THREE NATIVE AMERICAN SIBLINGS IN EL RENO, OKLAHOMA TERRITORY (PHOTOGRAPHED BY STOTZ)

This cabinet card is chock full of history. The photograph features three young Native Americans posing for their portrait at the studio of Christopher Charles Stotz (1851-1932), in El Reno, Oklahoma Territory. The subjects of this image are likely siblings. The young women are wearing identical dresses and are adorned with rings and beautiful earrings. The specific Indian tribe that these three young people represent, is unknown. Oklahoma was the home of many Indian Tribes including Pawnee, Creek, Apache, Arapaho, Choctaw, and others. Many tribes were relocated there from other states. As mentioned earlier, the photographer of this cabinet card is C. C. Stotz and his studio was located in El Reno, Oklahoma Territory. Oklahoma became a state in 1907 which means that this photograph was taken before that year. El Reno is located in central Oklahoma, about 25 miles from Oklahoma City. Fort Reno was built in 1874 and it’s first commander was Civil War hero, General Philip Sheridan. Sheridan named the fort after his friend, General Jesse L. Reno, who was killed in the Civil War. The fort was near the Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation. One of the fort’s missions was to “protect” the “Five Civilized Tribes”. This group was comprised of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes. Employing the term “civilized tribe” was evidence of the special prejudice held against the tribes not among the designated five civilized tribes. Tribes described as civilized were tribes that had adopted many of the customs and values that were held by  European-Americans at the time.  Who was C. C. Stotz?  Stotz was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania.  He  established a studio in El Reno in 1889; the same year El Reno was founded. Therefore, this photograph was taken between 1889  (El Reno founded) and 1907 (Oklahoma statehood). During the 1880’s and 1890’s, he made field and studio photographs of Southern Plains Indians. Stotz is an acclaimed early photographer  of Native American’s and Native American life.

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