American Indian Histories and Cultures

Sources from the Edward E Ayer Collection at the Newberry Library, Chicago

Spanning four centuries, this digital resource provides access to material from one of the strongest archival collections on American Indian history in the world.

Discover a unique insight into interactions between American Indians and Europeans from their earliest contact, continuing through the turbulence of the American Civil War, the ongoing repercussions of government legislation, right up to the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century.

Explore manuscripts, artwork and rare printed books dating from the earliest contact with European settlers right up to photographs and newspapers from the mid-twentieth century. Browse through a wide range of rare and original documents from treaties, speeches and diaries, to historic maps and travel journals.

  • An original copy of The Red Man’s Greeting (1893), written on birch bark by a member of the Potawatomi tribe, Simon Pokagon
  • Original artwork depicting Indigenous American life by early artists and explorers such as Karl Bodmer, Jean-Frédéric Waldeck, George Catlin, Elbridge Ayer Burbank and Seth Eastman
  • Manuscripts, portraits and printed books relating to major Indigenous figures such as Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Pontiac, Geronimo, Sitting Bull and Black Hawk
  • Treaties between Indigenous Nations and the US Government
  • Captivity narratives, memoirs and artworks portraying life among Indigenous Americans
  • Dictionaries and vocabulary books such as A pocket vocabulary of terms alphabetically arranged (1822) from English to Ojibwe
  • Modern manuscript collections including the Bureau of Indian Affairs relocation records (1936-1975)
  • Indigenous newspapers from the 1960s-1990s documenting contemporary topics such as civil rights and the Red Power movement, the occupation of Alcatraz and environmental issues
  • The renowned exhibition, Seeing Indian in Chicago, showcasing the work of Indigenous photographers

Key data

Period covered

17th to mid-20th century

Source archive

  • The Newberry Library, Chicago
  • Indigenous Americans and the European powers
  • Indigenous Americans and the US Government
  • First Nations of Canada
  • Indigenous Peoples of Mexico
  • Military encounters: Conflicts, rebellions and alliances
  • Observation, representation and cultural encounters
  • Missionaries and education
  • Trade and indigenous American economies
  • Civil rights movement
  • Manuscripts (treaties, speeches, petitions, diaries, travel journals, ledger books)
  • Artwork (illustrations, sketches, watercolours, oil paintings, American Indian art)
  • Indigenous newspapers covering the 1960s to 1990s
  • Rare printed books
  • Photographs
  • Maps
  • Ned Blackhawk, Yale University
  • Brenda Child, University of Minnesota
  • Rebecca Horn, University of Utah
  • Brian Hosmer, Oklahoma State University
  • Jean O'Brien, University of Minnesota
  • Kathryn Shanley, University of Montana
  • David Silverman, George Washington University
  • Scott Stevens, Syracuse University
  • Joyce Szabo, University of New Mexico
  • William Truettner, Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Robert Warrior, University of Kansas
  • David Wilkins, University of Minnesota
  • Communities, Peoples and Nations
  • Ethnic and Indigenous Studies
  • North American Studies
  • Visual Culture
  • Cross-searchable with The American West
  • Interactive data maps
  • Visual gallery
  • Online exhibitions
  • Detailed chronology
  • Carefully selected external links
  • Contextual essays


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