Photographs documenting Iroquois people made circa 1897-circa 1937 on and near the Six Nations Reserve by J.N.B. Hewitt, linguist with the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology.
Scope and Contents note:
Hewitt's photos primarily depict Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, Tuscarora, Oneida, and Tutelo peoples. There are also a few images of Iroquois houses and other structures, Hewitt's mask collection, and Onondaga Chief John Buck and family, Seneca Chief John Arthur Gibson and family, Cayuga Chief James Jamieson and family, and Cayuga-Seneca Chief Simeon Gibson. Most of the photographs were taken during several trips between 1897 and 1937, on and near the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario (Oshweken, Deseronto, and Brantsford), and New York (Niagara Falls, Nedrow, and Syracuse).
For Photo Lot 155 Hewitt's original arrangement and numbering has been maintained. The order of the photographs does not follow the chronology that they were taken; for instance there are often several photographs of an individual that were clearly made in different years. The original negatives also represent a variety of film and camera types.
The arrangement and numbering for MS 4596, established at an unknown time, was maintained.
J.N.B. (John Napoleon Brinton) Hewitt (December 6, 1859-October 14, 1937) was a linguist and ethnographer who specialized in Iroquoian and other Native American languages. Born on the Tuscarora Reservation near Lewiston, New York, his mother was of Tuscarora, French, Oneida, and Scottish descent. His father's heritage was English and Scottish, but he was raised in a Tuscarora family. Hewitt spoke English growing up, but when he left the reservation to attend schools in Wilson and Lockport, he learned to speak the Tuscarora language from other students. Hewitt grew up planning to become a physician, like his father. However, the course of Hewitt's interests changed when, in 1880, he was hired by Erminnie A. Smith of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology (now the Bureau of American Ethnology) as an assistant ethnologist tasked with collecting myths among the Iroquoian tribes of New York. He continued this work from 1880-1884, and then was briefly employed by the Jersey City Railways Co. (1884-1885) and Adams Express Co. (1885-1886). Upon Smith's death in 1886, Hewitt returned to the BAE to continue her work, remaining employed there until his death.
Over the course of his career, Hewitt became the leading authority on the organization of the Iroquois League and the ceremonials, customs, and usages of the tribes composing it. He acquired an intimate knowledge of the languages of the League, including a speaking knowledge of Mohawk and Onondaga, and also became acquainted with several Algonquian dialects. On February 28, 1914, in recognition of his services in preserving for posterity a knowledge of the history and ethnology of the Iroquoian people of New York state, he was awarded the Cornplanter medal for Iroquois Research.
Additionally, he was a founder of the American Anthropological Association and an active member of the Anthropological Society of Washington and the American Museum of Natural History, serving as both treasurer (1912-1926) and president (1932-1934) of the latter. Hewitt also contributed over one hundred articles for the Handbook of American Indians (Bulletin 30) and published the two volume Iroquoian Cosmology (1903 and 1928).