Plate 9. “Dacota Woman and Assiniboin Girl”. Wied, Maximilian, Prinz von. Travels in the interior of North America during the years 1832-1834; illustrations by Karl Bodmer.

American Indian History and Culture

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections features significant original materials on the history of native peoples of the Western hemisphere. Thousands of rare books document Indian life-ways, and manuscript materials provide documentation of the work of anthropologists, collectors, and ethnologists. The centerpiece of Cornell's American Indian holdings is the Huntington Free Library Native American Collection, a spectacular gathering of more than 40,000 volumes on the archaeology, ethnology and history of the native peoples of the Americas from the colonial period to the present.

Transferred to Cornell University on June 15, 2004 from its former home in the Bronx, NY, The Huntington Free Library Native American Collection contains exceptional materials documenting the history, culture, languages, and arts of the native tribes of both North and South America. Contemporary politics, education, and human rights issues are also important components of the collection.

The rare portion of the Huntington Free Library Native American Collection features more than 4,000 rare books, several significant manuscript collections, as well as photographs, artwork, and related materials. Highlights include a copy of John Eliot's Bible in the Natick dialect (2nd edition, 1685), an album of original drawings of American Indians by the artist George Catlin; and Edward S. Curtis's twenty-volume opus, The North American Indian. Genres represented in great depth include early books of voyage and exploration, missionary reports, ethnography, travel writing, native language dictionaries, captivity narratives, and children's books. The collection also contains a large body of related ephemeral material, such as pamphlets, newspaper clippings, auction catalogs, newsletters, travel brochures, and biography files on prominent Native Americans.

Manuscript holdings include a letter from Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, early 20th century correspondence from Seneca individuals at Cattaragus and Tonawanda to Joseph Keppler, a pictographic catechism in the Quechua language, field notes by 19th century ethnographers; and the papers of archaeological expeditions. Many of the larger manuscript collections have been microfilmed and are available for interlibrary loan.

For descriptions of manuscript collections in the Native American Collection, and access to selected full text resources, see the Digital Resources page.

To identify items in the collection, the majority of which are not yet digitized, you may explore Cornell's Catalog with author, title, or keyword search terms.

To schedule a research visit or ask a question, please fill out our reference form. Terms of access and research policies are described on the Division's Registration & Guidelines for Use and Reproductions & Permissions pages.