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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick
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Ambrotype of two Yanktonai Indians, Bone Necklace and Lazy Bear, mid-1800sAmbrotype of two Yanktonai Indians, Bone Necklace and Lazy Bear, mid-1800s

This photograph of two Yanktonai men posing in their finest clothes on the deck of a boat is from a group of daguerreotypes and ambrotypes accumulated by the Bureau of American Ethnology, a branch of the Smithsonian devoted to the study of Native American cultures. When these portraits were discovered in a bureau employee's office in 1932, they were valued more as examples of early photographic technology than for their subject matter and so were transferred to the National Museum's history of photography collection. But recent research has revealed their greater significance: they are now believed to be the earliest known photographs made of a Native American delegation sent to Washington, D.C., to negotiate treaties and meet with the "Great Father."

See also: Native American History, Photography

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