Modern Natives-Personal Regalia

Guarina Lopez-Davis, Pascua Yaqui

I came across Edward Curtis’ images for the first time when I was 10 years old. My family had just moved to Santa Fe from Tucson, where my tribe is located. I had never seen images like them before, but I had also never seen Indians like the ones in the photographs. They were majestic and proud and yet I sensed a kind of distance from their true reality. Even at 10 years old I knew there was falseness to those images. In later years I learned that the photographs were taken during a time of great forced migration, illness, assimilation and death for Native people. So in fact the impression that those images have left on me has been one of great sadness and falsehood. I have always been interested in the romanticized impression that Edward Curtis’ images left in the minds of his viewers. I would like to attempt to demystify this Curtis ideal that seems to have frozen the Native person in time.

This project is less about reclaiming our identity through the lens and more about trying to create an identity that is less false because the photographer, who is Native, is not objectifying the subject. I am hoping to create a platform that is more neutral than Curtis’ but also to look at our assimilation as a part of who we are as Native people today, not as a separate result of the relationship with the oppressor.

These photographs show the true identity of the Native American in contemporary society. Their stories will now give a voice to a people who have evolved and maintained their cultural identity.

View the Portraits ⇒