitat he seeks
them out and pictures their lives from
day to day. Never before has such an
Intelligent and systematic attempt been
made to gather in so complete a form
the rich and varied materials scattered
all over the country and so necessary for
a pictorial history of the Indian race.
The Government is doing its best to edu
cate the Indian and give him an equal
chance' with the white man. One gener
ation of education docs not fit an Indian
to cope with a race which has generation
after generation of learning behind it,
but it does totally unfit him to live the
life of the savage, and it is particularly
this latter phase of Indian life which
makes the Curtis pictures rare and deep
ly interesting from an ethnological stand
point. Savagery is a phase of Indian llfo
which it might be aald is disappearing
with the present generation.
The two lectures which Mr. Curtis gave
here Thursday and Friday nights, under
the auspices of the Mazamas, were illus
trated by some wonderful stereoptlcon
views. Including many of the religious
rites and tribal dances of the Moqull.
Zunll, Navajos and White Mountain and
Jlcarllla Apaches. These are all Pueblo
Indians, and their history, as told by
these pictures, seems to step out of the
middle ages. Their wild and picturesque
homes on the rocky mesas of the south
ern desert give them an air of the ro
mantic which is followed up in their pe
culiar dress and handicraft.
Mr. Gjirtls Tells of His Pictures.
its' explained, "is to show in each group
or tribe the type, male and female, child
and adult: home structure, handicraft,
dress, ceremonies, games, lite, manners
and environment, so that future genera
tions can sco what this fast-disappearing
people were like."
I asked him if he had an' difficulty in
gaining the confidence of the various
tribes which he visited, and how he man.
9Eftd to overcome their natural dislike
aad superstition regarding a camera.
"Money "Will overcome most any super
stition." be laughingly replied; "and with
CKliaren. can ay win ao ine worK so long
as their parents are out of sight. In
many cases I am permitted to photo
graph the adults of a family, but the
children are bundled off into a dark
corner and kept religiously out of my
"1 had one funny experience with the
Jlcarijla Apaches." be continued. "They
are wild, fierce, untamed lot, and their
ceremonies are the most halr-ralslng of
any which I have visited. For color,
noise and thrills, the Jlcarllla feast da"nce
Is superior to anything in the Indian
ceremony line, and it was to witness
this that I wont to great trouble and
expense to visit their reservation In an
out-of-the-world part of New Mexico. I
arrived at the site of the dance two
days ahead of the ceremony, and found
a number of these Apaches already in :
camp. As I approached with my outfit
an old buck stuck. his head outside his
tepee and gave the most peculiar howling
noise I ever heard emit from a human
throat. It sounded like a discordant note
of a hoarse coyote, and in another sec
ond the fellow In the next tent repeated
the music. This was taken up from tent
to tent until every crazy Indian there
was howling like a wild beast. I asked
my interpreter what it meant, and he
said: "Why they don't, want you here."
Makes Peace With Indians.
This commotion which I had raised was
equal to a hornet's nest, so I immediately
decided to seek out the chief and make
my peace with him. I paid him a visit
and tried to make him think I was of
much importance and closely In touch
with things at Washington and that he
wouldn't dare mako me any trouble, so
he called a conference of his headmen,
arid they finally decided to let me stay,
although one curly old fellow drew out
of the consultation and declared he would
make me trouble. I had to keep my eye
open for him all the while J remained
on the reservation, but I managed to get
some fine pictures and get away un
harmed. I found that up to the time of
my visit no photographer who was openly
making pictures had been allowed at this
Held Up by a Governor.
"While Acoma Is one of the most pic
turesque and beautiful spots I ever saw,
it was a most irritating place to attempt
to get pictures. On first going to the
village the Governor sent his Interpreter
to me, saying that I would have to pay
?I for myself and Jl for each of my
party and 55 for each camera. If I was
going to mako pictures. After talking
this over awhile. I asked him to bring
the Governor himself, thinking I might
impress him with my importance and get
a reduction in his demands. The Gov
ernor and I had a long, dignified talk
with the interpreter, the outcome being
that be got the best of every argument.
