This book of hauntingly beautiful Native American portraits reflects the tragic history of the Cheyenne, Sioux, Pawnee, Cherokee, and other groups whose leaders traveled to Washington in the mid-nineteenth-century to negotiate treaties with the US government. As compelling as the famous photographs of Indians by Edward S. Curtis, these unique images provide a close-up, unromanticized record of Native American life at a critical time in the history of relations between the US government and Native Americans, just after the Civil War and at the beginning of the great westward expansion of US territories. The images form the core of the Smithsonian's extensive collection of Native American photographs and of important collections in many other major museums around the world.
Paula Fleming recounts the history of this collection, which was the Smithsonian's—and perhaps the country's—first photographic exhibit. A succint biography of A. Zeno Shindler, the photographer, is followed by a thoughtful examination of the key events surrounding the Indian delegations in Washington, providing for the first time a comprehensive picture of a poignant moment in history.