American Indian History & Culture

Moenntarri Warrior.
"Moenntarri Warrior in the costume of the dog danse". Wied, Maximilian, Prinz von. Travels in the interior of North America during the years 1832-1834; illustrations by Karl Bodmer.

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections features outstanding collections on the history of native peoples of the Western hemisphere. The Division holds thousands of rare books documenting Indian life-ways, and significant manuscript materials, including the papers of anthropologist Morris Edward Opler, incorporating his research notes on the myths and folklore of Apache tribes; field notes from the Cornell-Peru project; and the Pete Hest North American Indian collection.

The centerpiece of Cornell's American Indian holdings is the Huntington Free Library Native American Collection, a spectacular gathering of more than 40,000 volumes on the archaeology, ethnology and history of the native peoples of the Americas from the colonial period to the present.

Transferred to Cornell University on June 15, 2004 from its former home in the Bronx, NY, The Huntington Free Library Native American Collection is one of the largest collections of books and manuscripts of its kind. The collection contains exceptional materials documenting the history, culture, languages, and arts of the native tribes of both North and South America. Contemporary politics, education, and human rights issues are also important components of the collection.

The rare portion of the Huntington Free Library Native American Collection encompasses more than 4,000 rare books, several significant manuscript collections, as well as photographs, artwork, and related materials. Highlights include a copy of John Eliot's Bible in the Natick dialect (2nd edition, 1685), an album of original drawings of American Indians by the artist George Catlin; and Edward S. Curtis's twenty-volume opus, The North American Indian. Genres represented in great depth include early books of voyage and exploration, missionary reports, ethnography, travel writing, native language dictionaries, captivity narratives, and children's books. The collection also contains a large body of related ephemeral material, such as pamphlets, newspaper clippings, auction catalogs, newsletters, travel brochures, and biography files on prominent Native Americans.

Manuscript holdings include a letter from Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, early 20th century correspondence from Seneca individuals at Cattaragus and Tonawanda to Joseph Keppler, a pictographic catechism in the Quechua language, field notes by 19th century ethnographers; and the papers of archaeological expeditions. Many of the larger manuscript collections have been microfilmed and are available for interlibrary loan. Primary manuscript collections include:

Portions of the collection are highlighted in the online exhibition Vanished Worlds, Enduring People: Cornell University Library's Native American Collection

Other Cornell Resources for American Indian Studies: