John Wesley Powell’s first expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers through the Grand Canyon in 1869, made him a national hero. John K. Hillers’ exhibition of photographs at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition from the second Powell expedition established him as a leading photographer of Indians and the West. The missing piece, referred to in the title of this book, is the story of the subjects of Hillers’ photographs and Powell’s passion, The People. The purpose of this book is to see The People, the Southern Paiute and other tribes of the 1870s, as people.
In 1873, John Wesley Powell, as Special Commissioner of Indians, and G.W. Ingalls were tasked with investigating the “conditions and wants” of the tribes of the Great Basin region. As part of that investigation, they compiled a census of all the tribes they visited. The census counted 31 Southern Paiute tribes comprised of 2,027 individuals. The photographs in this collection are of members of five of the tribes: Kai’-vav-wits (Kaibab) in the vicinity of Kanab, Utah; U’-ai-Nu-ints in the vicinity of St. George, Utah; Shi’vwits in the Shi’vwits Plateau; Mo-a-pa-ri’-ats in the Moapa Valley, Nevada; and Nu-a’-gun-tits in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The photographs in the collection are labeled from 1 through 117 but there are actually only 116 photographs and certificates because there is no photograph 3.
Some of the photographs have been used to illustrate other books. All of them are in the public domain. But the Binghams estimate that 90 percent have not been seen outside the museum, and the entire collection has never been seen in book form. The only other complete collection of these photographs is owned by the Smithsonian Institution.
Editor’s Note: The following photographs are excerpted from Carol Ormond’s
The People: The Missing Piece of the John Wesley Powell’s Expeditions, A Photographic History of the Southern Paiute Tribes, Foreword by Freddy Langer, published by Git’er Done Books of West Jordan, Utah, in association with The Thunderbird Foundation of the Arts. Where possible, detailed descriptions are in John Wesley Powell’s own words. A number of descriptions are taken from the work of Julian H. Steward, Notes on Hillers’ Photographs of the Paiute and Ute Indians Taken on the Powell Expedition of 1873, published in 1939 by the Smithsonian Institution. Thanks to Carol Ormond, Paul Bingham and The Thunderbird Foundation for sharing the images and excerpts with True West Magazine.