Letters and notes on the manners, customs, and conditions of the North American Indians; written during eight years' travel (1832-1839) amongst the wildest tribes of Indians in North America

by George Catlin

Paper Book, 1973



Call number

E77 .C38 1973


New York, Dover Publications [1973]


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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Stevil2001
George Catlin spent several years journeying across the American West, chronicling the rapidly vanishing Native American tribes. This book is replete with not only his anthropological notes, but also reproductions of paintings he made, showing the visual splendor of these peoples. Of course, what
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he fails to acknowledge directly is that the Native Americans weren't just magically vanishing into thin air: they were vanishing thanks to the American imperial project of which Catlin was an integral part. Catlin rides out with the U.S. military to help put down some Native American groups on more than one occasion in here. There's a curious double project here on Catlin's part: both fascinated by the Native Americans, yet determined to see his people win out.

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.
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LibraryThing member markm2315
Folio Society Edition is beautiful.


Original publication date


Physical description

24 cm


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