Four Alaska Native women smile and pose for this sepia photo.
Four Nunivak women photographed by Curtis. The Graybills say by the time Curtis was working in Alaska, technology shortened photo exposure time and enabled him to take pictures of subjects who were smiling. Courtesy Curtis Legacy Foundation.

Throughout the early twentieth century, photographer Edward S. Curtis dedicated three decades to taking pictures of indigenous people living in the Midwest, to the California coast, up through Alaska. The photographs were published in a 20-volume series titled The North American Indian. Last year, Curtis’ descendants released a book that includes previously unpublished images from his time photographing Alaska Natives. 

John Graybill, Curtis’ great grandson, discovered troves of unpublished images while going through his father’s house, including more than 200 from Alaska. John and his wife, Coleen, were working on a project photographing the descendants of Curtis’ original subjects when the pandemic hit. The couple switched their focus to sorting through the Alaskan images and stories to compile into a book.

“We don’t want to keep it tucked away where nobody can see or use it,” John says. “There’s valuable material for research and just for people to see their ancestors. If nothing more, that’s huge.” 

The Graybills ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund printing the book that included soliciting donations to send 155 copies to libraries across Alaska. They’re also printing all the images on standing banners to create a pop-up exhibit that can travel through remote Alaskan communities.

Unpublished Alaska includes 100 images and entries from Curtis’ personal journal while in the field. Learn more at curtislegacyfoundation.org.


Alexander Deedy formerly worked as the assistant editor and digital content manager for Alaska magazine.

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