Each year, the Fiesta crowned a new queen and princesses, who dressed all in white, leading me to wonder if this photograph is of 1895’s royal court.
Known for their beadwork, the Bannock people’s territory once ranged from southeast Oregon across Idaho to southwest Montana and western Wyoming. This family’s camp at Medicine Lodge Creek–a favorite winter camp for the Bannock and associated Northern Shoshone–is in Southeast Idaho along the Montana border. This famous 1871 photograph is meaningful because it’s from the final period of pre-reservation traditional living for the Bannock.
In the 1860’s, American leaders got aggressive about trading for the Bannock’s land and tons of white settlers came streaming in. In 1866, in attempt to protect the Natives from the fearful, violent settlers, the Idaho Territory governor established a refugee camp for a few hundred Bannock people in Boise. But the poor conditions forced the Natives to turn to new Boise settlers for work and food, fueling the cycle all over again.
The Bannock-Shoshone began to consider a self-sufficient reservation, even though it would upturn their religion with its specific ties to location. In 1869, the Bannock refugees in Boise joined the Shoshone on a southeastern Idaho reservation called Fort Hall.
The rez was too small to support so many people maintaining their practices of subsistence. (Government-supplied food goods arrived irregularly and had often gone bad.) Starving, many Shoshone-Bannock left to try to make it on their own once more. But because of the Nez Perce War in 1877, the army cracked down on such goes at independence, leading–along with typical disagreements about criminal law–to the Bannock War of 1878. After that, antagonized and without land, most Bannock bands had no choice but to live at Fort Hall.
Today there are over 5,600 enrolled Shoshone-Bannock tribal members, most of whom continue to live on or near the Fort Hall Reservation.
Like Robert H. Vance, Carleton E. Watkins, and Edward S. Curtis, the shadow-catcher of the Bannock family above is one of those prolific Western photographers to know, so forgive me for writing out all the details. Reading all these amazing bios is giving me the travel bug and turning me green with envy–if only I see half as many places and produce half as much interesting work in my lifetime… William H. Jackson c. 1880
Crediting his mother, William Henry Jackson (1843-1942!) proved a prodigy with watercolors in his youth in New York State. With the onset of the Civil War, the 19 year-old Jackson joined a Vermont infantry, drawing army camp life and sending these sketches home to let his family know he was alright. (He guarded a supply train at the Battle of Gettysburg.)
In 1866, in crisis after the war, Jackson broke off his wedding engagement and hopped the Union Pacific, riding it to the end of the line, west of Omaha. From there he joined a wagon train to Great Salt Lake on the Oregon Trail. He returned to Omaha a year later. Having worked as a photo retoucher back East, he started work as a photographer. Apparently under the pretense of missionary work, he began to take trips to photograph the Omaha region’s Native peoples.
In 1869, the Union Pacific Railroad hired him to take scenic shots of the various routes. Based on this work, the U.S. Geological Survey of the Yellowstone region invited him to join the expedition, which lasted through ’71, which probably explains how he encountered the Bannock family in southeast Idaho. As the first to photograph Yellowstone, it was Jackson’s photographs that helped influence Congress, in 1872, to establish Yellowstone as our first National Park.
For the latter part of the 1870’s until about 1890, Jackson worked from a studio in Denver. With the ’93-’95 Depression, he went into publishing–from postcards, to journalistic photos, to panoramic landscapes–becoming president of a major company in Detroit.
In the last stage of his long life, Jackson returned to his love of painting. In 1924 he produced Old West murals for the U.S. Department of the Interior building. He also ultimately returned to his home state of New York, where he died at age 99.
Students of the Cherokee Female Seminary in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, 1875. Maj. George W. Ingalls Collection
Wouldn’t Cruella DeVille do anything for that girl’s pony skin (?) coat? I’ve never seen one like it!
Panning for gold in the Klondike, Alaska, 1899. Photograph by B.W. Kilburn
The woman at the left probably would have done her spinning inside. The reason for the spinning wheel’s presence here probably depends on whether the photograph was taken for the family, or for a commercial audience (more likely). If it was taken for the family, I’d guess that they were proud to own a spinning wheel and of the woman’s skill with it. If it was taken for a commercial audience, I’d guess that the photographer wanted to give an idea of the self-sufficient way the family lived. Perhaps it was a combination of the family and photographer’s interests. Chilkat Indians at Killisnoo, Alaska. Photograph by Frank La Roche.
The Chilkat are known for their blankets, seen here.
Edward Lawrence Schieffelin (1847–1897) grew up in Oregon Territory, and at age 17, set out across the West in search of silver and gold. An absolute mountain man, he stood 6’2, never trimmed his hair and beard, and his clothes were a patchwork of fabric and animal skin.Working as an Indian scout, Schieffelin prospected in Idaho, Nevada, Death Valley California, Colorado, and New Mexico. He finally struck silver in Arizona Territory, leading to the founding of Tombstone. Once he became a millionaire, he cleaned up his appearance and attempted to hobnob with high society. But still, every time a new gold or silver rush broke, Ed was there. That’s what brought him up the Yukon River where he likely took the photograph above. (Notice his pick)c. 1900. Jester Collection
Yeehaw! Over these three Women of the West posts, we saw the West evolve from 1855 into the 20th century. We visited Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma and Utah. We learned about an inspiring group of frontier photographers and collectors. And most importantly, despite the frontier’s frequent characterization as a man’s world, we were reminded of the variety of Native American, Mexican, Chinese and white women (sadly no black women, but you better believe they were there!) who worked, studied, raised families and followed their dreams in the often harsh, yet opportunity-filled climate of the Old West.