Human Studies Film Archives

Guide to Franz Boas film of Northwest Coast Indian dance, circa 1930

Collection ID:
Boas, Franz, 1858-1942
circa 1930
No linguistic content; Not applicable
Physical Description:
1 Film reel
15 minutes
black-and-white silent; 345 feet

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Incomplete edited film shot by Franz Boas on his last field trip to the Northwest Coast. Documented are various Kwakiutl dances which were staged for the camera at the site of Fort Ruppert, Vancouver, British Columbia. Dances demonstrated by women include the Summer, Salmon, Paddle, Bird, and Woman's War dances. Men demonstrate the Cannibal dance. The Salmon dance is demonstrated by Agnes Hunt, the daughter of Boas's principal informant. Dances were performed outdoors, in some cases before emblematic Kwakiutl house fronts.
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or Anthropology Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.

Custodial History
Boas shot this footage in 1930 on his final trip to the Kwakuitl of British Columbia, a people among whom he had worked for 40 years. During this trip he shot 16mm motion picture footage of dances, games, some methods of manufacturing as well as recording songs and music on wax cylinders. Boas, who was interested in motor behavior and rhythm, never compled his analysis of this data, possibly in part because the wax cylinders were later stolen. In 1961 the original film was given by Franziska Boas to the Burke Museum of the University of Washington. Bill Holm of the Museum later edited the footage into a two-part film and annotated it with appropriate citations from Boas' publications. The films together with Holm's notes are available from the University of Washington Press. The 345 feet of silent black-and-white footage now in the HSFA collection was given to the National Anthropological Archives by Columbia University and transferred to the HSFA on December 10, 1987. This footage may have been in the possession of Dr. David Effron, a former student of Boas' and professor at Columbia. Valeria Pinsky identified the film for John Homiak on 8 June 1993. She was a Postoral Fellow in the Smithsonian Department of Anthropology and the granddaughter of Franz Boas.
Previously titled "Nortwest Coast Indian Dance."
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Transferred from the National Anthropological Archives in 1987.
Processing Information
Titles are supplied by the archivist for untitled films.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research. Please contact the archives for information on availability of access copies of audiovisual recordings. Original audiovisual material in the Human Studies Film Archives may not be played.
Preferred Citation
Franz Boas film of Northwest Coast Indian dance, Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution

More Information
Local Number
Local Number
HSFA 1987.17.4

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
North America Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kwakwaka'wakw (Kwakiutl) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
silent films Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Human Studies Film Archives
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland 20746