Montana Native American Dance Stereoviews (The Grass Dance in Full Swing; A Short Rest at Choosing Dance; The Snake Dance [at] Flathead Reservation, Mont.]. N. A. Forsyth.
Montana Native American Dance Stereoviews (The Grass Dance in Full Swing; A Short Rest at Choosing Dance; The Snake Dance [at] Flathead Reservation, Mont.]
Montana Native American Dance Stereoviews (The Grass Dance in Full Swing; A Short Rest at Choosing Dance; The Snake Dance [at] Flathead Reservation, Mont.]
Montana Native American Dance Stereoviews (The Grass Dance in Full Swing; A Short Rest at Choosing Dance; The Snake Dance [at] Flathead Reservation, Mont.]
Montana Native American Dance Stereoviews (The Grass Dance in Full Swing; A Short Rest at Choosing Dance; The Snake Dance [at] Flathead Reservation, Mont.]

Stereoviews of Native American Dances

Montana Native American Dance Stereoviews (The Grass Dance in Full Swing; A Short Rest at Choosing Dance; The Snake Dance [at] Flathead Reservation, Mont.]

Notes: An exceptional group of three stereoviews documenting early 20th century Native American rituals performed in Montana, most likely at the 4th of July (Arlee) Pow Wow. The Independence Day event was a subversive effort to keep Native dance traditions alive during a time when the Bureau of Indian Affairs discouraged or even banned such gatherings—celebrations of the 4th of July were politically hard for federal agents to suppress. The Arlee Pow Wow continued annually for more than a century until the 2020 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The attribution of these images to the 4th of July Pow Wows is based on the location—the wilderness, with few White spectators, and the prominence of 46-star American flags in the images of the grass and choosing dances. The third image (of the snake dance), on an identical mount, has hills, rather than plains, in the background and no visible flags. It may be a different event or simply taken from another vantage point. The 46-star flag was in use for just four years, between 1908 and 1912, suggesting a date for the photographs.

The images show male dancers dressed in regalia, Western clothing, and combinations of the two, with tipis and ceremonial structures visible in the background.

Determining which tribes are depicted is beyond the current abilities of your cataloguer. Most stereoviews by Norman A. Forsyth (1869–1949) are described as depicting the Blackfeet tribe. However, the 4th of July Pow Wow has historically been a Flathead event. The Montana Historical Society dates their Forsyth Pow Wow images to about 1908; the Beinecke Library dates theirs to 1920. In any case, Forsyth worked in Montana, specializing in stereoviews (also called stereographs) from 1904 to 1930, and lived in Butte at 120 N. Montana Street (the address on the verso of one of the images) from 1908 to 1917, based on city directories.

The mounts measure 7 by 3-1/2 inches, with the albumen silver prints (two per mount) about 3-1/8 inches square. The captions, printed below the right image, appear to be ink stamps.

Edition + Condition: All three stereoviews are fine, with excellent contrast prints. The right-hand grass dance image has two small spots in the emulsion, affecting only the sky. The mounts are gray cardstock, with a slight curvature; each card has two mounted photographs, slightly separated from each other at the center. One card is stamped on the verso (back) with Forsyth's name and address (120 N. Mont. St.); the other images are attributed to him.

Publication: Butte, MT: N. A. Forsyth, (ca. 1910).

Item No: #307613

Price: $850