Royal W. (Roland) Reed JR. (1864 – 1934) was a fastidious artist who used photography as his chosen medium to document the ways of eight Indigenous American tribes at the turn of the 20th century.
Reed started to compile a book called, Photographic Art Studies of the North American Indian, but his untimely death prevented its completion. He split his collection of indigenous imagery into three categories, which are now represented in the Roland W. Reed gallery. The accompanying text to each category was written by Reed himself, but reference to the term ‘Indian’ has been replaced.
The People of the Plains Images
“The Native Americans of the Great Plains, designated as the Buffalo or Pony natives roamed the far-flung prairie country between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. He is shown in the photographs as the Piegans or Blackfeet and the Cheyenne.”
I have been accepted as a member of the secret fraternal order of the Blackfeet called Big Medicine Lodge. Upon my initiation in this lodge, I was given the name meaning Big Plume by which I am known among my Native American friends.”
The People of the Woodlands Images
“The Woods or Canoe Native Americans, many of whose ancestors at one time inhabited the Atlantic and who later lived in the vast forest south of the Great Lakes is represented by the pictures of the Ojibway.
During 1907 and 1908 I made several trips to Red Lake, with the valuable help of John G. Morrison, Indian Trader, and founder of the Cross Lake Indian School at Ponema. He was my interpreter when I made the Moose Call, the Hunters, Ringing Bells, Reflections, At the Spring and others. He showed me where mistakes could be made in assembling apparel and accoutrements pertaining to each activity. It was through his advice and knowledge of the Ojibway that I was able to secure a set of negatives of such historical value.”
The People of the Southwest Images
“The Southwestern nomadic Native Americans are portrayed in the pictures of the Navajos who occupied the great plateaus covering parts of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. They are nationally famous as rug weavers and silversmiths and are often called the Shepherd of the Hills.
The large Pueblo group who inhabits the high plateaus of the Southwest, the only non-nomadic native tribe, live in permanent communal centers. These Native Americans are more agricultural, but they are especially recognized for their beautiful pottery and other works of art. The pictures of the Hopi illustrate this group.”
WHO WAS ROLAND REED?
Royal W. (Roland) Reed JR. (1864 – 1934) was a fastidious artist who used photography as his chosen medium to document the ways of eight Indigenous American tribes at the turn of the 20th century. Little is known of this photographer, whose untimely death and lack of resources failed to award him the same recognition as his most notable contemporary, Edward S. Curtis (1868 – 1952).
Reed was a pictorialist, a term derived from an artistic movement introduced in the 1860s in Europe. Pictorialism inspired self-expression in imagery through tonality and composition, rather than the traditional scientific approach to photography of the era.
Like American photographer, Edward S. Curtis, Reed wanted to represent the Native Americans in their glory, not in the altered state they very often found them. The U.S. government decimated much of their cultural norms by forcing indigenous children into boarding schools, cutting their hair, and banning the use of native languages. Reed went to great lengths to capture scenes, to portray the old way of life in all its tradition and majesty. His work emanates cultural pride and the unmistakable bond shared by a people and their land.
Reed immersed himself within the tribes he photographed, overcoming hesitation and often aggression from leaders who opposed his presence. His method was always to gain their trust and garner permission to capture images which on some accounts were deeply personal.
ROLAND REED GALLERY
OF STEAMBOAT SPRINGS
In spring 2021, Jace Romick bought over 120 glass plate negatives, Roland Reed’s personal journals, letters and one of the only watercolors to survive this large collection of artifacts. In summer 2022, the Roland Reed Gallery officially opened in Steamboat Springs, Colorado where it will remain indefinitely.