His claim to fame started with the portrait of Princess Angeline, the daughter of Chief Seattle. By the time Curtis found her she was living in poverty and living outside the limits of the city named after her father (the laws of the time banned Native Americans from the area of Seattle.)
The work of Edward S. Curtis with indigenous cultures of North America was put in a multi-volume work called The North American Indian. The Library Of Congress has digitized thousands of the photos which were not originally published by Curtis.
This shot of Crater Lake, one of deepest and purest bodies of water in North America, shows how it is a region of the Klamath tribe. Their territory is filled with lakes and marshes. Here, a chief in full regalia overlooks Crater Lake.
On the left is Geronimo, the famous Apache chief, when he was around 74 years old. On the right is Bear's Belly, a respected warrior from the Great Plains. His bearskin comes from a battle where he single-handedly killed three bears.
Curtis' narrative of the "noble savage" in his photos sometimes clashed with modern life and had to fix it. This is the original photo of two men in a lodge with a clock between them, but in the published photo the clock was rubbed out.
A total of 222 sets of The North American Indian were published. In the introduction to the first volume, Curtis said: "The information that is to be gathered...respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost."