Although he is best known for his paintings of Native Americans, George Catlin (1796-1872) also wrote books about his experiences among the indigenous peoples of the United States. During the 1830s he travelled widely in the western frontier regions with the aim of documenting the vanishing cultures of the Indians, and managed to meet 48 groups. This was a critical time for Native Americans, as US government policies were forcing many tribes off their ancestral land and onto reservations west of the Mississippi River. Catlin's two-volume work, published in 1841, is a compilation of his letters and field notes, and includes over 300 drawings of people, artefacts and animals. Catlin, following the Romantic tradition, expresses admiration for the 'honest and honourable' Indians, and disgust at 'civilised man' having made them 'victims to whiskey, the small-pox and the bayonet'. Volume 2 focuses on tribes in Arkansas, Texas and Florida.
As for the book itself, it's hard reading if you yourself aren't interested in the ethnography of 19th-century Native Americans. Catlin visits a lot of different tribes, and his commentary soon becomes repetitive, often digressive and dull. He tries to liven things up on occasion, but he does this by including far more exclamation marks than should ever appear within a single sentence.