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, 1989.
Walter Bernard “Ben” Hunt (1888-1970) was a writer of books and articles on Native American arts and crafts, including performing arts. Because Hunt's focus included Native American performing arts, he visited and photographed notable performers, such as Nicholas Black Elk (Oglala) and others 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 summer 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) served as Master of Ceremonies of summer tourist powwows at Lac du Flambeau on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation.
Hunt used several of the photographs to illustrate his articles and books. Photographs pertaining to the construction of his log cabin appeared in How to Build and Furnish a Log Cabin (1939); 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 American 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 Nicholas Black Elk (Oglala, 1866-1950) wearing regalia, one of Black Elk's grandson, George Looks Twice, 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 in 1924, 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 from this collection have been scanned and are retained off-line.