Female Indian telephone switchboard operator – “Helen of Many Glacier Hotel.”, 26 June 1925

  • Creator: Bain News Service
  • Year: 26 June 1925
  • Location: Glacier National Park, Montana, United States

This photograph, published by Bain News Service and held at the Library of Congress, captures a Native American woman, ‘Helen’, operating a telephone switchboard at Many Glacier Hotel. Many Glacier Hotel was built in 1914-15 on the east shore of Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park in the state of Montana. Both Glacier National Park and Many Glacier Hotel border the Blackfeet Nation, and it is possible that ‘Helen’ is a Blackfoot woman.

The reliability of this photograph as a documentary image is complicated by its setting; the hotel used Native American staff to appeal to white audiences, playing up their “colorful native costume” as a tourist attraction. This fetishizing of Native American culture for white consumption belied the history of U.S. policies that outlawed traditional practices and forced the assimilation of Blackfeet children in boarding schools, many of which continued well into the 20th century.

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