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Catalog Data

Bedell, Harriet M., 1875-  Search this
233 Photographic prints (black and white)
115 Copy negatives (black and white)
Gwich'in (Kutchin)  Search this
Seminole  Search this
Southern Tsitsistas/Suhtai (Cheyenne)  Search this
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Photographic prints
Copy negatives
Black-and-white negatives
Photographs in this collection include indoor and outdoor portraits, domestic scenes, landscapes of Gwich'in (Kutchin), Seminole and Cheyenne Indians taken by Deaconess M. Bedell from her work as missionary between 1907-1939.
Scope and Contents:
The collection consists of photographs made by Deaconess Bedell while she worked as an Episcopal missionary among the Southern Tsitsistas/Suhtai (Cheyenne), Gwich'in (Kutchin), and Seminole peoples in Oklahoma, Alaska, and Florida respectively. Although Bedell work in Oklahoma from 1907 to 1916, the Southern Tsitsistas/Suhtai photographs are dated from 1910 to 1915 and consist of informal group portraits of men, women, and children dressed in both traditional and Anglo American clothing; group pictures of school children--boys and girls--at the Whirlwind Mission school and the mission campus itself; and traditional and Anglo American dwellings of Southern Tsitsistas/Suhtai individuals. Among these photographs are studio portraits collected but likely not made by Bedell. Bedell worked in Alaska from 1916 to 1931; the Alaska photographs in the collection date from 1926 to 1931. Among the photographs are informal, outdoor group portraits of Gwich'in men, women, and children, and photographs depicting the landscape, dog sled teams, and Gwich'in dwellings, summer camps, and men fishing and boxing.The Florida photographs date from 1933 to 1939 and depict informal, outdoor group and single portraits of Seminole men, women, and children in traditioanl clothing, photographs depicting men rowing dugouts, Seminole dwellings (chickees), camps, and baskets. Most of these photographs were made at the Glade Cross Mission in the Everglades. The negatives are primarily copy negatives.
Arrangement note:
Prints: organized in folders; arranged by print number Negatives: organized in envelopes; arranged by negative number
Biographical/Historical note:
Harriet Mary Bedell was born on March 19, 1875, in Buffalo, New York, to Horace Ira Bedell and Louisa Sophia Oberist. Bedell was confirmed in the Episcopalian church and graduated from Normal School in 1894. Following graduation, Bedell worked as a school teacher before deciding to enroll in the New York City Training School for Deaconesses in 1906. She also spent several months in Buffalo at a local hospital learning the rudiments of nursing. Between 1907 and 1916 Bedell was sent to the Whirlwind mission in Blaine County, Oklahoma. There, she worked as a missionary-teacher among the Cheyenne alongside Deacon Oakerhater (Cheyenne). During her time in Oklahoma Bedell contracted Tuberculosis and spent some time in Denver, Colorado recovering. By 1916 plans were made to close the Mission and Bedell was told she was to be transferred to Alaska where her teaching skills were needed. She accepted the remote post in Stevens Village, Alaska, among the Gwich'in (Kutchin) people. In 1922, Bedell left Alaska briefly to be officially ordained as a Deaconess in Portland, Oregon. During her time in Alaska, Bedell also established a boarding school in nearby Tanana but due to the stock market crash of 1929 and the scarcity of funds the boarding facility was unable to remain open. In 1931, following an unsuccessful trip to Buffalo to try and raise money, it was decided that there was no reason for Bedell to return to Alaska. In 1933, Bedell travelled to Florida by invitation to speak and was appalled by the living conditions she witnessed among the Seminole in southern Florida. Bedell worked to reopen the Glade Cross Mission in Everglades City which had closed in 1914 as well as opening a new Mission in Collier City. In addition to focusing on health and education, Bedell encouraged the Seminole women she worked with to revive traditional doll-making, basket-weaving and intricate patchwork designs. Bedell worked in South Florida until 1960 when hurricane Donna destroyed her home and the Glade Cross Mission and she decided to retire. Bedell lived to be 94 and spent her final years at the Bishop Gray Inn in Davenport, Florida until her death on January 8, 1969. In the year 2000 Bedell was named a "Great Floridian" and in the diocese of Southwest Florida celebrate Harriet Bedell Day annually on January 8th.
Related Materials:
The Harriet Bedell Collection of 126 prints of Bedell working among the Seminole Indians in South Florida from 1933 to 1960 is located at the State Library and Archives of Florida. Information can be found here: Harriet Bedell Collection.
In 1940 Harriet Bedell sent her negatives to the Museum of the American Indian, via William Stiles, to be made into prints. These prints are the bulk of the collection [P14817-P14911, P14955-P15050]. Later in 1940 Bedell presented the museum with an additional 29 prints [P14913-P14941] and in 1941and 1942 Bedell sent two additional gifts totaling 13 prints [P15328-P15330, P15355-P15364].
Access is by appointment only, Monday - Thursday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment.
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish or broadbast materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to
Gwich'in Indians -- Missions -- Photographs  Search this
Cheyenne Indians -- Missions -- Photographs  Search this
Seminole Indians -- Missions -- Photographs  Search this
Women missionaries -- United States  Search this
Women in the Episcopal Church  Search this
Black-and-white negatives
Photographic prints
Deaconess Harriet M. Bedell photographs, National Museum of the American Indian Archives, Smithsonian Institution (negative, slide or catalog number).
Archival Repository:
National Museum of the American Indian