[00:00.00]For more than 50 years, photographer Horace Poolaw captured the lives of members of his American Indian tribe.
[00:10.65]Now, The National Museum of the American Indian is showing the American Indian photographer’s rare work.
[00:20.79]The exhibit is called “For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw.”
[00:29.37]Poolaw’s photos show the cultural assimilation that was taking place in American Indian communities during his lifetime.
[00:40.13]Poolaw was a member of the Kiowa tribe.
[00:44.80]He took pictures of American Indian subjects.
[00:49.01]He used pictures to form a history of his friends, family and events important to them.
[00:58.30]Linda Poolaw is his daughter from his second marriage.
[01:02.78]One of the 80 photos in the exhibit, she said, is of her and her older brother, Robert coming home from school.
[01:14.91]“He put cowboy hats on our heads and gave us pistols to hold,” Linda remembers.
[01:23.04]Whether the photo was meant to be ironic or not, Linda is not sure.
[01:29.12]All she knows is that she never much cared for it.
[01:34.41]“No, it’s not because of the ‘cowboyness’ of it or the whiteness or racism or anything like that,” she said.
[01:43.91]“It’s just that Dad made us pose for him all the time.
[01:48.82]We had to be still.
[01:50.75]We had to wait for him to get the shot just right when all we wanted to do was go play.”
[01:59.32]Horace Poolaw was born in 1906 in Mountain View, Oklahoma.
[02:06.35]Until the late 19th Century, Oklahoma’s Indian Territory belonged to tribes native to the area or that had been sent there from other parts of the country.
[02:21.55]Poolaw’s tribe is called the Kiowa Comanche.
[02:28.60]They lived with the Apache tribe on a reservation that covered 1.2 million hectares of land.
[02:38.48]But 20 years later, a law known as the Dawes Act permitted Congress to divide the land.
[02:47.26]Individual Indians were given their own land.
[02:52.68]The rest was opened up to non-Native settlers.
[02:58.32]Horace Poolaw lived with his parents in a traditional tipi early in life.
[03:05.45]His father, Kiowa George, was the son of a warrior.
[03:12.15]Poolaw’s mother was descended from a Mexican woman who had been captured during a Kiowa raid.
[03:22.17]They moved into a house that still remains with the family today.
[03:29.36]Then, settlers from the east came to live in Mountain View.
[03:36.08]Photographer George W. Long moved there and became a mentor to Poolaw.
[03:43.38]He gave the young man his first camera.
[03:47.99]Poolaw’s photos captured images of Kiowa women wearing traditional American Indian clothes and Kiowas in cars with headdresses.
[04:01.67]But he had very little money to make photographs.
[04:05.97]“He developed his own pictures, even though there was no electricity or water in the house back in those days,” said his daughter Linda.
[04:18.83]“He had to send to Chicago for film and developing supplies.”
[04:24.66]The high cost of photographic paper and film meant that Poolaw worked hard to get his pictures right on the first try.
[04:36.80]He developed only a small number of the photographs he took.
[04:42.32]And he took all of his photographs outdoors so he would not need lighting equipment.
[04:50.61]“We were poor, dirt poor,” said Linda.
[04:54.82]“But we didn’t know it because everybody around us was poor too.”
[05:01.43]Today, those postcards sell for as much as $50 on the internet.
[05:09.72]Poolaw continued taking pictures until the 1970s when his eyesight began to fail.
[05:16.78]In 1979, the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko organized an exhibit of his photographs.
[05:32.07]It would be the only showing of his work during his lifetime.
[05:38.76]In the late 1980s, Poolaw’s daughter Linda established a research program at Stanford University to archive and digitize her father’s work.
[05:53.89]When her father died in 1984, he left behind 2,000 photographic negatives.
[06:04.53]Today, art historians and critics consider Poolaw’s work equal to many better-known photographers working in the western United States in the early 20th Century.
[06:21.92]His photographs are often described as documenting the change from traditional to mainstream ways of life for American Indians.
[06:35.67]I’m Dorothy Gundy. And I'm Marsha James.