A Picture Perfect Indian: Re-Writing Edward Curtis’s Legacy Through Hupa Woman 1923 or Mary Baldt Socktish

Cutcha Risling Baldy
Native American Studies
UC Davis

This project offered a re-telling of one famous Curtis photo known as Hupa Woman (copyright 1923) in an effort to reclaim photographic and historical space and share an unshared story. Ethnographic photographers played a significant role in the societal, political, and historical representations of Indian people. However these photographs are not presented as being about Native people but instead are attributed to the photographers with little to no mention of the Native person in the photo and their continuing legacy. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than the photos of Edward S. Curtis. The number of biographies and articles exploring Edward Curtis’s life reaches into the hundreds if not thousands. But the photos included in these collections present the Indian peoples as “subjects.” The continued contribution of Curtis’s work lies in the re-writing and re-righting of this narrative in an effort to decolonize the historical record.