A Moki Chieftainess
Albumen silver print
Image: 9 3/8 x 7 1/16 in.
Mount: 10 x 8 in.
inscribed l.l. in negative: A Moki. chieftainess.
inscribed l.r. in negative: Hillers, photo.
u.c. in graphite: 2834. \ Neg. No. 1794
l.r. in graphite: BC 152
Bureau of American Ethnology Collection
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
Although Hillers had no previous photographic experience, a meeting with surveyor John Wesley Powell in 1871 led him into a decades-long photographic career. When the Bureau of Ethnology (later the Bureau of American Ethnology) was established under Powell’s direction in 1879, Hillers joined the first federal anthropological expedition in the U.S. to survey the Hopi people, at the time called “Moki” by settlers.
Although the stated purpose of the expedition was documentary, racial attitudes of the time meant that the photography of Hillers and his team could be ignorant and inaccurate. Like this unidentified woman, many Hopi subjects were not named but described, often erroneously, and were sometimes posed in front of blankets made by other Indigenous nations, including their rivals the Diné (Navajo). Despite loss of land and rights, the Hopi maintained better relations with the U.S. than many other Indigenous nations and still live on a portion of their ancestral lands, where they have resided for thousands of years.
—Text taken from the Carter Handbook (2023).