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Massachusetts Historical Society: Photographs of Native Americans

Photographing the American Indian:
Portraits of Native Americans, 1860-1913, from the collections of
the Massachusetts Historical Society

The Last Great Indian Council: The Farewell of the Chiefs

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The Last Great Indian Council: The Farewell of the Chiefs

This program was published for one of a series of lectures presented by Wanamaker expedition photographer Joseph Kossuth Dixon in New York City in 1912. Entitled "The Last Great Indian Council: The Farewell of the Chiefs," these lectures featured Dixon’s commentary on the discoveries of the first two Wanamaker expeditions, in 1908 and 1909, and were illustrated with color lantern slides made from photographs he had taken during the trips. The lecture was accompanied by music "specially composed" by Irvin J. Morgan, based on recordings that the men who went on the expeditions had made of Native American music.

The program shown here is from Dixon’s lecture at the American Museum of Natural History on 24 October. Note the following text, on the second page of the program, regarding Dixon’s photography, which praises his

"ability to gain the confidence of the Indian and make a friend of him, without which all effort is futile; his love of historic truth-telling; his indefatigable spirit of toil; his disregard of hardships; his well-known reputation as a writer and lecturer, combined with a true artistic ability, empower him to speak authoritatively, and enable Mr. Wanamaker to present to all coming generations a unique and complete study of this great race."

The program also describes the specific preparations made for the "Last Great Indian Council" in 1909. Wanamaker’s purpose was to record on motion-picture film this inter-tribal tradition, but he was determined that it be limited only to chiefs who fit his idea of the "noble savage." As Dixon writes on the third page of the program, "only chiefs of eminent ability, distinguished for honorable achievement among their tribes, as well as for typical racial characteristics" were selected to participate.

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