So I paid my money and thought the
matter settled, and was naturally sur
prised, after this long conversation
through an interpreter, to hear him say
in perfectly good English; 'Ail right you
go ahead and make pictures.
"The following morning I made three
pictures, when ono of his lieutenants
came and told me to stop. I explained
that I had paid the Governor for the
privilege and was going to make all I
wished. Soon he returned, saying the
Governor thought I had made enough for
the money I had paid, so I must stop.
As I had planned to make pictures of
that particular village for a week or IB
days, the price of 15 per camera every
la minutes did not look good to me, so
I kept on trying, but all day long it was
a continual argument with the Indian
police and the Governor's lieutenants. I
tried It again the next day, but finally
they told me that I not only had to
stop but had to leave the village so
there was nothing to do but go. I found
out afterwards that they were getting
reauy tor a sacrca dance which no white
person had ever witnessed, so perhaps
the next time I go there they will not
be so exacting.
The Snake Dance of the Moqull.
"I secured a set of Alms for the blograph
at the last dance, out mind you tills was
only the ninth or last day's ceremony.
The other eight days are confined to
secret ceremonies which are conducted
In underground cells and which no white
man has witnessed. However, I have
hopes of seeing It next time, and perhaps
next year I can tell you more about it.
In the case of the lcblcnal ceremony
of the Navajoes, I had to become s. mem
ber of the order, as the old medicine
man was certain that I would- go blind
If I witnessed it without being a mem
I implored Mr. Curtis to tell me some
thing about this ceremony, ns I had wit
' ncssed the pictorial reproduction of It.
and as he answered questions about pic
tures be gave an interesting account of
it between times.
A Nine-Day Ritual Ceremony.
The Yeblchal ceremony Is a nine-day
ritual ceremony for the curing of dis
eases, the ninth or final day terminating
In the public all-night dance. A person
ordinarily speaking of the Yeblchal dance
refers to the final day and night. It is
only the student who would care to ob
serve the whole nine days and nignts.
When I say 'for the curing of disease, 1
should say for the curing of those who
have some long-standing ailment, er an
Imaginary one. For acuto illness other
and briefer ceremonies are practiced.
With the Navajoes all ceremonies are
termed 'sings,.' and the medicine men
singers. They have one-day sings, two-
day sings, in fact, any number of days
up to the great, nine-day ceremony of
the Yeblchal and the Hoskon. or, as.
termed by Mathews, the Night Chant and
the Mountain Chant.
"The Yeblchal ceremony which I wit
nessed was held near the mouth of Can
yon de Chelly last Autumn. Both the
Yeblchal and the Hoskon dance arc not
held until after frost, which means that
they are Fall or Winter ceremonies. I
also saw a number of other Yeblchal
ceremonies, one In Canyon de Chelly,
which was. from Its strange situation, a
very striking affair.
"The ritual ceremony for the whole
nine days Is held in what Is called the
medicine hogan. This hogan is usually
built for a certain sing, and never used
a second -time. This is not necessarily
so, as in Canyon de Chelly there is a
hogan which has been used many times;
In fact. It is almost crumbling with age.
"I arrived at the mouth of the canyon
the day before the beginning of this cere
mony. The hogan was, completed. It had
been built by the patient and his friends,
watched over and assisted by tbo singer.
On the day of my arrival I made my ar
rangements with the singer. The under
standing was that I was. to have access
to the hogan at all times and sec all
ceremonies, and that I was to be given
all necessary Information, that what I
might write would be free from error.
According to their superstition, no one can
see the hogan or secret ceremonies who Is
not a member of the Yeblchal order. I
agreed to be Initiated, and the fact of my
being a Yebicnai proved of great assist
ance to me later at other ceremonies.
Wherever I went, as soon as it was known
that I was a Yeblchal, the Navajo would
simply nod his head and say 'bucno.'
The Ceremony Begins.
