Further Research on Natalie Curtis: Family Influences

After looking through some of the questions on my last post, I thought I would look deeper into Natalie Burlin’s familial background. As aforementioned, she was born into an affluent family in New York City during the late 19th century. Interestingly enough, Theodore Roosevelt was a family friend of the Burlins. In fact, when she ran into some regulatory issues in an attempt to research the communities at the Hopi Reservation, Roosevelt pulled some strings so that she could continue her work.


When discussing how her family background influenced her perceptions of Native American and African American communities, it can be inferred that her aristocratic upbringing affected her viewpoints. She came from a world of wealth and was likely raised to believe that racism was ok because it benefitted the communities she was surrounded by. However, once she became fascinated with both Native American and African American cultures there is evidence to suggest that her opinions about the two communities were shifted. Unfortunately, because of the views and biases she held, we may never know the full legitimacy of her work. It’s important to understand that those biases were a part of Natalie Curtis when interpreting her work. That is something I will keep in mind going forward as I examine other female ethnomusicologists/ethnographers for my Honors Thesis.