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Native American Spaces: Cartographic Resources at the Library of Congress

Ethnography, Linguistics, Distribution, and Archeology

Maps are tools for portraying the organization and distribution of American Indian Cultures. Ethnographic maps depict the distribution of Indian tribes with common ethnic affinities, and linguistic maps group them by common language characteristics. As noted earlier, indications of tribal range appear on a number of early maps, but the first systematic efforts map the geographic distribution of Indian cultural groups did not begin to appear until the early nineteenth century. Most ethnographic and linguistic maps focus on cultural and language associations at the time of European contact and often do not reflect the migrations and adaptations that occurred either prior to or after the encounter.

Portrayals of other aspects of Indian distribution appear primarily on recent maps, including items illustrating Indian land occupancy and use in relationship to Native American land claims; population maps that are usually based on federal census data and illustrate the distribution of individuals rather than tribes and archeological maps that portray the locations and distribution patterns of prehistoric Indian culture and habitation. The Geography and Map Division holds maps illustrating all of these aspects of the cultural and ethnic distribution of North American Indians.

Digitized Maps

The maps in this section have been digitized by the Library and are available for viewing and download online. Select the link on the map or in the caption to view a copy of the map that can be enlarge to view the detail.


Early Attempt to Illustrate the Distribution and Migration of Indian Tribes in the United States, 1828

Emma Willard.  Locations and Wanderings of the Aboriginal Tribes, Introductory Map to Accompany Willard's History of the United States.  1828.  Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This represents one of the first attempts to graphically illustrate the distribution and migrations of Amerindian tribes in the eastern United States.

Learn more about this map on the Featured Maps page.

Map of the Indian tribes of North America, 1836

Albert Gallatin.  Map of the Indian tribes of North America, about 1600 A.D. along the Atlantic, & about 1800 A.D. westwardly. Published by the Amer: Antiq: Soc: from a drawing by Hon: A. Gallatin. 1836. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Former Treasury Secretary, Albert Gallatin, founded the American Ethnological Society, and was an early nineteenth-century recognized authority on Indian languages. His map of Indian tribal distribution accompanied his study of Indian languages, titled A Synopsis of the Indian Tribes within the United States East of the Rocky Mountains.

Linguistic Map of Native Americans, 1890

J. W. Powell. Map of the Linguistic Stock of American Indians chiefly within the present limits of the United States. [1890]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Powell, the founder of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution, conducted numerous archeological, linguistic, and ethnographic studies of American Indians. Though his anthropological ideas are outdated, his map reflects years of research into North American ethnology.

