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Native American Spaces: Cartographic Resources at the Library of Congress

Indian Lands, Village Sites, Tribal Range, Place Names, and Communication Routes

The Geography and Map Division holds a very large group of maps, both historical and current, which in most cases were not intended specifically to describe the Indian environment, but which nevertheless record such cultural data as village locations and tribal range. A large component of this category and one of value for anthropological and archeological studies, is the series of maps that portray the landscape at the time of Euro-American contact and exploration. Since exploration of North America was an evolutionary process that began with maritime expeditions and continued almost four hundred years, maps illustrating the contact period for a coastal area may differ greatly in date from those of interior regions of the continent.

With the advancement of Euro-American settlement, much of the Indian cultural data recorded on early maps was replaced by depictions of the evidence of non-Indian occupancy. When these maps are studied over time, they can provide insight into tribal migrations, as well as intertribal and Indian / non-Indian relations.

This category encompasses thousands of maps dating from the time of first European contacts to the present. It includes small-scale maps of North America, general maps of the United States, early state maps, regional maps, county maps, and even some city plans. For example, large-scale county landownership maps and atlases published from the mid-nineteenth century to the present may provide information about Indian landownership and the sale of reservation lands. Even large-scale nineteenth century hydrographic charts of the Pacific coast published by the United States, Great Britain, and Russia often include the location of, and sometime significant detail about, coastal Indian settlements.

The maps in this category are valuable resources for Indian place names. When correctly deciphered, indigenous place names are linguistic artifacts containing environmental and historical meaning. In addition, early maps may record the trails and communication routes of aboriginal peoples, routes which have in many cases determined the course of modern roads and influenced the location of American cities and towns.

Modern mapping continues, at larger scales, to depict settlements, roads, names, and other cultural features of Indian reservations. The 1:24,000 and 1:100,000 scale topographic mapping of the United States by the U.S. Geological Survey, for example, portrays the current physical and cultural landscape of Indian reservations, a practice that has carried over into the current U.S.G.S. National Geospatial Program in the form of the National Map External

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 enlarged to view the detail.


Manuscript Map of the Gulf Coast, 1544

Alonso de Santa Cruz. [Mapa del Golfo y costa de la Nueva España : desde el Río de Panuco hasta el cabo de Santa Elena ...]. ca. 1544. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This photograph of a manuscript map attributed to Spanish Royal Cosmographer, Alonso de Santa Cruz, was prepared from information derived from surviving members of the Soto entrada into the Southeastern United States. It shows the coast from the vicinity of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina to the Panuco River in Mexico, and the interior as far north as the Tennessee River. Among its 127 names and pictorial legends are approximately 60 settlements related to Native Americans. It is the only extant contemporary map attempting to illustrate the country explored by de Soto, and many of its names and legends are found in various accounts of the expedition.

The original is in the Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain.

Map of the Southeastern United States, 1591

Jacques Le Moyne de Morgue. Floridae Americae provinciae recens & exactissima descriptio auctorè Iacobo le Moyne cui cognomen de Morgues, qui Laudōnierum . . . 1591. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

French Huguenot artist, Jacques Le Moyne de Morgue, accompanied an expedition to settle French Florida in 1564. For several generations his iconic maps and drawings of the New World shaped Europeans' conceptions of Native lands and peoples. His 1591 map of the what is now the southeastern United States identifies the names of about fifty Native American communities along the coast and in the interior. Le Moyne's personal explorations were limited to the coastal areas, and thus the bulk of the information — some of it confirmed as accurate, some not — was obtained from geographical intelligence supplied by local Indians and reports of other Europeans.

Champlain Map of Canada, 1607

Samuel de Champlain. Descripsion des costs, pts., rades, illes de la Nouuele France faict selon son vray méridien : avec la déclinaison de la ment de plussieurs endrois selon que le sieur de Castes le franc le démontre en son liure de la mécométrie de l'emnt. 1607. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Drawn by French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, and based upon observations and interviews with Native people along the North Atlantic Coast, this chart locates numerous French and Indian settlements, the latter identified by their original indigenous place names.

Manuscript Map of Manhattan, 1639

Joan Vingboons. Manatvs gelegen op de Noot [sic] Riuier. 1639. Harrisse Collection, Vingboons atlas, vol. 3. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

This pictorial manuscript map of Manhattan and its environs was copied around 1665 after a 1639 map by Joan Vingboons, the principal cartographer for the Dutch West India Company. In addition to evidence of Dutch settlement in Manhattan, the map features in the Brooklyn area four longhouses representing the Indian villages Wichquawank, Techkonis, Mareckweich, and Keskachauc. One of the settlements is noted as being "This is the type of houses the Indians live in." This is typical of the unexpected evidence of Indian settlement and culture that can appear on cartographic documents, but normally not considered resources for American Indian studies.