"The first day's ceremony is brief, a
small number of assisting singers and a
few spectators. The day Is spent in prep
aration of medicine paraphernalia, and
shortly after dark participants and spec
tators begin to gather at the hogan. The
singers, or what one might term the cho
rus," are grouped In the back part of the
hogan, the spectators crowded In closely
about Its walls. In the center is a small
fire, which warms and Illuminates the
room. The men who are to impersonate
the deities in this first night's ceremonies
remove their clothing, paint their bodies.
wrap a blanket about them, take their
masks and go out Into the darkness.
They are scarcely out of the -hogan be
fore the patient comes In, sits on a blan
ket at the back of the hogan, removing
"The masked deities come In one at a
time, performing their part of the cere
mony over the patient. One of the first
things the spectator will notice is that
each movement is a movement by fours.
Practically all parts of the ritual cere
mony repeats Itself four times, and all
movements are from the four cardinal
points, beginning at the east, making a
circle by the south, then at the south,
west, north. The cardinal colors are east,
white; south, blue: west, yellow; north.
black. Each dety as he performs over
tbo patient utters a big whoop, something
like the call of the coyote and termed by
them the Yeblchal call. The deity will
press his hands on the patient's chest, give
his hoot, repeating it four times, then his
risht shodldcr, again repeating his Yebl-
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chai call the four times, next his back,
and then his left shoulder.
"Shortly after midnight the ceremonies
close and all depart to their camps. No.
I should not say all; the chief singer and
the patient sleep In the hogan such por
tions of time as are given to sleep, and I
also would occasionally get a chance for
a nap, although usually, in my case, with
one eye open for fear something would be
going qn and I would jniss it.
The Sweating Ceremony.
"At sunrise the second day begins the
ceremonial sweat. This sweating Is con
tinued every morning for four davs. and
the regular order of cardinal points is
observed, east, south, west, north. It
seems to be optionil with the singer
whether this sweating is in a regularly-
constructed lodge or hogan, or In blan
kets. In this Instance the blanket method
was used. A shallow hole or trench, the
length of the body, was dug. In this was
piled and spread an amount of hot coals.
Tho coals were covered a few Inches In
depth by spruce boughs. The boughs were
sprinkled with water, after which the
patent disrobed and stretched himself
on this steaming bed of boughs. He was
now covered with a heavy blanket and
the edges snugly packed Jn. While he Is
taking his place in the sweat, the singers
begin their chanting, which continues
for 15 or 20 minutes: The singer then
lifts the corner of the blanket and gives
the patient a drink of a prepared medi
cine from one of the ceremonial baskets,
after which the patient is again tucked
in and the singing goes on. In fact,- the
singing has scarcely ceased. I remarked
to Charley I thought the patient was
nigging a little, as he would occasionally
raise tho blanket a trifle, apparently to
get a breath of cool air. Charley looked
at me and remarked. 'If you were under
there -you would nig a good deal: while
It Is. In fact, only a little over half an
hour, it seems a lifetime." I asked him
If he knew from experience. He assured
roe that he did. I had befqre suspicioned
that he had been the Yeblchal patient In
times past, but this was the first time
1 had succeeded In getting him. to say
anything which wftuld convince me. He
is, without doubt, the only white man
who has been a patient in this ceremony,
and. as far as I am concerned, he Is
perfectly welcome to the distinction
"At last the blanket is lifted, tho
deities perform over the patient, rub
bing his body with medicine, then re
tire to the hogan. the patient clothing
himself and also going inside.
"The whole ceremony has taken per
haps three hours.
"During: this, the second day. some
time is given to the preparation of
medicine paraphernalia, and the young
' men spend considerable time preparing
and smoothing the ground in front of
the hogan where the final night's dance
fs to be given. Shortly after dark the
I regular night cedemony begins. To
! night Is the night of the cigarette and
I stick sacrifices to the gods. These sac
I rlflces have been prepared during the
t day. and are in one of the medicine
Concluded on Fa