Books | History of the Indian Tribes of North America

Thomas Loraine McKenney (1785-1859) - Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1824-1830 - also commissioned some artists to paint portraits of Native American tribe leaders who visited D.C. to have a record of these vanishing peoples (who ironically would've been doing a much better job thriving without organizations like the Bureau of Indian Affairs).  The clothing is just extraordinary - and, surprisingly, much more European than we see in the movies. Whole houses should be decorated in this color palette -- and my god, you have no idea how much I want an ivory blanket with a fur collar (which, upon closer inspection and clearer thinking, is much more likely a reversed buffalo skin, but I still like the idea of a fur collar on a camp blanket).

McKenney and James Hall compiled all these images and descriptions into a big three-volume set of books - History of the Indian Tribes of North America - which sold for a reported $120 when first published (so expensive that only libraries snapped it up).  You can read the whole thing online for free here (god, the internet can be so cool) - or make of game of this history with these.


  1. these are incredible. very handsome works. i'm a little obsessed with ka-ta-wa-be-da and chittee-yoholo.

  2. Leciawp says:

    these are extraordinary!

  3. mary says:

    I have sold a few of these engravings (unfortunately stolen from the books) and now I know where they came from. Absolutely amazing! Have a great week.

  4. suzanne nelson says:

    Only yesterday i was visiting the Museo di Antropologia e Ethnolgia in Florence and thought of you and this blog...

  5. Kelly says:

    These are gorgeous. I would love them framed and on my wall.