Maps drawn by Indians and Indian mapping abilities have been documented in a number of sources, but because of their ephemeral nature, relatively few Indian-created maps exist today. The indigenous population was often sought out by European explorers to guide or provide geographical information about unknown lands, and Indian guides were also often enlisted to provide reconnaissance data for military and commercial activities Responses to solicitations for geographic information were sometimes given in a cartographic format. The cartographic and geographic information provided by Indian guides could appear in the explorer's report and might eventually be incorporated into published maps. Maps drawn by Indians, as well as evidence of their contributions to European-created maps, are valuable and rare documents for studying Indian peoples' geographical knowledge and spatial understanding. They complement the oral record, and they also help establish and clarify the Indians' role as guides and informants in furthering European explorations in North America. The Geography and Map Division does not have original examples of Native American cartography that pre-date European contact, but it has two eighteenth-century manuscripts created by Indians for use by Europeans and a few reproductions and facsimiles of other maps drawn by Indians.
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.
Mathematician Thomas Harriot and artist John White were among the first English colonists settled at Roanoke Island in 1585. Their manuscript map of the Outer Banks was revised and engraved by Theodore de Bry, and published in 1590 to accompany his reprint of Harriot's A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia. The map covers the North Carolina Coastal Plain, including the Chesapeake Inlet, Pamlico and Albermarle sounds, and Roanoke Island, and extends westward to the sources of the rivers of the sounds. It includes information derived directly from Native American sources and observations, such as the names and locations of Native American villages, most palisaded as in their actual construction; pictorial representations of individual Indians, taken from White's drawings; native canoes in Pamlico Sound; emblems for various species of trees; and a heavily-forested mountain region that serves as the headwaters of the Roanoke River.
This map, based upon a three-month survey by boat by Captain John Smith and a small party of colonists, is the first published map of the Chesapeake Bay region. The copy here accompanied the 1624 edition of Smith's The generall Historie of Virginia. Sailing up the major rivers flowing into the bay from the west, Smith and his party encountered numerous Native American villages, in the process recording their names and populations. The legend on the map and its concomitant symbols differentiates between areas and features that have been discovered by the English and those learned about by Native American informants. Indeed, the Maltese crosses on each river indicates the extent of the party's actual personal knowledge, versus the remainder reported as being taken from instructions furnished to them by local Indians. A cartouche in the upper left hand corner illustrates the chief of the Powhatan federation of Indians in council.
Coverage on this map extends from the Middle Mississippi to what is now western Pennsylvania, and from Lake Erie to the mouth of the Ohio River. The information on the map concentrates on the Twightwees, the English name for the Miamis, which raises the possibility that its author, Chegeree, was a Miami, who had migrated in the area of the Wabash and Maumee rivers in the beginning of the eighteenth century. While the map emphasizes the strategic location of the Miamis, it also shows the locations of Indians allied with the French along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
Often referred to as the "Catawba Deerskin Map," it was drawn on behalf of English colonial administrators to illustrate the strategically important network connecting Indian groups located on the South Carolina piedmont, and with South Carolina and Virginia. The inset on the left depicts Charleston with its rectangular street grid pattern, below which is a picture of a ship at harbor. It's formal title is "This map describing the scituation [sic] of the several nations of Indians to the NW of South Carolina was coppyed [sic] from a draught drawn & painted on a deer skin by an Indian Cacique and presented to Francis Nicholson Esqr. Governor of South Carolina by whom it is most humbly dedicated to his Royal Highness George, Prince of Wales". The original map is in the British Library External.
Based upon the report of an Indian scout for the British, this map by an unidentified map maker records General Braddock's defeat on July 9, 1755, when he unsuccessfully attempted to attack Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh), which was defended by over two hundred French forces, in addition to over 600 Indians, mostly Potawatomis and Ottawas from west of the Great Lakes, who in turn were joined by parties of Miamis, Delawares, Shawnees, Mingo, and Ohio Indians. The verso of the map has been annotated by John Montrésor, a British military cartographer on the expedition to Fort Duquesne, and may have been in his possession.
This map, published under the auspices of the Office of Indian Affairs, was compiled and drawn by Sam Attahvich, a Comanche, and is a rare example of a map prepared exclusively by an American Indian for publication in the first half of the twentieth century. Per its title, it is a cartographic record of all tribes, reservations, and settlements in the United States and the Territory of Alaska around the end of the Great Depression. It distinguishes between tribal lands, reservations allotted in part, reservations allotted and open, colonies in Nevada, and rancherias in California.
Please Note: a preliminary finding-aid prepared by Lewis accompanies the collection and is available for use in the Geography and Map Reading Room.
G. Malcolm Lewis was formerly reader in geography at the University of Sheffield, U.K., and the foremost scholar of the cartography and geographic knowledge of North American Indians. The collection comprises approximately 700 items in 65 containers, plus 5 oversize containers, for a total of 10.5 linear feet. The materials essentially consist of his collection of reproductions of Native American maps and artifacts, as well as extensive published and manuscript notes on each piece, assembled in preparation for his publications on the cartography of North American Indian and Inuit peoples. Materials may include photocopies, photographs, photo-transparencies of maps; photocopies of related printed and manuscript materials; Lewis' manuscript notes and transcripts; and related correspondence.
The collection is organized into six broad, color-coded, series:
Four oversize boxes contain card-mounted photocopies and photographs of materials from the red series of North American Indian and Inuit maps, and one includes miscellany.
The following maps are only available at the Library of Congress in the Geography and Map Reading Room in the James Madison Building of the Library of Congress.