Skip to Main Content

Native American and Indigenous Peoples: Photography Collections

A guide to collections that depict Native American and Indigenous peoples from the late 19th-century to mid-20th century.

Photography Collections

The Huntington's vast photography collections include a significant number of images related to Native American and Indigenous Peoples. The holdings are particularly strong in the North American West, with an emphasis on California and the Southwestern peoples of what is now Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico. There is additional material related to tribes of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

The photographs, glass negatives, stereographs, and albums were primarily created by a varied group of non-Native people. This is particularly challenging because of the colonial narratives and tensions made visible through many of the images. These issues will continue to surface and evolve in different ways through the photography collection at the Huntington.

It is the Huntington's practice to refer to the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials for guidance in culturally responsive care of Native American archival materials and to identify Native peoples by their tribal names whenever possible. In some cases, the word "Indian" is retained when it appears in the original title of the work.

This guide is not a comprehensive list of collections related to Native Americans and Indigenous peoples at the Huntington. Rather, it is intended to highlight the wide variety of photographic materials for research purposes. This is a work in progress, and for further help identifying materials relevant to your research, please contact the Library.

Image Credit: Carleton E. Watkins, photographer. Native Homes, San Gabriel, California (detail), approximately 1877. photPF 499. Gift of Carter, 1937. 

Geographic Organization

For the purposes of this guide, materials are grouped by wide geographic areas. In some cases, the photographer or collector amassed photographs cross-regionally, documenting a wide range of Native American and Indigenous peoples through portraiture as well as images of dwellings, rituals, and dress. 

Statement on Harmful Content in the Collection and its Description

Description is not neutral; individuals and institutions all bring their own biases to the process. The Huntington aims to describe the collections we manage in a manner that is respectful to the individuals and groups who create, use, and are represented within them. What constitutes appropriate description varies with context over time and is affected by the descriptive standards we apply. To learn more about the collection descriptions and submit feedback, click here.

Land Acknowledgement

As a collections-based research and educational humanities institution with a public mission and a focus on the interpretation of history, and as stewards of 207 acres of botanical gardens and California landscape, The Huntington has an opportunity and responsibility to acknowledge that the institution is located on the historical homelands of Indigenous communities. The purpose of this Land Acknowledgment is to honor and respect those peoples and recognize their enduring relationship to the land.

The Huntington exists on the ancestral lands of the Gabrielino-Tongva and Kizh Nation peoples who continue to call this region home. Learn more here.