Anderson: A glimpse of real, imagined history

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 7, 2011 - 6:29 AM

An old photo supposedly of the last caribou shot in Minnesota, while staged, still depicts an era gone by.

hide

This Roland W. Reed photo from 1908 of an Ojibway Indian claimed to be of the last caribou shot in Minnesota.

Found in the belongings of a woman who passed away recently in San Diego, a photo dated "1915" and purporting to show the last caribou killed in Minnesota has, by odd circumstances, ended up in the hands of Ed Rosenberger of South St. Paul.

Rosenberger, an avid bow hunter, received the photo -- a copy of the original -- from his daughter and son-in-law, who live in San Diego, who in turn were given it by the son-in-law's boss after his mother died.

In the photo's lower right corner, along with the date, is the photographer's name, "Reed." Accompanying the photo was a note from the photographer -- full name, Roland W. Reed:

"This shows an endless plain of snow with a dead caribou, the last ever shot in Minnesota, in the foreground," the note says. "A lone Ojibway is regarding the prey he has pursued so long. Behind the deer [caribou] and the Indian the snow is disturbed by tracks of hoof and snowshoe, but ahead and away back to the cold horizon the silent sheet of white stretches smooth and pitiless."

Born in Wisconsin in 1864, Roland Reed, who later moved to Minnesota and had studios in Red Wing, Ortonville and Bemidji, achieved considerable fame as a photographer of Native Americans, including those of the Great Plains and the Southwest, as well as in Minnesota.

The photo interested Rosenberger because of its reminder that caribou, not white-tailed deer, once were the abundant big game in northern Minnesota. Caribou disappeared following white settlement and the widespread logging that occurred across the central and northern parts of the state.

In the old growth forests, caribou had thrived. But deer were better adapted to the shrubs and saplings that emerged after the loggers moved on. Additionally, deer and caribou aren't compatible, because deer carry brain worm, to which caribou are highly susceptible.

Whether the caribou pictured actually was the last one killed in Minnesota is suspect. A Department of Natural Resources research paper from the 1970s places the end of caribou in the state around 1940. Regardless, it's likely that when Reed took his photograph, caribou were near their end here, if not yet entirely extinct.

Reed died in 1934, but he's far from forgotten. As it turns out, Kramer Gallery in St. Paul owns a couple hundred of his glass plate negatives, from which it reproduces custom photographs costing up to $1,500. Gallery owners and brothers Wes and Leon Kramer purchased the negatives in the 1970s from the son of a second cousin of Reed's.

Art historians categorize Reed's photographs with those of Edward S. Curtis, a frontier photographer of the same era who also was born in Wisconsin and later lived in Minnesota.

Like Reed, Curtis' passion was photographing American Indians. Also like Reed, Curtis' methodology has sometimes been criticized as staged, and his photos overly romanticized renderings of Indians the way whites thought they once were.

Ed Rosenberger's photo of the Indian and the caribou makes the point. In a letter Reed wrote to the editor of the Minneapolis Journal in 1923, Reed said the photo -- actually taken in January 1908 -- was recorded "in the barrens of northwest Minnesota between the north shore of Red Lake and the Rainy River ... in a hunt covering a circle of 50 miles."

Maybe so. But the Ojibway in the photo hardly appears worse for the wear of such a long hunt. Also, Wes and Leon Kramer say it's one of two or three versions of the photo Reed took, some depicting two Indians with the caribou, and each posed differently.

In a book to be published early next year by Afton Press entitled "Alone with the past, the life and photographic art of Roland W. Reed,'' Wisconsin author Ernest R. Lawrence describes Reed, like Curtis, as a "pictorialist" photographer whose intent wasn't necessarily to depict Native Americans as they actually were in the early 1900s -- reservation-bound and often living in poverty -- but as Reed and others believed them once to be.

In the end, whether the caribou in the photo actually was the last such animal killed in the state might be beside the point. So, too, whether the photo was more staged than a similar one taken today might be.

The photo nonetheless depicts a time in Minnesota -- real and imagined -- that no longer is.

Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 5:30 PM
Seattle
Miami 83 FINAL
Boston 75
LA Lakers 80 FINAL
New York 92
Arizona 3 FINAL
Montreal 2
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Nashville 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 2 3rd Prd
Vancouver 0
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 FINAL
East Carolina 50
Michigan 66 FINAL
Michigan State 76
Marist 75 FINAL
Canisius 67
Fordham 77 FINAL
Dayton 101
Manhattan 87 FINAL
Monmouth 76
Quinnipiac 100 FINAL
Niagara 105
Utah 67 FINAL
USC 39
Connecticut 56 2nd Half 1:53
Houston 62
California 85 2nd Half 2:28
Washington 81
North Dakota St 64 FINAL
Western Ill 62
Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
(14) Texas 59 FINAL
TCU 64
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Cornell 53 FINAL
Yale 60
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Miami-Florida 66 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
(21) Georgia 72 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 80
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
Wake Forest 63 FINAL
(4) Notre Dame 92
Loyola-Chicago 56 FINAL
Illinois State 72
(24) Oklahoma 69 FINAL
West Virginia 78
St Johns 73 FINAL
Seton Hall 78
Delaware 73 FINAL
Hofstra 62
Binghamton 49 FINAL
UMass Lowell 66
Vermont 49 FINAL
Hartford 60
William & Mary 72 FINAL
Northeastern 66
Boston College 60 FINAL
(16) North Carolina 72
Virginia 77 FINAL
Clemson 72
(2) Connecticut 83 FINAL
Temple 49
Arkansas 53 FINAL
Alabama 42
Virginia Tech 71 FINAL
Georgia Tech 79
Kansas 58 FINAL
(3) Baylor 66
Canisius 51 FINAL
Rider 52
Monmouth 52 FINAL
Fairfield 54
Quinnipiac 81 FINAL
Saint Peters 50
Butler 55 FINAL
Creighton 62
Wichita State 61 FINAL
Drake 64
Evansville 52 FINAL
Indiana State 67
Villanova 47 FINAL
DePaul 49
Auburn 45 FINAL
(12) Texas A&M 78
(11) Arizona State 58 FINAL
Utah 48
Michigan 60 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 75
Minnesota 49 FINAL
Northwestern 70
(18) Miss State 65 2nd Half 1:27
(6) Tennessee 76
Georgetown 67 2nd Half 1:41
Marquette 71
North Texas 48 1st OT
Rice 48
Missouri State 56 2nd Half 0:38
Northern Iowa 63
Wisconsin 67 2nd Half 4:03
Illinois 55
Bradley 55 2nd Half 1:32
Southern Ill 64
Florida 32 2nd Half
Vanderbilt 22
(20) Iowa 41 1st Half 1:15
(5) Maryland 39
(1) South Carolina 8 1st Half 12:39
Ole Miss 12
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close