They have grasped the idea that this is to be a permanent memorial of their race, and it appeals to their imagination. Word passes from tribe to tribe about it. A tribe I have studied lets another tribe know that after the present generation has passed away men will know from this record what they were like and what they did, and the second tribe does not want to be left out.
In the beginning, I had no thought of making the series [The North American Indian] large enough to be of any value in the future, but the thing has grown so that I now see its great possibilities, and certainly nothing could be of much greater value.
The thought which this picture is meant to convey is that Indians as a race, already shorn of their tribal strength and stripped of their primitive dress, are passing into the darkness of an unknown future. Feeling that the picture expresses so much of the thought that inspired the entire work, the author has chosen it as the first of the series.
I devoted thirty-three years to gathering text material and pictures for [The North American Indian]. I did this as a contribution; without salary, direct or indirect financial returns. When I was done with the last volume, I did not possess enough money to buy a ham sandwich; yet the books will remain the outstanding story of the Indian.
While primarily a photographer, I do not see or think photographically; hence the story of Indian life will not be told in microscopic detail, but rather will be presented as a broad and luminous picture.
To the oft-asked question, “What camera or lens do you use?” I can only reply “I couldn’t tell to save my soul—it is enough for me to know that I have something that will make pictures and that it is in working order.”
The passing of every old man or woman means the passing of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rites possessed by no other... Consequently the information that is to be gathered, for the benefit of future generations, respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once, or the opportunity will be lost for all time.