Learn more about this map on the Featured Maps page.

Map of Virginia and Maryland, 1673

Augustine Herrman and Thomas Withinbrook. Virginia and Maryland as it is Planted and Inhabited this present Year 1670 Surveyed and Exactly Drawne by the Only Labour & Endeavour of Augustin Herrman Bohemiensis. W: Faithorne Sculpt. 1673. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Based on a survey conducted over a ten-year period, this map by merchant, explorer, and local resident, Augustine Herrman, was published in London in 1673, and provided Europeans with the most detailed information about the Mid-Atlantic region since the publication of John Smith's map of Virginia in the early seventeenth century. Noteworthy is the map's careful delineation of the Tidewater rivers and streams, especially with the names of plantations and the locations of Indian houses, in addition to the Lenape villages in southern New Jersey and the residences of the Susquehannonock and the Choptico in Maryland. The names of various counties, plantations, and the original boundary line agreed upon by Virginia and Maryland in 1688 attest to the expanding British settlement in the region once in Indian hands during the seventeenth century.

For further information on this map see the publication, A Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman's Chesapeake, by Christian J. Koot

Map of North and Central America, 1703

Guillaume de L'Isle. Carte du Mexique et de la Floride des Terres Angloises et des Isles Antilles : du cours et des environs de la Riviere de Mississipi [sic], dressée sur ungrand nombre de memoires principalemt. sur ceux de d'Iberville et le Sueur. 1703. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This French map of North and Central America by Royal Cartographer, Guillaume de L'Isle, identifies the names and locations of the Moquis Pueblos of Arizona and the pueblos of New Mexico as they were known in the early eighteenth century, while the region was part of Northern New Spain. Also identified are the major Indian peoples of in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Spanish Map of the Southeastern United States, 1742

Antonio de Arredondo. Descripcion geographica de la parte que los españoles poseen actualmente en el continente de la Florida del Del Dominio en que estan los ingleses con legitimo titulo solo en virtud del tratado de pases del año de 1670 y de la jurisdicion que indevidamente an ocupado despues de d[ic]ho tratado en que se manifiestan las tierras que usurpan y se definen los limites que deven prescrivirse para una y otra nacion en conformidad del derecho de la Corona de España. (1914, copied from the original dated 1742 in Archivo General de Indias, Seville.) Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This map was originally devised to recognize Spanish imperial control over Florida, which Spain asserted as extending north to the Chesapeake Bay (Bahía de Santa María) and west beyond the Mississippi River. A colored line in the map indicates the route of Hernando De Soto's sixteenth century entrada (1539-43) into the Southeastern part of the United States, and the Native American settlements he visited along the way.  This copy of the 1742 map by Arredondo in the Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain, was prepared by José Luis Gomez in 1914 for the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress also possesses one of the original eighteenth century versions of this map under the same title and under call number H. P. Kraus Collection of Hispanic American Manuscripts, 156, Manuscript Division.

French Territorial Survey of Louisiana, 1743

Broutin, de Vergés, and Saucier. Carte particulière d'une partie de la Louisianne ou les fleuve et rivierres [i.e. rivières] onts etés relevé a l'estime & les routtes [i.e. routes] par terre relevé & mesurées aux pas, par les Srs. Broutin, de Vergés, ingénieurs & Saucier dessinateur. 1743. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This handsome manuscript map draws upon territorial surveys undertaken by French military engineers and draughtsmen in eighteenth century Louisiana. The map appertains to the strategy devised by Governor Bienville for fighting the Chickasaw by using other American Indians as auxillaries. It covers the Mississippi River Valley from Memphis to the Gulf of Mexico as far east as central Alabama, and depicts numerous streams, routes, European communities, fortifications, and Native American settlements and place names in the former French colony of Louisiana. Extensive notes describe the various routes taken by the surveyors, especially those that linked the Choctaw villages with Fort Tombigbee and the Yazoo River, and the topography of the land encountered. Additional notes describe the Mississippi River drainage system.

