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Native American Studies Research Guide: Images


Need an image?  Try the following image collections or try one of the other tabs such as Art or Web Sites.

Library of Congress

Native American Heritage Month

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month (November) with resources and items from the Library of Congress collections, courtesy of Pinterest.

Images of Indians of North America The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division preserves and makes available more than 17,000 pictorial records of native peoples made chiefly by European and Euro- American artists and photographers. Most of these have documentary importance; some are also important to the artistic development of graphic art and photography.  More than three-quarters of the Division's images are photographs. Other material includes drawings, engravings, lithographs, posters, and architectural drawings. While pictorial material relating to the American Indian was produced as early as the fifteenth century, the Prints and Photographs Division's holdings in this area are strongest for the period 1860 to 1940. Many of these images came to the Library through copyright. Other works have been obtained through gift, purchase, transfer from other federal agencies, and exchange. All of the material can be viewed in the Reading Room. Hundreds of these images--which represent only a portion of the holdings--can be viewed on the World Wide Web through the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. Search by "Indians of North America" or by keyword to access some of the images and records from the vast collections. For lists or summaries of the Division's complete holdings, consult the reference works listed at the end of this document. For thematic overviews and sample images, consult the sections immediately following.

Native American Image Sources

After Columbus: Four-hundred Years of Native American PortraitureThis digital presentation draws upon an exhibition presented by the Library in 1994, Four Hundred Years of Native-American Portraits, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the Americas. Offering a selective view of the history of Native American portraiture, drawn exclusively from the Library's collections, it reprised an earlier Library exhibition held in the then-new landmark building on Fifth Avenue in 1912.

Bonneville Collection of 19th century photographs of Native Americans, University of South Carolina Library's Digital Collections Page

Early Images of Virginia Indians. Companion to an exhibit of prints of Native Americans made by Europeans in the late-16th and 17th centuries. Includes illustrated essays about interpreting historical images, invented scenes from narratives (such as the abduction of Pocahontas), and fanciful figures. From the Virginia Historical Society William W. Cole Collection.

Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian: Photographic Images. The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis is one of the most significant and controversial representations of traditional American Indian culture ever produced. Issued in a limited edition from 1907-1930, the publication continues to exert a major influence on the image of Indians in popular culture. Curtis said he wanted to document "the old time Indian, his dress, his ceremonies, his life and manners." In over 2000 photogravure plates and narrative, Curtis portrayed the traditional customs and lifeways of eighty Indian tribes. The twenty volumes, each with an accompanying portfolio, are organized by tribes and culture areas encompassing the Great Plains, Great Basin, Plateau Region, Southwest, California, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. Featured here are all of the published photogravure images including over 1500 illustrations bound in the text volumes, along with over 700 portfolio plates.

Faces of the Frontier : Photographic Portraits of the American West, 1845-1924, includes portraits of Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and Geronimo.

A Gathering of Nations: Images from McKenney & Hall's History of the Indian Tribes of North America.  Courtesy of the University of Cincinnati.

George Catlin and His Indian GalleryThe Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum has this George Catlin exhibit up until the end of January, 2003. Catlin spent his life recording the customs and cultures of Native American tribes, and lobbying to protect their way of life. (Also listed under Art tab)

History of the American West, 1860-1920. Over 30,000 photographs, drawn from the holdings of the Western History and Genealogy Department at Denver Public Library, illuminate many aspects of the history of the American West. Most of the photographs were taken between 1860 and 1920.

The Illustrating Traveler : Encounters Native Americans.  Native Americans were an important focus of illustration in North American travel accounts. Any traveler-artist on the fringes of the frontier was likely to consider Indians an exotic and interesting theme for illustration, although most of the images shown here were created by artists with some serious anthropological motives. Artists such as George Catlin or Paul Kane traveled solely for the purpose of depicting Native Americans, believing they were witnesses to a civilization nearing extinction. Others, such as Walter McClintock, set out to live among the Indians and ended up compiling an impressive photographic archive. A Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library Exhibition.

Images of Indian Peoples of the Northern Great Plains : Online Image DatabaseImages were digitized and drawn from the library collections of three of the Montana State University campuses ( Bozeman, Billings, and Havre), the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, and Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, Montana. The applicant partnership was between Montana State University Libraries and the Museum of the Rockies. The digital collection was created in consultation with Native Americans, educators, librarians, and historians. The overall organization of the database is by tribe, including: Crow, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Salish (Flathead), Kutenai, Chippewa-Cree, Gros Ventres (Atsina), and Assiniboine. The collection consists primarily of images, but includes some text to give context. Most of the images are photographs, but there are also ledger drawings, serigraphs, paintings and other media.

Images of Native Americans. The Bancroft Library presents "Images of Native Americans," a digital companion to an exhibit of rare books, photographs, illustrations, and other archival and manuscript materials that debuted in the Fall of 2000, to celebrate the acquisition of the University of California, Berkeley Library's nine millionth volume. Courtesy of the University of California Bancroft Library.

Indian Boarding School Photo Gallery.

Indian Peoples of the Northern Great Plains. A photographic database courtesy of Montana State University.

Native American Treaty Signers in the Great Lakes Region.  The Clarke Historical Library (Mt. Pleasant, MI) mounted an exhibit in 2004 that explored the world of Native American leaders from the Great Lakes area who signed treaties with the federal government during the 1820s. This online version of the exhibit features images of 22 Native American treaty signers (drawn and published in full color by J. O. Lewis in 1835-36) and an essay about these leaders which was originally published in the catalog that accompanied the exhibit.

New World Images.  Includes images from Theodore de Bry's The New World (1590) and Sir Francis Drake's New World (1586).  Check out John White's image in A New World : England's First View of America.

Portrait index of North American Indians in published collections / compiled by Patrick Frazier.  Washington, DC : Library of Congress, 1996.  2nd edition, 200pp. Government Documents, U.S. Documents Collection (3 West)   LC 1.2:P 83/3/996 : Indexes selected portraits of individual Native Americans from 75 pictorial works available at the Library of Congress and through interlibrary loan from other libraries around the country.   Also available online via Hathitrust.

MSU Library Special Collections Vertical Files : Ask for the following folders : (1) Native American images in Advertising; (2)  Native American images in children's literature; and (3) Native American images in comics .

General Image Collections

Although not focused exclusively on Native Americans, these collections do contain related images if you are willing to try out your searching skills!

AP Images : Also called Associated Press Multimedia Archive. Includes an ever-changing collection of over 700,000 photographs from the AP news service. Most of the images are contemporary and date from 1995 forwards, but many historical images are also included. All images include descriptive captions and source information.

ArtStor :  

Google Images :  

Life Photo Archive Hosted by Google : Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google. Heh, it may not be from a newspaper but it compliments the AP Images collection.

Library of Congress Newspaper Images via Flicker : In 2008, the Library of Congress began offering historical photograph collections through Flickr in order to share some of our most popular images with a new visual community. Now, the Library of Congress has expanded its Flickr collections to include illustrated and visual content from historic American newspapers available in its online collections.

Picture History  : An on-line archive of images and film footage illuminating more than 200 years of American history.  Click on People and Professions, and then choose Native American Indians.

Subject Guide

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Erik Ponder
African Studies Librarian
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