Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs of North American Indians

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Office of United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories,

Washington, D. C., November 1, 1877.

The collection of photographic portraits of North American Indians described in the following “Catalogue” is undoubtedly the largest and most valuable one extant. It has been made at great labor and expense, during a period of about twenty-five years, and now embraces over one thousand negatives, representing no less than twenty-five tribes. Many of the individuals portrayed have meanwhile died; others, from various causes, are not now accessible; the opportunity of securing many of the subjects, such as scenes and incidents, has of course passed away. The collection being thus unique, and not to be reproduced at any expenditure of money, time, or labor, its value for ethnological purposes cannot easily be over-estimated.

Now that the tribal relations of these Indians are fast being successively sundered by the process of removal to reservations, which so greatly modifies the habits and particularly the style of dress of the aborigines, the value of such a graphic record of the past increases year by year; and there will remain no more trustworthy evidence of what the Indians have been than that afforded by these faithful sun-pictures, many of which represent the villages, dwellings, and modes of life of these most interesting people, and historical incidents of the respective tribes, as well as the faces, dresses, and accoutrements of many prominent individuals.

Those who have never attempted to secure photographs and measurements or other details of the physique of Indians, in short, any reliable statistics of individuals or bands, can hardly realize the obstacles to be overcome. The American Indian is extremely superstitious, and every attempt to take his picture is rendered difficult if not entirely frustrated by his deeply-rooted belief that the process places some portion of himself in the power of the white man, and his suspicion that such control may be used to his injury. No prescribed regulations for the taking of photographs, therefore, are likely to be fully carried out. As a rule, front and profile views have been secured whenever practicable. Usually it is only when an Indian is subjected to confinement that those measurements of his person which are suitable for anthropological purposes can be secured. In most cases the Indian will not allow his person to be handled at all, nor submit to any inconvenience whatever. Much tact and perseverance are required to overcome his superstitious notions, and in many cases, even of the most noted chiefs of several tribes, no portrait can be obtained by any inducement whatever. If, therefore, the collection fails to meet the full requirements of the anthropologist, it must be remembered that the obstacles in the way of realizing his ideal of a perfect collection are insurmountable.

About two hundred of the portraits, or one-fifth of the whole collection, have been derived from various sources, and most of these are pictures of Indians composing the several delegations that have visited Washington from time to time during the past ten years. Such individuals are usually among the most prominent and influential members of the respective tribes, of which they consequently furnish the best samples. The greater portion of the whole collection is derived from the munificent liberality of William Blackmore, esq., of London, England, the eminent anthropologist who has for many years studied closely the history, habits, and manners of the North American Indians. The Blackmore portion of the collection consists of a number of smaller lots from various sources; and it is Mr. Blackmore’s intention to enlarge it to include, if possible, all the tribes of the North American continent.

The entire collection, at the present time consisting of upward of a thousand negatives, represents ten leading “families” of Indians, besides seven independent tribes, the families being divisible into fifty-four “tribes,” subdivision of which gives forty-three “bands.” The collection continues to increase as opportunity offers.

The present “Catalogue” prepared by Mr. W. H. Jackson, the well-known and skilful photographer of the Survey, is far more than a mere enumeration of the negatives. It gives in full, yet in concise and convenient form, the information which the Survey has acquired respecting the subjects of the pictures, and is believed to represent an acceptable contribution to anthropological literature.

United States Geologist.


The following Descriptive Catalogue is intended to systematize the collection of Photographic Portraits of Indians now in the possession of the United States Geological Survey of the Territories, and to place on record all the information we have been able to obtain of the various individuals and scenes represented. It is of course far from complete; but it is a beginning, and every new fact that comes to light will be added to what has already been secured. This information has been gathered from many sources, principally from Indian delegates visiting Washington, and by correspondence with agents and others living in the Indian country.

