Here are some excerpts from the stories we’re collecting as part of The Descendants Project.™ We’ll continue to post new excerpts here as we find and record new stories. If you know of someone who may be a descendant of a person photographed by Edward Curtis, please let us know. We want their stories to be heard.

Meet The Descendants

Anna Nashoaook Ellis, photographed by Edward Curtis as a child (left) and by John Graybill for The Descendants Project (right)

Descendants photo © Curtis Legacy Foundation 2019

Anna Nashoalook Ellis, Kanuk (Snow goose)

Inupiaq of Northern Alaska

Edward Curtis photographed me at 4 years old in Noatak, Alaska.  I remember that I was upset to have to go inside for photographs; I wanted to keep playing outside instead.  That’s why I look so sad in the photo.

Soon after that, I was taken away by the “black and white” people [nuns] to go to St. Mary’s Boarding School. There I was prohibited from speaking Inupiaq and now only remember a few words of my native language. At school, I spent a lot of time reading because it was a good way to not think about my home and family. After finishing eighth grade in 1938, I went back to Unalakleet, Alaska. At that time we were not allowed to go any further in school.

I realize now that language and culture are important; I wish I had spent more time sharing these with my children.

Kikisosblu, also known as Princess Angeline, photographed by Edward Curtis about 1895 (left) and her great-great-great-grandaughter, Mary Lou Slaughter, photographed by John Graybill for the Descendants Project (right)

Descendants photo © Curtis Legacy Foundation 2019

Mary Lou Slaughter, Shla’dal’ (Lady)

Duwamish of Pacific Northwest

When I was about 8 years old, my classmates found out that I was Native American. They chased and spit at me all the way home, calling me a dirty old Indian. Crying my eyes out, I stuck my Native American roots in the back of my head, as far as I was concerned, forever.

At about 50 years old, my son started carving story poles, and I decided I needed to validate his heritage. So I took my great-grandmother’s Indian name, Shla’dal’, which means lady in Lushootseed. At that point, things really changed for me.

I took lessons and became a master basket weaver using my tribal patterns. I also make hats, vests and shawls all from red cedar that I gather myself in the woods. I love what I’m doing now, teaching and trying to carry on traditions that were important to our people.

Coming soon! More stories from The Descendants™ Project

Your donation for this project will go to the Curtis Legacy Foundation.

© 2019 by  The Curtis Legacy Foundation

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