Special Collections 
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WALTER BERNARD "BEN" HUNT COLLECTION

 


An album of photographs (now decompiled) by an author of books and articles on Native American arts and crafts. It contains images of Oglala Indians in South Dakota (includes Holy man/ catechist Nicholas Black Elk), Ojibwa Indians in Wisconsin, birch-bark canoes, and wood-crafted figurines.

Gift of Jean Krainik, 1989. Processed by Mark G. Thiel, CA, 1989.


Biographical Note

Walter Bernard “Ben” Hunt (1888-1970) was a writer of books and articles on Native American arts and crafts, including performing arts. Because Indian arts was a major focus of his work, Hunt visited and photographed Nicholas Black Elk (Oglala) and other native performers in South Dakota (Black Hills, summer, 1937) and Wisconsin (Lac du Flambeau and Wisconsin Dells, 1937?-1940s?). According to Hunt's daughter, Jean Krainik, the South Dakota visit was in conjunction with a family vacation. No doubt Hunt had read Black Elk Speaks (1932) prior to the trip.

Other informants included taxidermist Walter Pelzer of the Milwaukee Public Museum and Frank Smart (Ojibwa) of Odahan, Bad River Reservation, Wisconsin. Frank Smart (or Gogeweosh) also served as Master of Ceremonies of summer tourist powwows at Lac du Flambeau on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation.

Later Hunt used several of the photographs to illustrate his writings. Those of his hand-carved figurines ("whittling") appeared in Ben Hunt’s Whittling Book (1945) and without identification, he incorporated Black Elk’s image within a drawing in Golden Book of Indian Crafts and Lore (1954). A comprehensive comparison between Hunt's photographs and illustrations in his writings has not been made. Besides signing his name, Hunt also used "Whitlin’ Jim," "Lone Eagle," and "Wanbli Ishnala" as nom de plumes.

In 1949, Hunt and other non-native hobbyists established the Wabeskiwa (“White” in Ojibwa) Indian Fair, which until 1964, was an annual event held most years in Janesville, Wisconsin. Following the debut of the Milwaukee Braves Baseball Team (1953), a Hunt protégé and Marquette University student – Patrick Buckett – proposed the "Warriors" as the university's new sports team nickname, which was confirmed by Marquette University Student Senate.


Scope and Content

W. Ben Hunt, Folder 1: Nine prints, which were probably taken at Duhamel's Sioux Indian Pageant in the Black Hills, located at Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns, Rockerville, South Dakota. Included are two photos of Black Elk (Oglala, 1863-1950) wearing regalia, one of a grandson, and performers John LeDew (Oglala-Pawnee), Tommy Iron Bull (Oglala), Leo Black Bear, and others not identified. Black Elk narrated the pageant, which he had founded with Alex Duhamel (1929), proprietor of Duhamel’s Trading Post, Rapid City, and Sitting Bull Crystal Caverns. Terrain and teepees in the background of several prints suggest the pageant as the location. Also, a note on the verso of the John LeDew print gave his address as "Headlee Ranch," a town near Rockerville, with the date, "10-18-1937" and a notation by Hunt that he had returned a copy print to Mr. LeDew.

W. Ben Hunt, Folder 2: 18 prints, comprised of scenes from the building of Hunt's backyard cabin/studio, Hales Corners, Wisconsin, plus related cabin furnishings, hand-carved figurines, and Hopi-style Indian kachina dolls, all made by Hunt.

W. Ben Hunt, Folder 3: Two prints featuring prominent performers in regalia from the Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial, a Wisconsin Dells-area tourist show. They are Frank Clearwater (Ojibwa), playing an Indian flute, and Chief Evergreen Tree (Cochiti), wearing a double-trailer Plains Indian war bonnet with arms outstretched and posed for singing the romanticized song, "Zuni Sunrise Call." The location for both photographs was Parsons Indian Trading Post, Lake Delton, a local store where many performers purchased regalia supplies.

W. Ben Hunt, Folder 4: Three prints and a Biographical Statement on Hunt. The prints include a close-up portrait of Hunt and a portrait of Hunt in regalia and mounted on a horse. Presumably these photographs were taken in Wisconsin.

W. Ben Hunt, Folder 5: Nine photographs that comprise a step-by-step sequence of an unidentified Ojibwa Indian building a birch bark canoe. The location is unknown, but it is presumed because of the ties between Hunt and Frank Smart, both the Bad River and Lac du Flambeau reservations in Wisconsin would be likely locations.

Selected images from this collection are featured online in the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions Photographs Digital Collection. These images and others have been scanned and are retained off-line under "Digital Projects".

 

More Related Resources

  • Christianity and Native America: Checklist to all Marquette Native Catholic collections plus access to detailed information about them including genealogical records; access to digital image collections and The Indian Sentinel historic magazine online; information for educators about Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and her Native Catholic followers.

  • Guides to Catholic-Related Records about Native Americans in the United States: Over 1,000 repository entries in PDF format to help genealogists and historical researchers find the records they need on American Indians and Alaskan Natives. The entries provide contact information on the repositories, brief descriptions about the records, the Native groups served, and the associated Catholic organizations. Many of the entries include institutional chronologies to explain the history of the records.

 

 

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