January 25, 2023 2 min read

Photo of Two Native Americans Sitting on a Rock, overlooking a Forest

Roland Reed (1864-1934) was an American photographer who was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is best known for his photographs of Native American people and cultures. Reed traveled extensively throughout the western United States and Canada, taking photographs of various tribes, including the Blackfoot, Cheyenne, and Sioux. He also photographed the landscape and natural wonders of the western United States and Canada.

Reed's photographs were widely published in books and magazines of the time, and his work helped to shape popular perceptions of Native American people and cultures by providing readers with a visual representation of Native American culture that was widely consumed.

Photo of "Blood Camp" with a woman walking between Tipi's.

The images that Reed captured helped to create a romanticized and idealized view of Native American life, which was at odds with the reality of the time. This view of Native American people as a "vanishing race" was prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th century, and Reed's photographs contributed to this perception. It suggested that Native American people and culture were disappearing and would soon be extinct. This belief helped to justify the forced removal of Native American people from their ancestral lands and the forced assimilation of Native American children into boarding schools. His photographs also helped to perpetuate stereotypes of Native American people as "noble savages" and "primitive people".

It's important to note that Reed himself may not have had any intention of endangering Native Americans, and that his photographs were a product of the time and the cultural attitude of his era. However, the way his photographs were received and utilized may have contributed to negative impacts on Native Americans.

Some of his most iconic images include:

  • "The Ghost Dance" which shows a group of Native American men and women performing the Ghost Dance, a religious ceremony that originated with the Paiute tribe in the late 19th century.
  • "The Indian Chief" which is a portrait of a Native American man wearing traditional clothing, and it is considered one of the most striking and powerful images of Native American men.
  • "The Indian Maiden" which is a portrait of a Native American woman wearing traditional clothing, it portrays them as gentle and dignified figures.
  • "The Indian Warrior" which is a portrait of a Native American man wearing traditional clothing and holding a weapon, it perpetuated stereotypes of Native American men as warriors.
  • "The Indian Camp" which shows a group of Native American people living in a traditional camp, it gives a glimpse into the daily life of a tribe.
  • "The Indian Family" which is a portrait of a Native American family, it gives a glimpse into the traditional family structure of a tribe.