Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Julia Tuell

Today at noon I'll be telling stories about women homesteaders and ranchers, including Julia Tuell. It's a fundraiser for the Friends of the Historical Society, so bring your lunch and $5.00 to the Historical Society and join us! By the way, I posted an event calendar if you want to see what else is coming up.

Montana’s Northern Cheyennes and the Sioux of South Dakota in the early twentieth century are the subjects of Julia Tuell’s little-known photographic legacy. Through her camera lens, Tuell recorded details she must have known would someday be valued. She was sixteen in 1901 when she married forty-three-year-old teacher P. V. Tuell. The couple headed west, where P. V. had a job teaching Indian children.

Julia Tuell photographing tipi ribs. At the time this photo was taken, she was three weeks short of delivering her third child.
Photo from Women and Warriors of the Plains by Dan Aadland
By 1906, on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation at Lame Deer, Tuell had begun collecting images of the Plains Indians at a time of agonizing change when traditional skills were still part of reservation life. With her own small children in tow, Tuell captured intimate details: women scraping hides, dogs hitched to travois, chiefs in full regalia, and children at play.

Tuell hand colored this photo of Northern Cheyenne children.
Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming
Later, on the Sioux reservations of South Dakota, Tuell continued her photographic journal in a Model T, her camera on the seat. Her photographs parallel those of Evelyn Cameron, who so beautifully documented eastern Montana homesteading. But Tuell’s images capture a different perspective of those who saw their lives turned upside down with the tilling of the prairie sod. Her work is a pictorial tribute to the people of the plains. You can find Tuell’s poignant photographs in Dan Aadland’s book, Women and Warriors of the Plains.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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