This pencil and watercolor drawing was made when Titian Ramsay Peale was on the "Long Expedition," which encountered many Indigenous peoples, including the Omaha, Oto, and Pawnee tribes.
The expedition traveled from St. Louis to the Rocky Mountains on rivers and lasted two years, from 1819 to 1820. There were two key results of the Long Expedition — a very accurate description of Indian customs and Indian life as they existed among the Oto (part of the Southern Sioux), Omaha, and Pawnee and a description of the land west of the Mississippi River.
Chehalis language Field Notebooks
The anthropologist Franz Boas (1858-1942) and his students recorded the languages and traditions of many dozens of Native cultures from the Arctic to Central America, writing down stories, vocabularies, histories, and descriptions of cultural traditions. Over several decades of work, they filled up thousands of notebooks and created the first accounts of how many of these languages work. Although they collected this information assuming that these cultures would disappear, the very same Native communities they visited are utilizing these materials today.
Portrait of Peter Stephen DuPonceau
Peter Stephen du Ponceau (1760-1844) was one of the world’s leading scholars of languages, in a time before linguistics came to be regarded as a discipline unto itself. He was one of the first people in the Western world to correctly describe how written Chinese works. As President of the APS for many years, he greatly expanded the Society’s tradition of studying Native American languages, making the APS Library the pre-eminent place in the world to study them. This oil portrait of him is by APS Member, Thomas Sully.
Shortly before DuPonceau died, he sat for a daguerreotype photograph by APS Member Robert Cornelius. This is one of the earliest photographs taken in the United States. You can see the photograph if you click right below the painted portrait.
Domingo de Vico
This “Theology for the Indians” was written by a Spanish friar named Domingo de Vico in K’iche’, a Mayan language of Guatemala that is spoken today by 2.3 million people. The manuscript is the earliest document at the APS Library written in an Indigenous language of the Americas. The Theologia is also considered to be the very first original Christian work written—in any language—in the Americas.
Before and After Photographs of A:shiwi (Zuni) Children
John Nicholas Choate
These “before and after” photographs show children from the A:shiwi (Zuni) reservation in Arizona at the Carlisle in traditional dress and in school uniforms: Tsai-au-tit-sa (Mary Ealy), Jan-i-uh-tit-sa (Jennie Hammaker), Tsa-we-ea-tsa-lun-kia (Taylor Ealy), and Teai-e-se-u-lu-ti-wa (Frank Cushing).
The Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania prepared Native students for industrial labor and “civilized” life by teaching them English and history, along with domestic and trade skills. Open from 1879 to 1918, the Carlisle enrolled over 12,000 students. Children attending the Carlisle were separated from their communities, given uniforms and new English names, and forbidden to speak their languages.
Ely S. Parker
Ely S. Parker (1828-1895) was a Seneca chief who served in the Civil War as an assistant to Ulysses S. Grant, rising to the rank of Brigadier General. After the war, he was appointed as the first Native American head of the Department of Indian Affairs. His papers document his work fighting for Seneca land rights and trying to bridge the difficult divide between two cultures during this difficult historical period.
Recorded in the 1990s and 2000s
In the 1990s and 2000s, the journalist and APS Member Maureen Matthews recorded over 400 hours of oral history interviews with Ojibwe people in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario. Most of the interviews are in the Ojibwe language, conducted by community members like Margaret Simmons, here working with elder Charlie George Owen. They are viewing and talking about people in photographs, including Charlie George as a young man. The photos were taken by the anthropologist A. Irving Hallowell in the 1930s.
Map of Washington State tribes’ distribution circa 1797
James Teit (lived 1864-1922),
James Teit (1864-1922) was born in the Shetland Islands near Scotland, but moved to rural British Columbia as young man to become a shopkeeper and hunting guide. For many years he travelled thousands of miles from Alaska to Oregon to Montana, documenting the histories, cultures, and traditional territories of Indigenous peoples of these regions. Thanks to his first wife, an Nlaka’pamux woman named Lucy Artko, Teit became conversant in the Nlaka'pamuctsin language. In his later years, he became a strong advocate for Indigenous political rights, traveling with delegations of chiefs to Ottawa to serve as their translator and lobbyist.
The manuscripts of the linguist Mary Haas (1910-1996) are filled with stories and vocabularies from over 100 Native American languages.
She was guided by people like Sesostrie Youchigant, the last fluent speaker of the Tunica language, whose stories and knowledge are now being used by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana to revitalize their language. Although a student of two famous figures—Franz Boas and Edward Sapir—as a professor at Berkeley, Haas eventually trained more linguists than both of her teachers combined.