In the Land of the Head Hunters

Dec 07, 2014

(Edward S. Curtis, 1914, United States/Canada, 65 min)

100th anniversary screening—to the day!
New restoration!
Post-screening discussion with:
Charlotte Coté
(Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington)
Katie Bunn-Marcuse (Bill Holm Center at the Burke Museum)
Daniel Hart (Professor of American Indian Studies, University of Washington)

In 1911, famed Northwest photographer Edward S. Curtis travelled to Vancouver Island, British Columbia to visit the Kwakwaka'wakw.

By the next year, needing money for his project, and to add to his research and still photography work, Curtis decided that the best way to record the traditional way of life and ceremonies of the Kwakwaka'wakw was to make one of the first feature motion pictures. 

Curtis had already shot footage in 1906 of the Hopi Snake dance, which he had previously showed during his talks, but this was to be on a grander scale. It took three years of preparation for this one film including the weaving of the costumes; building of the war canoes, housefronts, poles; and the carving of masks.

"a strange amalgam of Northwest landscape, ceremonial dance and regalia, sensationalized practices around magic and death, and formal experimentations with the medium of film." —Art Nerd Seattle

  • Join us after the screening for a conversation with local experts from the Burke Museum and the University of Washington. Return to the Land of the Head Hunters, a book published by University of Washington Press, will be available for purchase.


Dr. Charlotte Coté is an Associate Professor in the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington. She is a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth FirstNations on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Coté’s teaching and research interests examine indigenous politics and governance, federal Indian law and policy, treaty rights, indigenous films/media, indigenous resistance and resurgence movements, and indigenous food practices and environmental knowledge. In 2010 Dr. Coté published the book, Spirits of Our Whaling Ancestors. Revitalizing Makah and Nuu-chah-nulth Traditions. Dr. Coté serves as Chair of the UW’s Wǝɫǝbʔaltxw Intellectual House Advisory Committee; a project coordinated by Dr. Coté and other Native American faculty, staff and students, to build a coastal longhouse-style facility on the UW's Seattle campus.

Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse is the assistant director of the Bill Holm Center, Burke Museum, University of Washington.

She manages the Native artists grant program and the publication series for the Bill Holm Center. She is also visiting lecturer in the Art History and American Indian Studies departments at the University of Washington. Her courses focus on indigenous art in North America. Her publications on Northwest Coast culture have focused on nineteenth-century jewelry, indigenous body adornment, and the filmic history of the Kwakwaka’wakw.  She is the curator of the Burke Museum’s current exhibit entitled Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired which showcases new works by contemporary Northwest Coast artists that were inspired or informed by historical pieces in the Burke Museum’s collection.

Daniel Hart is professor of American Indian studies at the University of Washington, and co-director of the Native Voices graduate film-making. Hart is an award-winning documentary producer and director. His films have been screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the Museum of Modern Art, the Vienna Film Festival, as well as many other venues around the U.S. and abroad. He has an M.F.A. from Temple University, with training in the anthropology of visual communications.

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