National Museum of the American Indian

William Wildschut photograph collection, 1870-1930 [bulk 1917-1928]

Collection ID:
Wildschut, William
bulk 1917-1928
Physical Description:
183 Negatives (photographic)
21 Photographic prints
The William Wildschut photograph collection contains 183 photographic negatives, and 89 post cards. From 1917 to 1928 William Wildschut studied the Apsáalooke people through interviews, photography, and the collection of cultural objects. In 1921 Wildschut was hired as a field man by George Gustav Heye the director of the Museum of the American Indian, Wildschut officially collected and conducted field expeditions in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Canada, and North Dakota on behalf of the Museum until 1928. Wildschuts photographs include portrait style photos of Apsáalooke people, special events, daily reservation life, interments, and encampments. Tribes represented in this collection are primarily Apsáalooke, the postcard collection consists of other tribes including Lakota, Arapaho, and other unidentified tribes.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The William Wildschut collection contains 183 photographic negatives, and 21 photographic prints. The photographic negatives were made by Wildschut between 1917 and 1928. The majority of the photographs in this collection are of Apsáalooke people and their reservation, however the postcard collection consists of over 14 instances of people from unidentified tribes. Wildschut photographed Apsáalooke chiefs, leaders and their families in portrait style poses and his subjects are usually dressed in their finest. He also photographed events such as Crow fair, veteran celebrations, parades, ceremonies, and interments.
The Apsáalooke are a people of the northern plains, their ancestral territory is in Yellowstone River valley, which extends from present-day Wyoming, through Montana and into North Dakota, where it joins the Missouri River. Today the Crow Indian Reservation in located in south-central Montana which covers roughly 2,300,000 acres of land and it is the fifth-largest Indian reservation in the United States. The Crow are known for their horsemanship, exquisite beadwork, clan system, historic war societies, 7th Calvary scouts, prolific chiefs, and beautiful homeland.
Series 1: Apsáalooke chiefs and leaders photographed in portrait style taken between 1917-1928. Wildschut captured images of many of the last Apsáalooke war chiefs who were, at the time, adjusting to a new life on the reservation. Many of the chiefs and leaders Wildschut photographed were dealing with new issues such as the Allotment Act, the Indian Citizenship Act, implementation of boarding schools, and government imposed regulations on traditional practices.
Series 2: Groups of Apsáalooke people in various situations. These photographs were taken at social events such as parades, dances, celebrations, and at the 45th annual Battle of the Little Big Horn.
Series 3: Apsáalooke people (individuals and families) in various situations. Some photographs are portrait style poses and others are casual instances. The Crow, who call themselves Apsáalooke or Biiluuke, are people of the Northern Plains. The Apsáalooke people continue to maintain their language and remain resilient in their cultural practices, they still identify themselves through a clan system, these clans are Ashshitchíte/the Big Lodge, Ashhilaalíoo/ Newly Made Lodge, Uuwatashe/ Greasy Mouth, Ashíiooshe/ Sore Lip, Xúhkaalaxche/ Ties the Bundle, Biliikóoshe/ Whistling Waters, Ashkápkawiia/ Bad War Deeds, and the Aashkamne/ Piegan clan.
Series 4: Photographs of the reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Garryowen, MT in 1921. The Battle of the Little Bighorn was fought along the banks of the Little Bighorn River, in south central Montana on June 25-26, 1876. The 7th Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry engaged in armed combat with the Lakota, Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes. The site of the battlefield is located on the Crow Indian reservation which is where Wildschut photographed the re-enactment. This event involved actual survivors of the event and many other re-enactors.
Series 5: Casual photographs of non-ceremonial dances, parades, fairs, races and rodeos. The Apsáalooke enjoy a very social culture, they revel in coming together to sing, dance, and celebrate as often as possible. This is called baasaxpilúua (Celebration). Baasaxpilúua allows families and clans to reunite and solidify their bonds. One such occasion is the annual Crow Fair celebration that takes place on the Crow reservation, on the third week of August. The Crow parade is a stunning exhibition of beadwork adorning people, horses and various types of floats. The beadwork of the Crow people is among the most technically proficient and visually exquisite in the world.
Series 6: Encampments with tipis (ashtáale) and tents. Wildschuts photographs of encampments are on the Crow reservation, Fort Custer, and at the Billings fair (a fair that Crows would go to parade, dance, camp and watch races and rodeos). The Apsáalooke call the tipi ashtáale, which translates to real home. Wildschut was not allowed into the tipi to photograph, there is only one photographic instance where he took photographs of a family in a tipi [N31145] and [N31146].
Series 7: Restricted Photographs of interments, ceremonies, sacred spaces and objects). As an ethnographer William Wildschut spent time studying Crow culture. He interviewed Crow people and even witnessed ceremonial events. Wildschut developed relationships with certain Crows who allowed him the honor of being present when private sacred bundles where opened. In some cases Wildschut was allowed to photograph these sacred events. Not all Apsáalooke people agree with these permissions, however the Crow people understand that those who allowed Wildschuts presence did so for their own purposes. The Apsáalooke come from a living culture and still maintain their language, culture and beliefs. They have respectfully requested that these photographs not be made public.