Additional Maps in the Library's Collections

  • A Map of the Ancient Indian Towns on the Pickaway Plain, Illustrating a sketch of the country. Felix Rencik. Cincinnati: Doolittle & Munson, [1844]. Colored map, 47 x53 cm. Scale not given. Filed at Ohio — Indians — 1846.
    Renick's map illustrates the Shawnee villages located on the Pickaway Plains in central Ohio after the Shawnee had moved there in the mid-1700s. The map locates Indian mounds and the important sites of Lord Dunsmore's battles with the Shawnee Chief Cornstalk. It also illustrates the route for the escape of John Slover from the Shawnee at Cornstalks Town.
  • A Map of North America, denoting the boundaries of the Yearly Meetings of Friends and the locations of the various Indian Tribes. James Bowden, 1844. (London: Aborigines' Committee of the Meeting for Sufferings, Society of Friends, 1844). Colored map, 46 x 53 cm. Scale 1:11,250,000. Filed at North America — Indians — 1844 — 1:11,250,000 — J. Bowden.
    This map was produced by the Aborigines' Committee of the Meeting for Sufferings, Society of Friends, in London to depict the annual regional meetings of the Society of Friends in North America in relation to the shifting locations of Indian nations in the United States. Long solicitous of the spiritual and material welfare of Native Americans, the Society of Friends vigorously opposed their forced removal from their home soil, and continued to seek ways to further their ministries among Native American communities throughout the mid-nineteenth century. Also includes population figures for Indians in the United States, including those living east of the Mississippi, those living west of the Mississippi, and those that have been removed from east to west. This map, published in the immediate aftermath of removal, accompanied the title, Some account of the conduct of the religious society of Friends towards the Indian tribes in the settlement of the colonies of East and West Jersey and Pennsylvania: with a brief narrative of their labours for the civilization and Christian instruction of the Indians, from the time of their settlement in America, to the year 1843.
  • [Map of the United States and Territories Showing Linguistic Stocks of American Indians]. Based on Map of the United States and Territories, showing the extent of Public Surveys, Indian and Military Reservations . . . compiled from the official surveys of the General Land Office . . . 1874. C. Roeser, under the direction of S. S. Burdett. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, General Land Office, 1874). Map, hand-colored with wash, on eight sheets, 60 x 50 cm. each, 120 x 200 cm. Scale 1:2,400,000. Call number G3701 .E3 1874 Vault.
    U.S. General Land Office map of the United States augmented by hand-coloring to illustrate major linguistic groups of Native Americans. Names of major linguistic groups also printed on the map, which further depicts Indian and military reservations, railroads, land grant railroad, roads, canals, extent of Public Land Survey System, and land office locations. Also includes an inset of the Alaska Territory and a keyed legend.
  • Map of Alaska and Adjoining Regions. Compiled by Ivan Petroff, Special Agent, Tenth Census, 1880. Showing the Distribution of Native Tribes. Drawn by Harry King. [New York, ca. 1880]. From Petroff's Report on the Population, Industries, and Resources of Alaska, 1884. Colored map, 62 x 78 cm. Scale ca. 1:3,500,000. Filed at Alaska — Ethnography — 1880 — 1:3,500,000 — Ivan Petroff / Harry King.
    Map shows the distribution of Indian, Aleut, and Eskimo tribes, as they were distributed around the time of the Tenth U.S. Census, 1880.
  • Distribution of Mounds in the Eastern United States, compiled under the direction of Cyrus Thomas. (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Ethnology, 1890). From Bureau of Ethnology's Twelfth Annual Report, plate xx, 1890-91. Map, 44 x 42 cm. Scale 1:6,600,000. Filed at United States — Indians — 1890 — no scale — Thomas Cyrus.
    Individual red dots and clusters of red dots indicate mounds or mound groups in the eastern United States.
  • Chart of Central Settlements of Quivira and Harahey, Kansas Valley, North America. Drawn for Robert Henderson, by J. V. Brower. 1902. Colored map, 21 x 34 cm. Scale ca. 1:350,000. Filed at Kansas — Indians — 1902.
    Map indicates the locations of Quivira, Harahey, and Kaw village sites and burial mounds in the vicinity of Manhattan, Kansas.
  • Archeological Atlas of Ohio, Showing the Distribution of the various Classes of Prehistoric Remains in the State, with a Map of the Principal Indian Trails and Towns. William C. Mills. Columbus: Ohio State Archeological and Historical Society, 1914. Call number G1396 .E15M5 1914.
    Atlas contains a separate map of each county showing the locations of mounds, enclosures, village sites, burial grounds, pertroglyphs, and flint quarries.
  • Archeological Atlas of Michigan. Wilbert B. Hinsdale. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1931. Call number G1411 .E8H55 1931.
    Atlas contains twenty maps showing the locations of mounds, enclosures, earthworks, villages, burial grounds, gardens, trails, and copper excavations.
