Repatriating the gift that is Edward S. Curtis’ rare and wonderful The North American Indian, plus other good stories for the book lovers in your life.
Stories about philanthropy warm the heart at any time of year, but especially so in the run-up to Christmas. And we’ve got a good one to share about a subject near and dear to us: photographer Edward S. Curtis’ masterwork, The North American Indian. Over the years, C&I has variously covered the landmark work, and gorgeous prints from that seminal ethnographic project have figured prominently in our 2018 giveaways celebrating the magazine’s 25th anniversary.
The feel-good story comes from leading Curtis expert Christopher Cardozo, who has produced the republication of The North American Indian in both a $33,500 custom edition and a recently completed $6,500 edition. He’s now busy realizing an ambitious vision of giving back the work to indigenous peoples — with support from foundations, private individual donors, and his own company — by donating the books and prints as well as custom DVDs he has created.
“Repatriating images of ancestors and important cultural information back to Native people is something Curtis himself imagined doing,” Cardozo says. “In some ways, we’re taking the legacy he left us and doing what he had hoped: making his life’s work much more broadly available to contemporary audiences and scholars, and getting it back to Native people.”
To date, 15 tribal colleges have received a donation of the pricey custom edition along with prints. Now that the more affordable edition is available, Cardozo thinks he’ll continue to find the support needed to get the work first to all tribal colleges, then to tribal cultural and education centers. “What we’re getting back to Native people now will be there next century,” he says. “The books are of such quality they will be around 200 or 300 years. Even when Curtis was working on The North American Indian in the early 1900s, vestiges of traditional culture were scant. How amazing for anyone, but for Native people in particular, to have access to what he and their Native ancestors worked so hard to document. It’s an iconic cultural resource — there’s really nothing else like it.”
For more information, visit edwardcurtis.com.
Once Upon a Time ... The Western: A New Frontier in Art and Film
Thomas Brent Smith and Mary-Dailey Desmarias, editors (5 Continents Editions)
If you missed the major exhibition, fortunately there’s the book. It had us at the compelling cover, but don’t just let it lay there looking great on your coffee table. Page through and read for its fresh perspective on the western film genre. Examining links to the visual arts from the mid-1800s to today and how the mythology of the West spread and endures, this handsome tome explores everything from paintings by Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Remington to works by Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha; from the legends of William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Billy the Kid to the classic films of John Ford and the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone — all the way up through recent takes on the western by Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee, and Joel and Ethan Coen. — D.J.
Tommy Orange (Knopf Doubleday)
Kirkus Reviews gave Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange’s debut novel a starred review, calling it a “vivid and moving book [that] articulates the challenges and complexities not only of Native Americans, but also of America itself.” The story’s 12 Native American characters live in Oakland, California, struggling with urban challenges including depression, alcoholism, unemployment, fetal alcohol syndrome, and identity. “Haunting,” “gripping,” “visceral,” “symphonic,” “engrossing” — critics received it well and welcomed an exciting new voice. — D.J.
Charles M. Russell: The Women in His Life and Art
Joan Carpenter Troccoli, editor (University of Oklahoma Press)
We love just about any Western art book described as “lavishly illustrated,” but particularly when the artist is a giant like Charles M. Russell. This smart exhibition catalog looks at the softer side of an artist known mainly for his depictions of male-dominated aspects of the frontier life he himself lived. Less well-known are his representations of Western women. In fact, as art historian Ginger K. Renner once observed, no other artist of the West devoted more of his time and talent to the portrayal of women. The book’s groundbreaking essays delve into that fact, paying tribute to the women who nurtured Russell’s artistic development and examining the role of the feminine in a genre typically associated with the masculine. — D.J.
Joe De Yong: A Life in the West
William Reynolds (Alamar Media)
We have a decade of research, a Kickstarter campaign, and the fine writing of author and Western-lifestyle aficionado William Reynolds to thank for this fascinating story about the life of a relatively unknown artist-illustrator who affected the lives of many in the Western art world from the 1920s to the 1960s. Joe De Yong might have begun by just wanting to be a cowboy, but he went on to overcome cerebral meningitis, which left him deaf, to become the only protégé of his artistic hero, Charlie Russell, and to work with movers and shakers like Cecil B. DeMille in the movie business. — D.J.
Pioneers of Promotion: How Press Agents for Buffalo Bill, P.T. Barnum, and the World’s Columbian Exposition Created Modern Marketing
Joe Dobrow (University of Oklahoma Press)
Buffalo Bill Cody skyrocketed to 19th- century fame thanks to his eponymous traveling show — and to a smooth-talking, Stetson-wearing publicist named Maj. John M. “Arizona John” Burke. A key member of Buffalo Bill’s inner circle, Burke boosted his client’s brand by pioneering the use of celebrity endorsements, press kits, publicity stunts, op-eds, and other now-commonplace marketing techniques. Business historian Joe Dobrow’s latest examines how Burke, along with other key figures, paved the way for
modern-day advertising. For more information, check out C&I’s online interview with Dobrow. — Kirstin Fawcett
The Western Writers of America 2018 Spur Award winners for the young readers on your list:
Fergus and the Greener Grass by author-illustrator Jean Abernethy (Trafalgar Square Books) won for Storyteller (Illustrated Children’s Book) for the third installment in the adventures of the lovable and opinionated cartoon horse. Stranded: A Story of Frontier Survival by Matthew P. Mayo (Five Star Publishing) won for Juvenile Fiction, and Glorious Fourth of July and Other Stories From the Plains by Catherine Rademacher Gibson and recounted by Mary Gibson Sprague (South Dakota Historical Society Press) won for Juvenile Nonfiction. — D.J.
Photography: Courtesy Christopher Cardozo
From the November/December 2018 issue.