Arrangement note
Arrangement note
This collection is arranged into eight series by people, events, locations and postcards. Series 1: Apsáalooke Chiefs (Bacheeítche), Series 2: Apsáalooke Groupings, Series 3: Apsáalooke People, Series 4: 45th Annual Battle of the Little Big Horn, Series 5: Parades, Dances, and Events, Series 6: Encampments, Series 7: Restricted Content, Series 8: Postcards.

Biographical/Historical note
Biographical/Historical note
William Wildschut was born Willem Wildschut on March 30, 1883, in Jisp, Holland. He married in 1909 in Leicester, England, and moved with his wife to Trier, Germany, where he was in charge of a cigarette factory. This began a long period during which Wildschut and his family moved frequently between Holland, Canada, and the western United States, usually while Wildschut was managing factories. In 1917 Wildschut moved his family to Billings, Montana where he worked in Farm Mortgages, this work took him to Hardin, Mt. (a small farming community 43 miles east of Billings), which borders the Crow Indian reservation and once served as an economic hub for the Apsáalooke people. William was fascinated with the Crow and began purchasing medicine bundles, war shirts, and various other items from the Crow which he found a market for with George Gustav Heye the founding Director of the Museum of the American Indian. In 1922, Heye purchased Wildschut's medicine bundle collection and hired him as a field man. From 1921 to 1928 Wildschut officially collected and conducted field expeditions in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Canada, and North Dakota on behalf of the Museum. Wildschut was also a collector of photographs. In the late 1920's he distributed a series of postcards that featured Native American people. These postcards featured his own photos as well as those of other photographers. During his employment with the Museum of the American Indian he was made a member of the Explorer's Club, and published several articles in the Museum's series "Indian Notes". On May 1, 1928, after the death of two of Heye's major benefactors, Wildschut was let go. In 1929 Wildschut and his family relocated to California where he worked for different mortgage companies. 1936 he was transferred to Oakland, California where he remained until his passing on January 7, 1955.
According to letters from him wife, William Wildschut was given a Crow name and was close friends with many Crow people. She also wrote that he believed it was his calling to do the work with Indians, however when he was released from employment with MAI he became distraught and never spoke of Indian people again. There are few stories about William Wildschut that remain in Crow Country, one is that his name was "Xaapaliiashilish" (Bundle Buyer) which is fitting considering he purchased and hundreds of sacred bundles from the Crow, which are now in Museums and Private Collections all over the world.
William Wildschut wrote several book manuscripts during his time with the Crow, three were later edited and published, these include: Crow Indian Beadwork (New York: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation: 1959), Crow Indian Medicine Bundles (New York: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation: 1960) and Two Leggings: The Making of a Crow Warrior which was published in 1967.

Nina Sanders (Apsaalooke/Crow) with the assistance of the people of the Crow Tribe and Dr. Timothy McCleary.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Wildschut photograph collection was purchased from William P. Wreden of Palo Alto, California, by Frederick Dockstader, director of the Museum of the American Indian, in 1964. Mrs. Wildschut had given the negative collection to Frederick Moore, a friend of the Wildschuts, for his personal collection. However, when Moore's bookselling business went bankrupt the Wildschut images ended up as part of the bankruptcy sale and were purchased by Wreden. Many of the postcards in this collection were taken years after Wildschuts death, these post cards were possibly added to the collection by Fredrick Moore or William P. Wreden.
Processing Information
Processed by Nina Sanders (Apsaalooke/Crow), summer intern, 2016.
Separated Materials
Originally, a collection of Fred E. Miller photographs purchased by William Wildschut were marked as William Wildschut photographs and were included in this collection. They have since been identified by Dorothy Munson, curator of the Fred E. Miller Collection, in Housatonic, Massachusetts, and have been processed separately as the Fred E. Miller photograph collection.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Thursday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: Certain photographs have been restricted due to cultural sensitivity.
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to For personal or classroom use, users are invited users to download, print, photocopy, and distribute the images that are available online without prior written permission, provided that the files are not changed, the Smithsonian Institution copyright notice (where applicable) is included, and the source of the image is identified as the National Museum of the American Indian.
Preferred Citation
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); William Wildschut photograph collection, Item Number; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
Additional William Wildschut papers (WA MSS S-2386) are located at Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and The Yale Collection of Western Americana, New Haven, Connecticut.
The National Museum of the American Indian holds additional William Wildschut material such as letters, notes, receipts, and objects descriptions in the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation records, 1890-1989. They can be found in Series 6: Collectors, Box 284, Folder 14 to Box 286, Folder 6.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Crow Indians -- Social life and customs -- Photographs Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Crow Indians -- Dances -- Photographs Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Postcards Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Negatives (photographic) Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Historical reenactments Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Crow Indians -- Montana -- Crow Indian Reservation -- Photographs Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Apsáalooke (Crow/Absaroke) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Two Leggings, ca. 1847-1923 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Curly, approximately 1856-1923 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Plenty Coups, 1848-1932 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Museum of the American Indian
4220 Silver Hill Rd
Suitland, Maryland 20746-2863