National Museum of the American Indian

Luther Douglas Diné (Navajo) slides

Collection ID:
Douglas, Luther A., 1919-1976
April 1964
Physical Description:
195 Color slides
This collection contains 195 slides that were taken by photographer Luther A. Douglas on the Navajo (Diné) Reservation in April of 1964.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Catalog numbers: S03663 - S03686 and S07774 - S07945
This collection contains 195 color slides which were taken in April of 1964 on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico by photographer Luther A. Douglas. The photographs depict Diné (Navajo) everyday scenes (portraits/ landscapes) including images of trading posts, Hogans or Diné (Navajo) houses, schools, hospitals, churches, sheep corrals, performances for tourists, and ceremonies. Douglas used both a Yashica and a Rollei, which worked best for his field expeditions. He may have used these cameras during this visit to the Navajo Reservation.

Arrangement note
Arrangement note
This collection is arranged according to catalog number.

Biographical/Historical note
Biographical/Historical note
Luther A. Douglas was born in Idaho in 1919 and died in 1976. Douglas had a rough childhood and at the age of 8 was left without parents. His father passed away before he was born, and his mother was on the run with her then boyfriend after robbing a bank. Douglas was abandoned by his mother on the Navajo reservation and he walked to the nearest trading post where he was then noticed by a Diné (Navajo) family who took him home and cared for him. He lived with this family for just under a year until a social worker visited and took him back to Idaho where he was put into foster care. Since then he had an admiration for Diné (Navajo) culture, as he experienced daily life and some ceremonies while living with the Diné (Navajo) family. This was the first time he was able to experience being part of a family and he believed that they saved his life in many ways.
In his adult life, Douglas pursued independent studies for more than four decades traveling to the Navajo reservation many times and recording knowledge of the Navajo culture, focusing on the preservation of sand paintings. He was a craftsman and an ethnographer with lifelong interests in the Diné (Navajo) culture, and even experimented and mimicked sand paintings but it was noted by his wife they were altered in various and minimal ways in order to alter the ceremonial paintings. His wife, Conda Elisabeth (Betsy) Douglas worked closely with him and often accompanied him during lectures and slide programs.
In 1954 Douglas was elected as a Fellow of the International Explorers Clubs in recognition of his studies of Diné (Navajo) culture. In 1960s Douglas worked as a Research Associate or Field Agent for the Museum of the American Indian and traveled out to the Diné (Navajo) Reservation during this time. In 1976 he received recognition as an outstanding Idaho citizen since the time of Idaho's formation as a Territory at the Idaho Bicentennial celebration.

Tazbah A. Gaussoin
Separated Materials
NMAI also holds the following reports written by Luther Douglas: Storytelling Among the Navajo , 1965 and Survey Report on Navajo Ceremonial Practices , undated. These are held in the Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation Records, NMAI.AC.001, Box 213, folders 15 and 16.
Processing Information
Collection processed by Tazbah A. Gaussoin (Picuris Pueblo, Diné [Navajo]), Museum Specialist, 2020

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use Note
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center. Please submit a written request to For personal or classroom use, users are invited to download, print, photocopy, and distribute the images that are available online without prior written permission, provided that the files are not modified in any way, 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. For more information please see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use and NMAI Archive Center's Digital Image request website.
Conditions Governing Access note
Access to NMAI Archives Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email:
Conditions Governing Access
Some materials in this collection are restricted due to cultural sensitivity.
Preferred Citation note
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Luther Douglas Diné (Navajo) slides, image #, Collection NMAI.AC.393; National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Diné (Navajo) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Color slides -- 20th century Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New Mexico Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arizona Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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