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Albumen silver print, from glass negative
24 x 28.8 cm (9 7/16 x 11 5/16 ins)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joseph M. Cohen Gift, 2005, Accession Number: 2005.100.572
Curatorial description (Accessed: 9 January 2018)
The troubled relationship between native and non-native North Americans was well documented by the camera. In the 1850s and 1860s white photographers moved West and welcomed Native Americans into their studios. They rarely paid their subjects, seldom recorded their names or tribes, and often dressed their sitters in studio props, confusing the ethnographic record.
After the end of the Civil War, the locus for most so-called "Indian" photographs moved east to Washington, D.C., where the United States government invited hundreds of Native American delegations for official state visits in an ongoing effort to seek peace, negotiate treaties, and acquire tribal land. Delegation photography was a routine part of any state visit, and many portrait studios, including that of Bell, profited from the business. For centuries the Otoe had lived near the mouth of the Platte River in Nebraska, but by 1881 the Department of Indian Affairs had forced the tribe to sell their lands and move to the Indian Territory in what is now Noble and Pawnee counties, Oklahoma. According to tribal history, in October 1881, with their possessions loaded onto seventy wagons, the Otoe walked across the state of Kansas to their new home in northern Oklahoma, where they live today.