  • Romance of the Missions. California. (Santa Barbara: W. J. Goodacre, 1939). Colored map, 54 x 44 cm. Scale not given. Filed at California — Religion — Missions — 1939 — W. J. Goodacre.
    This pictorial map relates the history of each of California's twenty-one Spanish Catholic missions. Text describes the founding and design of each mission, accompanied by its illustration. Additional illustrations depict friars and conquistadors erecting a cross, a group of Indians engaged in constructing a mission church, and a portrait of Father Junipero Serra, who spearheaded the mission movement. Additional text discusses the history of the mission system, the Franciscan Friars, and the response of California's Indians to the missions. Per its era, the map presents an archaic history of Spanish settlement of North America's Pacific Coast, rendering it as a benign process of religious and cultural enlightenment for Native Americans. But Serra, canonized as a saint in the twenty-first century, and the program he instated are also criticized by Native rights activists as promoters of European colonialism and practitioners of forced Indian labor.
  • The North American Indians, 1950 Distribution of Descendants of the Aboriginal Population of Alaska, Canada, and the United States. A map prepared under the direction of Sol Tax, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago. 4th edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, ca. 1961. Colored map, 63 x71 cm. Scale ca. 1:10,000,000. Filed at North America — Indians — 1950.
    Map locates and lists the population of all self-identified Indian communities as of 1950.
  • Maps of Tribal Locations and Indian Agencies. In Report with Respect to the House Resolution Authorizing the Committee on Indian and Insular Affairs to Conduct an Investigation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1953. 82d Congress, 2d. Sess, House Report no. 2503. U.S. Congressional serial set no. 11582, Law Library.
    Committee report contains 157 maps illustrating the location of various Indian groups as of 1950 and depicts approximations of the original range occupied by these groups.
  • Tribal Distribution in North America, 1500-1600. Robin F. Wells [Toledo, Ohio], 1971. Colored map, 122 x 105 cm. Scale ca. 1:6,336,000. Call number G3301 .E1 1600 .W4.
    Map depicts the migrations of various tribes and links between tribes. There are five additional "Tribal Distribution" maps by Wells, filed under different classification numbers, covering the time periods 1600-50, 1650-1715, 1715-60, 1760-1810, and 1810-40.
  • North America before Columbus / produced by the Cartographic Division, National Geographic Society ; Richard J. Darley, chief cartographer . . . National Geographic Society. Washington, D.C., 1973. Colored map, 92 x 79 cm. Scale 1:10,610,000. Call number G3301.E1 1500 .N3.
    Map shows Indian occupation sites at four time periods: before 8,000 B.C; 8,000-1,000 B.C.; 1,000 B.C.- A.D. 1,000; and A.D. 1,000-contact with Europeans. Verso of map entitled "Indians of North America," which illustrates cultural and tribal divisions.
  • Number of American Indians by counties of the United States: 1970. Prepared by Geography Division, in cooperation with Population Division, Bureau of the Census, Social and Economic Statistics Administration, U.S. Dept. of Commerce. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1973. Colored map, 70 x 99 cm. Scale ca. 1:5,000,000. Call number G3701.E1 1970 .U5.
    Maps indicates Indian population density by county per the 1970 federal census.
  • Native Languages of the Northwest Coast. Wayne and Cameron Suttles, 1985. (Portland, Or.: Western Imprints, c1985). Colored map, 61 x 101 cm. Scale :3,000,000. Call number G4371.E3 1985 .S9 MLC.
    Map illustrates language families, in particular the Yupik languages, and relationships for the region from Kodiak Island, Alaska, to Northern California.
  • We the People: An Atlas of America's Ethnic Diversity. James Paul Allen and Eugene James Turner. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1988. Atlas, 29 x 43 cm. Scales differ. Call number G1201.E1 A4 1988.
    Atlas includes a chapter on "People of Early North American Origin," which discusses and illustrates modern distribution and migration issues relating to Indians, Eskimo, and Aleut.
  • Atlante: Le civlita indigene delle Americhe. Introduzione di Aurelio Rigoli, a curi di Annamaria Amitrano. Genoa: Edizioni Colombo, c1992. Atlas, 34 cm. Scale 1:10,000,000. Call number G1101.E1 A8 1992.
    An Italian atlas illustrating the territorial distribution and habitat of Indian groups in the 1692-1728 time period.
  • Census Atlas of the United States: Census 2000 Special Reports. U.S. Department of Commerce, [prepared by] Trudy A. Suchan et al. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau, 2007. Atlas, 40 cm. Scales differ. Call number G1201.E2 U5 2007.
    A comprehensive census atlas of the United States based upon figures gathered in the 2000 national census, it includes maps and figures on American Indian and Alaska Native age, college completion, homeownership, income, labor force participation, married-couple families with children, migration, Native North American language spoken at home, one-parent families with children, and veterans.