In 1909, photographer Richard Throssel traveled the Crow Reservation in Montana taking lantern slide photographs of camp and house life. The goal, according to the Office of Indian Affairs which initiated the project, was to create a traveling lecture series warning of the ways disease was spread on the reservation. Over the next few years, the resulting slide show made the rounds of many reservations across the West.
In a free presentation at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Research Fellow Rebecca Wingo discusses the slides and what they reveal about the lives of the Crow tribal members they depict, as well as the federal government’s “civilization” policy.
Wingo’s program takes place Wednesday, March 19 at 12:15 p.m. in the Center’s Coe Auditorium and is free.
“These images contrast reservation camp life with house life,” notes Wingo, “specifically targeting the domestic sphere and the home.” The intended message: Traditional Native American camp life spread disease; adopting the houses and gender roles of the dominant white culture would keep it at bay. “The photos stand as a visual testimony to federal Indian policy of the time,” adds Wingo.
Wingo is a 2013 – 2014 Research Fellow in the Center’s fellowship program. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and writing her dissertation on photography of the Crow Reservation from 1898 to 1912. Wingo earned a master’s degree from Montana State University in 2009, and a bachelor of arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005. As a fellow, she has done extensive research in the archival collections of the Center’s McCracken Research Library.
Wingo has been an adjunct instructor in Montana State’s Native American Studies Department, and is currently a Graduate Fellow with the University of Nebraska’s Center for Great Plains Studies. She has completed, with scholars Michelle Delaney and Douglas Seefeldt, digital scholarship on the Indian portraits of Gertrude Kasëbier for the Center of the West’s Papers of William F. Cody.
The Center’s Research Fellowship Program awards a limited number of research stipends each year to promising and established visiting western scholars. Fellows research, write, and develop ideas and manuscripts in areas of western study, and may pursue field research in the Cody area, including Greater Yellowstone and the Big Horn Basin and Mountains, or work in the Center’s library or museum collections. Scholars interested in submitting a proposal by this year’s mid-May deadline may find more information on the “Fellowship Program” page of the Center’s website.
Since 1917, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West has been committed to the greatness and growth of the American West, keeping western experiences alive. The Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, weaves the varied threads of the western experience—history and myth, art and Native culture, firearms, and the nature and science of Yellowstone—into the rich panorama that is the American West. The Center of the West has been honored with numerous awards, including the prestigious 2012 National Tour Association’s Award for “favorite museum for groups,” the 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, and, most recently, one of the “Top 10 Must See Western Museums” by True West magazine.