A Trader's Map of the Ohio Country, 1753

John Patten. [A trader's map of the Ohio country before 1753.] ca. 1753. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Attributed to English fur trader, John Patten, this map covers the area from Lake Erie to Virginia, and depicts numerous Indian towns, trails, and portages in the Old Northwest Territory.

Map of the British and French Dominions in North America, 1755

John Mitchell. A map of the British and French dominions in North America, with the roads, distances, limits, and extent of the settlements, humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Halifax, and the other Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners for Trade & Plantations. . . 1755. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

This first edition of John Mitchell's map of North America is one of the most important and complete cartographic documents in American history. It shows roads, frontier settlements, routes of exploration, Indian settlements, fortification, and deserted villages.

All Library editions of the Mitchell map are available for viewing via the Library of Congress.

Map Showing Indian Land in Georgia, 1772

Author unknown. [Map showing Indian land &c. 1772.] No date. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This manuscript map depicts the lands in Georgia that the Cherokees have assigned for payments of debts in 1771. The inscription on the verso of the map notes that it was "Endorsed in Mr. Stuart's (No. 42) [sic] of 13 June 1772," and cites it as pertaining to ""Col. off. 5. vol. 73, pp. 321-322. Old A.W.I. 276." Also shows creeks and rivers, the "road from the Creek Nation to Augusta," and Forts Moore and Augusta.

Learn more about this map on the Featured Maps page.

Spanish Military Map of the Southwest United States, 1769

José de Urrutia and Nicolas de la Fora. Mapa, que comprende la Frontera, de los Dominios del Rey, en la America Septentrional. 1769. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This large and beautifully-drawn map illustrates the findings of the 1766-68 expedition under the leadership of the Marqués de Rubí to inspect every northern presidio with a view towards improving the frontier defenses of northern New Spain. All four sheets were drawn by Nicolas de LaFora of the Royal Corp of Engineers and Don José de Urrutia, an experienced military draftsman, both of whom accompanied the expedition. Depicted are existing and suggested pueblos, towns, villas, missions, mines, ranches, and haciendas. Also prominently shown are southwestern Amerindian nations, as well as the pictorial representation of Native American viillages ("Rancherias de Gentiles") as tepees.

For a fuller description and additional references, see the entry by Dennis Reinhartz titled "Spanish Military Mapping of the Northern Borderlands after 1750," pp. 57-79, in Mapping and Empire: soldier-engineers on the southwestern frontier, ed. by Dennis Reinhartz and Gerald D. Saxon (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005).

Map of Georgia, 1779

Author unknown. A new and accurate map of the province of Georgia in North America. [1779]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This map of the province of Georgia includes several trails and paths used for trading, locations of Native American settlements, the "Hunting Grounds of the Cherakees and Muskhogees," and generalized locations of Native American tribes.

Map of Alabama and Geogria with Creek Settlements, 1816

Author unkown. Map by which the Creek Indians gave their statement at Fort Strother on the 22nd Jany, 1816 : [Alabama and Georgia]. [1816]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This manuscript map covers Alabama and Georgia from the Tombigbee River in the west to the southern Great Smoky Mountains and the Savannah River in the east. It is accompanied by a statement given by a Creek member at Fort Strother, Alabama, to General John Coffee, who led troops under Andrew Jackson during the Creek Wars. The map depicts U.S. army forts, Creek settlements, streams and rivers, and trails, and includes a statement in which the Creek plaintiff claims knowledge and possession of the lands illustrated on the map. The lands are possibly those vacated by the Upper Creek (Red Stick) following the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814.

Plan of Statesburgh, Wisconsin, 1832

Author Unknown. Map of the Fox River and that part of the Winnebagoe Lake as contained within the limits of the cession of 1821 by the Menominie and Winnebago Indians to the New York tribes. ca. 1832. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This detailed manuscript plan depicts the town of Statesburgh (Kaukauna), which was established by the Munsee and Stockbridge Indians on the south side of the Fox River, Wisconsin, along the rapids. Shown are roughly seventy-five buildings and tracts of land belonging to the town's inhabitants. Also depicted are Indian paths, a portage, a mission house, sawmill, land intended for a grist mill, a school house and school lot, a burying ground, a store, and Augustin Grignon's house and mill. Numbers appear to relate to a keyed legend, which is now lost.

