News From Terre Haute, Indiana


November 24, 2007

Genealogy: ‘Indian Tribes of North America’ quite an undertaking

TERRE HAUTE — Several years ago, when I was traveling in Missouri, I visited the Trail of Tears National Monument near Cape Girardeau. The ranger there told me she was compiling a list of the names of all of the Indian tribes she could discover. At the time I thought, “How many tribes could there actually be?” I had no idea how vast an undertaking this was. But a publication, recently sent to me to review, points to the enormity of that ranger’s endeavor. This year’s reprinting by the Genealogical Publishing Co. of “Indian Tribes of North America” by John R. Swanson will make the ranger’s quest immensely easier. I hope she gets a copy.

This extensive volume was originally published in 1952 by the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology. It encompasses every known tribe in North America from upper Canada, Greenland and Alaska, through the lower 48 states, and culminating in Mexico, Central America and the islands of the Caribbean. It focuses on the time period of 1650 in order to document the tribes that existed before being relocated by the encroaching Europeans. This book seeks to fill in the huge gap in our knowledge of Native American tribes before the period of removal to Indian Territory (what later became Oklahoma), when recordkeeping was established.

The book is arranged in sections by state or other location, starting with a listing of all Indian groups who lived, hunted, or otherwise had a connection to that state. The tribal listing is followed by sections on “connections” (origin of a tribal name and its connection to a larger linguistic group), “location” (the areas within the state and adjoining states occupied by a tribe), “subdivisions” (other groupings such as nations, confederations, clans, bands, etc.), “villages” (known places in the state where a tribe had settlements), “history” (historical summary of a tribe), population (estimated population of a tribe at various times in history, starting in the 1600s), and finally, “connection in which they have become noted” (how a tribe is known in history, famous leaders, etc.). The book also has an extensive bibliography and index.

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    March 12, 2010