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Rare Historical Portraits of American Indians by Alexander Gardner from the 1860s

Alexander Gardner was a talented American photographer and portraitist. He captured portraits of President Abraham Lincoln. During the American Civil war, Gardner also documented American Indian delegations.

Gardner immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1856. He worked at the New York City studio of Mathew Brady, where he was in contact with many politicians and military figures. Brady sent his team of photographers, including Gardner, into the field after the outbreak of the Civil War. Gardner left Brady’s studio in 1862 to open his own in Washington, D.C. General McClellan also employed him as the official photographer of the U.S. Topographical Engineer Corps of the Union Army.

After the war, Gardner photographed many notable individuals, including Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln conspirators, and Indian delegations visiting Washington in the late 1800s. Gardner joined the survey team for the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1867. The railroad promoted plans to extend its route from Kansas to the Pacific Ocean. From Kansas through the mountains of Colorado and deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, and California, the route would please the Indians and provide access to the California market. In addition to photographing the proposed path, Gardner included studies of Indians in the region and settlements along the way. Gardner’s photographs are the earliest systematic series of photographs of the Great Plains. He also photographed many of the northern plains tribes, including Crow, Arapaho, Oglala, Minneconjous, Brule, and Cheyenne.

#1 Tcha-Wan-Na-Ga-He (Buffalo Chief) in Native Dress wearing fur and feather headdress and peace medal, holding pipe-tomahawk.

Tcha-Wan-Na-Ga-He (Buffalo Chief) in Native Dress wearing fur and feather headdress and peace medal, holding pipe-tomahawk.

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#2 Nag-A-Rash or British, Head Chief of Iowas, with Peace Medal.

Nag-A-Rash or British, Head Chief of Iowas, with Peace Medal.

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#3 Mah-Hee (Knife), Third Chief of Iowas, with Peace Medal.

Mah-Hee (Knife), Third Chief of Iowas, with Peace Medal.

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#4 (Front) of Mah-Hee (Knife), Third Chief of Iowas, holding bow and arrows.

(Front) of Mah-Hee (Knife), Third Chief of Iowas, holding bow and arrows.

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#5 Ka-Ke-Ga-Sha (Yellowish Red Chief) Or Pi-Sing (Game)

Ka-Ke-Ga-Sha (Yellowish Red Chief) Or Pi-Sing (Game)

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#6 Quyulange (Eagle Headdress) holding pipe-tomahawk.

Quyulange (Eagle Headdress) holding pipe-tomahawk.

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#7 Muncha-Huncha (Big Bear, also Called Joseph Powell), Chief of Bear Band holding pipe-tomahawk.

Muncha-Huncha (Big Bear, also Called Joseph Powell), Chief of Bear Band holding pipe-tomahawk.

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#8 Guipago (Lone Wolf) wearing peace medal and holding pipe-tomahawk.

Guipago (Lone Wolf) wearing peace medal and holding pipe-tomahawk.

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#9 (Front) of Hatona or He-Otal (Many Horns) wearing headdress and holding pipe and feather fan.

(Front) of Hatona or He-Otal (Many Horns) wearing headdress and holding pipe and feather fan.

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#10 I-Ste-Sa-Pa (Black Eye) holding pipe and beaded bag.

I-Ste-Sa-Pa (Black Eye) holding pipe and beaded bag.

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#11 Ta-Tan-Ka-Han-Ska (Long Fox or Long Buffalo Bull) wearing skunk hat and holding pipe and beaded and quilled bag.

Ta-Tan-Ka-Han-Ska (Long Fox or Long Buffalo Bull) wearing skunk hat and holding pipe and beaded and quilled bag.

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#12 Assencion Rios.

Assencion Rios.

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#13 Luig Morague or Luis Morago.

Luig Morague or Luis Morago.

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#14 Chief Uva-A-Tuka (Spread Leg), or Mavit- Kawutam (Puma Shield), Also Called Antonio Azul

Chief Uva-A-Tuka (Spread Leg), or Mavit- Kawutam (Puma Shield), Also Called Antonio Azul

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#15 Ta-Tan-Ka-Han-Ska (Long Fox or Long Buffal O Bull) in wearing feathered skunk hat and holding pipe and beaded and quilled bag.

Ta-Tan-Ka-Han-Ska (Long Fox or Long Buffal O Bull) in wearing feathered skunk hat and holding pipe and beaded and quilled bag.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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