Map of the Upper Great Plains and Rocky Mountains Region, 1851

Father P. J. De Smet. [Map of the upper Great Plains and Rocky Mountains region] / Respectfully presented to Col. D. D. Mitchell by P. J. De Smet, Soc. Jes., 1851. 1851. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Drawn by Father P. J. De Smet, a Jesuit missionary to the western Indians, this map was prepared to define tribal lands and limit tribal rivalries. Because tribal chiefs, Indian agents, military officers, and fur traders contributed to its contents, some scholars believe it was made in conjunction with the Treaty of Fort Laramie concluded in 1851 between the United States and several Plains Indian tribes. It is the most detailed and accurate record of the locations of mountain ranges, rivers, forts, and major trails of this region prior to the western railway surveys.

Map of Territorial Divisions of the Native Peoples of New York in 1720, 1851

Lewis H. Morgan. Map of Ho-Dé-No-Sau-Nee-Ga, or the Territories of the People of the Long House in 1720. Exhibiting the Home Country of the of the Iroquois with the Aboriginal Names of their Villages, Lakes, Rivers, Streams & Ancient Localities, and the Courses of their Principal Trails. by Lewis H. Morgan, 1851. 1851. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This 1851 map depicts the territorial divisions of the Native peoples of New York as they were in 1720. As indicated by the title, all geographical feature names are in the original Iroquois language. Map also identifies Indian villages, White towns, Indian trails, territorial boundaries, falls, and cold springs. It was prepared by Lewis H. Morgan, the American anthropologist, social theorist, and politician who collaborated with Ely Parker, Seneca attorney and tribal diplomat, to publish a study of Iroquois kinship and social structure, titled League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois.

Map of the territory of the United States from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean, 1857

G.K. Warren.Map of the territory of the United States from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean; ordered by Jeff'n Davis, Secretary of War to accompany the reports of the explorations for a railroad route. 1857. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Map prepared to accompany the official reports of the trans-continental railroad routes. It depicts tribal territories, some villages, military posts, and routes and dates of expeditions and surveys.

Topographical Atlas to Illustrate Explorations and Surveys of the West,1873

George M. Wheeler.Topographical Atlas Projected to Illustrate Geographical Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th. Meridian of Longitude, 1889, prepared to accompany the Report upon United States Geographical surveys west of the one hundredth meridian 1889. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

This topographical atlas is one of two (the other being geological) prepared to accompany Lieut. George M. Wheeler's geographical surveys west of the 100th meridian, 1871-79. Wheeler produced nearly one hundred medium-scale topographic maps based on field surveys of the southwestern United States. The detailed maps within this atlas include Indian names and show the locations of Indian settlements, trails, and ruins.

The atlas is available in full as digital images through the Library of Congress Website.

Dakota Territory, 1878

Julius J. Durrage. Dakota Territory. Prepared by order of Brig. Genl. A. H. Terry. 1878. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

U.S. military map of the Dakota Territory depicts tribal lands, forts, exploration routes, northern railroad survey routes, place names, streams and rivers, White settlements, extent of the Public Land Survey in the Territory, and relief.

Atlas of Becker County, Minnesota, 1929

Brock & Co. Standard atlas of Becker County, Minnesota: including a plat book of the villages, cities and townships of the county, map of the state, United States and world . . . ca. 1929. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

This 1929 atlas shows physical, cultural, and cadastral information about Becker County, including coverage of a portion of White Earth Indian Reservation and concomitant references to Indian land ownership.

The full atlas is available as digital images via the Library of Congress Website.

Additional Maps in the Library's Collections

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.