Particular attention has been paid to proving the authenticity of the portraits of the various individuals represented, and it is believed that few, if any, mistakes occur in that respect.

The historical notices are mainly compilations from standard works on the subject.

All of the following portraits and views are photographed direct from nature, and are in nearly every case from the original plates, the exceptions being good copies from original daguerreotypes or photographs that are not now accessible.

The portraits made under the supervision of the Survey are generally accompanied by measurements that are as nearly accurate as it has been possible to make them.

The pictures vary in size from the ordinary small card to groups on plates 16 by 20 inches square. The majority, however, are on plates 6-1/2 by 8-1/2 inches square; these are usually trimmed to 4 by 5-1/2 inches, and mounted on cabinet cards.

All the photographs are numbered upon their faces, and as these numbers do not occur in regular order in the text a Numerical Index is appended, by means of which the name of any picture, and the page on which the subject is treated, may be readily found.

W. H. J.


Miscellaneous Publications No. 5, entitled “Descriptive Catalogue of the Photographs of the United States Geological Survey of the Territories for the years 1869 to 1873, inclusive,” published in 1874, contains, on pages 67-83, a “Catalogue of Photographs of Indians, [etc.]” This, however, is a mere enumeration of the negatives then in the possession of the survey, and is now superseded by the present independent publication.





Early in the seventeenth century, the Algonkins were the largest family of North American Indians within the present limits of the United States, extending from Newfoundland to the Mississippi, and from the waters of the Ohio to Hudson’s Bay and Lake Winnipeg. Northeast and northwest of them were the Eskimos and the Athabascas; the Dakotas bounded them on the west, and the Mobilian tribes, Catawbas, Natchez, &c., on the south. Within this region also dwelt the Iroquois and many detached tribes from other families. All the tribes of the Algonkins were nomadic, shifting from place to place as the fishing and hunting upon which they depended required. There has been some difficulty in properly locating the tribe from which the family has taken its name, but it is generally believed they lived on the Ottawa River, in Canada, where they were nearly exterminated by their enemies, the Iroquois. The only remnant of the tribe at this time is at the Lake of the Two Mountains.

Of the large number of tribes forming this family, many are now extinct, others so reduced and merged into neighboring tribes as to be lost, while nearly all of the rest have been removed far from their original hunting-grounds. The Lenni Lenape, from the Delaware, are now leading a civilized life far out on the great plains west of the Missouri, and with them are the Shawnees from the south and the once powerful Pottawatamies, Ottawas, and Miamis from the Ohio Valley. Of the many nations forming this great family, we have a very full representation in the following catalogue, about equally divided between the wild hunters and the civilized agriculturists.


“This nation has received a variety of names from travellers and the neighboring tribes, as Shyennes, Shiennes, Cheyennes, Chayennes, Sharas, Shawhays, Sharshas, and by the different bands of Dakotas, Shaí-en-a or Shai-é-la. With the Blackfeet, they are the most western branch of the great Algonkin family. When first known, they were living on the Chayenne or Cayenne River, a branch of the Red River of the North, but were driven west of the Mississippi by the Sioux, and about the close of the last century still farther west across the Missouri, where they were found by those enterprising travelers Lewis and Clark in 1803. On their map attached to their report they locate them near the eastern face of the Black Hills, in the valley of the great Sheyenne River, and state their number at 1,500 souls.” Their first treaty with the United States was made in 1825, at the mouth of the Teton River. They were then at peace with the Dakotas, but warring against the Pawnees and others. Were then estimated, by Drake, to number 3,250.

During the time of Long’s expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in 1819 and 1820, a small portion of the Cheyennes seem to have separated themselves from the rest of their nation on the Missouri, and to have associated themselves with the Arapahoes who wandered about the tributaries of the Platte and Arkansas, while those who remained affiliated with the Ogalallas, these two divisions remaining separated until the present time. Steps are now being taken, however, to bring them together on a new reservation in the Indian Territory.

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