The Indian Tribes of North America


Author: Swanton, John R.
Publication Date: 1952
Reprint Date: 2007
Pages: 726 pp.


This is the definitive one-volume guide to the Indian tribes of North America, and it covers all groupings such as nations, confederations, tribes, subtribes, clans, and bands. It is a vast and impressive digest of all Indian groups and their historical locations throughout the continent. Formatted as a dictionary, or gazetteer, and organized by state, it includes all known tribal groupings within the state and the many villages where they were located.

Using the year 1650 to determine the general location of most of the tribes, Swanton has drawn four over-sized fold-out maps, each depicting a different quadrant of North America and the location of the various tribes therein, including not only the tribes of the United States, Canada, Greenland, Mexico, and Central America, but the Caribbean islands as well. According to the author, the gazetteer and the maps are “intended to inform the general reader what Indian tribes occupied the territory of his State and to add enough data to indicate the place they occupied among the tribal groups of the continent and the part they played in the early period of our history. . . .”

Accordingly, the bulk of the text includes such facts as the origin of the tribal name and a brief list of the more important synonyms; the linguistic connections of the tribe; its location; a brief sketch of its history; its population at different periods; and the extent to which its name has been perpetuated geographically. As far as possible each tribe, or group, is treated as an independent entity, but the work as a whole forms an absolutely comprehensive picture of the Indian tribes of North America, and leaves no question unanswered about any tribal grouping, big or small.

Along with the bibliography and index, and the imprimatur of its original publisher, the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology, Swanton’s book is an authoritative digest of the Indian tribes of North America, and it is the one book that you’ll need as a desk reference in your Native American research.

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