  • Plan du Fort des Sauvages Natchez Blocque par les Francois le 20 Janvier 1731 . . . Photocopy, 25 x 38 cm.  Scale ca. 1:3,000.  Filed at Louisiana -- Sicily Island -- 1731.
    Copied from an original manuscript in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, the map shows the French attack on the Natchez settlement at Sicily Island, Louisiana, in 1727.  In addition to military data, it illustrates the settlement pattern of a Natchez community.
    Original manuscript map External available via BNF Gallica.
  • Carte Particulière du Fleuve Saint Louis [Mississippi River], Dressée sur les Lieux avex les Noms des Sauvages du Pais . . . Henry Abraham Chatelain, 1732.  Printed map, 37 x 46 cm.  Scale ca. 1:11,500,000.  Filed at U.S. -- Great Lakes -- 1732.
    Map shows Indian settlements in the Great Lakes region, and also includes legends listing Indian tribes and languages.
  • Map of Alabama Constructed from the Surveys in the General Land Office and other Documents.  John Melish, 1819.  Colored map, 69 x 49 cm.  Scale 1:950,400.  Call number G3970 1819 .M4 Vault.
    Map shows Native American village sites, tribal territories, Indian battle sites, and Indian paths.
  • Map Showing the Distribution of the Native Tribes of Alaska and Adjoining Territory.  Compiled from the latest authorities by W. H. Dall, U.S. Coast Survey, 1875.  W. H. Dall.  1875.  Scale 1:3,375,000.  Lithographic print, 54 x 76 cm.  Filed at Alaska -- Indians -- "Distribution of Native Tribes" -- 1875 -- 1:3,375,000 -- W. H. Dall, U.S. Coast Survey
    This 1875 map of Alaska and adjacent territory is the first to depict different Inuit populations and names.  It is partially based on information derived by U.S.C.& G.S. surveyors from Inuit informants, and results from the first official surveys of Alaska's coast and rivers following its purchase from Russia  in 1867.  It also identifies Inuit and non-native settlements.
  • Map Showing the Distribution of the Indian Tribes of California to illustrate report of Stephen Powers, 1877.  Drawn by H. Lindenkohl.   (Washington, D.C.:  Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region, 1877).  From Contributions to North American Ethnology, vol. III.  Map, chromo-lithograph, 67 x 59 cm.  Scale 1:1,700,000.  Filed at California -- Indians -- 1877 -- 1:1,700,000 -- H. Lindenkohl / U.S.G.S.
    This map, drawn by engraver and lithographer, H. Lindenkohl, for the U.S. Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region, depicts the distribution of the Indian tribes of California.  A keyed legend identifies the nineteen indigenous linguistic stocks by color.  Dotted lines indicate tribal boundaries.  Also shows place names, railroads, towns and settlements, streams and rivers, and hachured relief.
  • Eleventh Census, 1890. Map Showing location of Pueblos in New Mexico.  ([Washington, D.C.]:  U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1890).  Map, 23 x 33 cm.  Scale not given.  Filed at New Mexico -- Indians -- 1890 -- no scale -- Bureau of the Census.
    Map depicts location of nineteen pueblos in New Mexico, and identifies, per the eleventh (1890) census, their population as being 8,287 inhabitants, their total area is 906,845 acres, and an estimated 13,000 acres are tillable with available water supply.
  • Map of the Navajo Country:  Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.  U. S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 93, plate 1.  Washington, D.C., 1916.  Colored map, 61 x 76 cm.  Scale 1:500,000.  Filed at U.S. -- Indians --1916.
    Shows roads, trails, schools, missions, ruins, and routes of scientific explorations between 1853 and 1906.
  • Indian Villages of the Illinois Country.  Compiled by Sara Jones Tucker.  Scientific Papers, vol 2, part 1, Atlas.  Springfield: Illinois State Library, 1942.  Atlas, 42 x 32 cm.  Call number G1406.E1 T8 1942 fol.
    Contains reproductions of fifty-four maps relating to the Indian occupation fo the central United States.  In 1975 Tucker's atlas was reprinted with a supplement of thirty-nine additional maps compiled by Wayne C. Temple.  A subsequent volume by Wayne Temple, titled Indian Villages of the Illinois Country: Historic Tribes, was published in 1977 by the Illinois State Museum in its series of Scientific Papers, vol. 2, part 2.  It constitutes an ethno-historical study of each major tribe or group of tribes inhabiting the Illinois Country into the early nineteenth century, and may be used in conjunction with the atlas by Tucker. 
  • This represents the Charecke Nation by Col. Herberts map & my own observations with the path to Charles Town, its course & (distance measured by my watch) the names of ye branches, rivers & creeks, as given them by ye traders along that nation.  Certified by me, George Hunter, May 21, 1730.  Manuscript, pencil and black ink, with annotations in red ink made in ca., 1757.   Scale ca. 1:1,500,000. Call number G3860 1730 .H8 Faden 6 Vault.
    Shows the historical Cherokee foot path from Charleston, South Carolina, to the Mississippi River, and includes names of Indian Villages in the region.
  • Map of Indian Trails [in southwestern Michigan].  Compiled and drawn for the Fort St. Joseph Historical Association by Ralph Ballard.  1939.  (Niles, Mi:  Ralph Ballard, 1939).  Colored map,  36 x 41 cm.  Scale not given.  Filed at Michigan -- Indians (trails) -- 1939 -- no scale -- Ralph Ballard.
    Map of the southwest corner of Michigan depicting actual and supposed Indian trails.  Also identifies villages, burial grounds, mounds, cultivated fields, streams and rivers, and a garden bed.