American Indian Histories and Cultures

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

Spanning four centuries and covering North and Central America, this digital resource provides access to material from the Newberry Library’s extensive Edward E. Ayer Collection; 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.

Few, if any, archives of indigenous history and culture have the breadth, the depth, and the diversity that this collection wields.
David Wilkins, University of Minnesota

Key Data

Period Covered

  • 17th to mid 20th Century


  • An original copy of The Red Man‚Äôs Greeting (1893), written on birch bark by Potawatomi Indian Simon Pokagon
  • Original artwork depicting American Indian life by early artists and explorers such as Karl Bodmer, Jean-Fr√©d√©ric Waldeck, George Catlin, Elbridge Ayer Burbank and Seth Eastman
  • Manuscripts, portraits and printed books relating to major American Indian figures such as Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Pontiac, Geronimo, Sitting Bull and Black Hawk
  • Treaties between American Indians and the US Government
  • Captivity narratives, memoirs and artworks portraying life among American Indians
  • Dictionaries and vocabulary books such as A pocket vocabulary of terms alphabetically arranged (1822) from English to Ojibwa
  • Modern manuscript collections including the Bureau of Indian Affairs relocation records (1936-1975)
  • American Indian 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 American Indian photographers

Source Archive

  • The Newberry Library, Chicago

Material Types

  • Manuscripts (treaties, speeches, petitions, diaries, travel journals, ledger books)
  • Artwork (illustrations, sketches, watercolours, oil paintings, American Indian art)
  • American Indian Newspapers covering the 1960s to 1990s
  • Rare Printed Books
  • Photographs
  • Maps

Editorial Board

  • Ned Blackhawk, Yale University
  • Brenda Child, University of Minnesota
  • Rebecca Horn, University of Utah
  • Brian Hosmer, University of Tulsa
  • Jean O'Brien, University of Minnesota
  • Kathryn Shanley, University of Montana
  • David Silverman, George Washington University
  • Scott Stevens, D'Arcy McNickle Center at the Newberry Library
  • Joyce Szabo, University of New Mexico
  • William Treuttner, Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Robert Warrior, University of Illinois
  • David Wilkins, University of Minnesota


  • American Indians and the European Powers
  • American Indians and the US Government
  • Indigenous Peoples of Mexico
  • Military Encounters: Conflicts, Rebellions and Alliances
  • Observation, Representation and Cultural Encounters
  • Missionaries and Education
  • Trade
  • Civil Rights Movement

Key Features

  • Cross-searchable with The American West
  • Interactive data maps
  • Visual gallery
  • Online exhibitions
  • Detailed chronology
  • Carefully selected external links
  • Contextual essays 


Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above.

Visited Dec'13 - American Indian Histories and Cultures (AIHC) provides access to a wealth of textual and visual materials drawn from the Edward E. Ayer Collection of Chicago'......

American Indian Histories and Cultures collection merits serious consideration as a research resource.

Visited June 2014 - American Indian Histories and Cultures (AIHC) makes available over 1,800 documents and document groups selected from the vast Edward E. Ayer Manuscript Collection of American ......