Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico

The scope of the Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico is as comprehensive as its function necessitates. It treats all the tribes north of Mexico, including the Eskimo, and those tribes south of the boundary more or less affiliated with those in the United States. It has been the aim to give a brief description of every linguistic stock, confederacy, tribe, subtribe or tribal division, and settlement known to history or even to tradition, as well as the origin; and derivation of every name treated, whenever such is known, and to record under each every form of the name and every other appellation that could be learned.

Under the tribal descriptions a brief account of the ethnic relations of the tribe, its history, its location at various periods, statistics of population, etc., are included. Accompanying each synonym (the earliest known date always being given) a reference to the authority is noted, and these references form practically a bibliography of the tribe for those who desire to pursue the subject further. It is not claimed that every spelling of every tribal name that occurs in print is given, but it is believed that a sufficient number of forms is recorded to enable the student to identify practically every name by which any group of Indians has been known, as well as to trace the origin of many of the terms that have been incorporated into our geographic nomenclature.

Some Abbreviations used in the Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico:
r = river, L = Lake, c = Creek, co = County, Ind.T. = Indian Territory, s = South, n = North, e = East, w = West

Cree Indians (Saskatchewan)
Cree Indians (Saskatchewan)

Introduction to the Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico

Linguisitic Families of American Indians - Powell
Powells Map showing the Lingusitic Families of the Indian Tribes of the United States

During the early exploration and settlement of North America, a multitude of Indian tribes were encountered, having diverse customs and languages. Lack of knowledge of the aborigines and of their languages led to many curious errors on the part of the early explorers and settlers: names were applied to the Indians that had no relation what ever to their aboriginal names; sometimes nicknames were bestowed, owing perhaps to personal characteristics, fancied or real; sometimes tribes came to be known by names given by other tribes, which were often opprobrious; frequently the designation by which a tribal group was known to itself was employed, and as such names are oftentimes unpronounceable by alien tongues and unrepresentable by civilized alphabets, the result was a sorry corruption, varying according as the sounds were impressed on Spanish, English, French, Dutch, German, Russian, or Swedish ears. Sometimes, again, bands of a single tribe were given distinctive tribal names, while clans and gentes were often regarded as independent autonomous groups to which separate tribal designations likewise were applied. Consequently, in the literature relating to the American Indians, which is practically coextensive with the literature of the first three centuries of the New World, thousands of such names are recorded, the significance and application of which are to be understood only after much study.

The need of a comprehensive work on the American Indian Tribes has been felt ever since scientific interest in the Indians was first aroused. Many lists of tribes have been published, but the scientific student, as well as the general reader, until the present time has been practically without the means of knowing any more about a given confederacy, tribe, clan, or settlement of Indians than was to be gleaned from casual references to it.

The work of which this Handbook is an outgrowth had its inception as early as 1873, when Prof. Otis T. Mason, now of the United States National Museum, began the preparation of a list of the tribal names mentioned in the vast literature pertaining to the Indians, and in due time several thousand names were recorded, with references to the works in which they appear. The work was continued by him until after the establishment of the Bureau, when other duties compelled its suspension. Later the task was assigned to Col. Garrick Mallery, who, however, soon abandoned it for investigations in a field which proved to be his life work, namely, the pictography and sign language of the American Indians. Meanwhile Mr. James Mooney was engaged in compiling a similar list of tribes, with their synonymy, classified chiefly on a geographic basis and covering the entire Western Hemi sphere a work begun in 1873 and continued for twelve years before either he or the members of the Bureau of American Ethnology knew of the labors of each other in this field.

Soon after the organization of the Bureau in 1879, the work of recording a tribal synonymy was formally assigned to Mr. Henry W. Henshaw. Up to this time a complete linguistic classification of the tribes north of Mexico, particularly in the West and Northwest, was not possible, since sufficient data had not been gathered for determining their linguistic affinities. Mr. Henshaw soon perceived that a linguistic classification of the Indian tribes, a work long contemplated by Major Powell, must precede and form the basis for a tribal synonymy, and to him, therefore, as a necessary preliminary, was entrusted the supervision of such a linguistic classification. By 1885 the Bureau s researches in this direction had reached a stage that warranted the grouping of practically all the known tribes by linguistic stocks. This classification is published in the Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau, and on it is based, with few exceptions, the present Handbook.

Immediately on the completion of the linguistic classification, the entire force of the Bureau, under Mr. Henshaw’s immediate direction, was assigned to the work that had now grown into a Dictionary and Synonymy of the Indian Tribes North of Mexico. As his special field Mr. Henshaw devoted attention to several of the Californian stocks, and to those of the North Pacific coast, north of Oregon, including the Eskimo. To Mr. Mooney were given the great and historically important Algonquian and Iroquoian families, and through his wide general knowledge of Indian history and customs he rendered aid in many other directions. A list of Linguistic Families of the Indian Tribes North of Mexico, with Provisional List of the Principal Tribal Names and Synonyms (55 pp., octavo), was at once printed for use by the collaborators of the Bureau in connection with the complete compilation, and although the list does not include the Californian tribes, it proved of great service in the earlier stages of the work. The 2,500 tribal names and synonyms appearing in this list were taken chiefly from Mr. Mooney s manuscript; the linguistic classification was the result of the work that the Bureau had been conducting under Mr. Henshaw’s supervision.

Rev. J. Owen Dorsey assumed charge of the work on the Siouan, Caddoan, and Athapascan stocks; Dr W. J. Hoffman, under the personal direction of Major Powell, devoted his energies to the Shoshonean family, and Mr. Jeremiah Curtin, by reason of his familiarity with a number of the Californian tribes, rendered direct aid to Mr. Henshaw in that field. Dr Albert S. Gatschet employed his time arid long experience in the preparation of the material pertaining to the Muskhogean tribes of southeastern United States, the Yuman tribes of the lower Colorado drainage and of Lower California, and various smaller linguistic groups. To Col. Garrick Mallery were assigned the French authors bearing on the general subject. With such aid the work, received a pronounced impetus, and before the close of 1885 a large body of additional material had been recorded. Four years later the elaboration of the material pertaining to the Yuman, Piman, Keresan, Tanoan, and Zuñian stocks of the extreme Southwest was placed in charge of Mr. F. W. Hodge, who brought it to completion.

The work was continued under Mr. Henshaw s supervision until, in 1893, ill health compelled his abandonment of the task. This is the more to be regretted as Mr. Henshaw had in course of preparation a classification and nomenclature of the minor divisions of the linguistic stocks, which is essential to a proper presentation and a clear under standing of the subject. After Mr. Henshaw s relinquishment of the work, Mr Hodge was given entire charge of it. But other official duties of members of the staff prevented the Handbook as a whole from making marked progress until 1899, when Dr Cyrus Thomas was entrusted with the task of revising the recorded material bearing on the Algonquian, Siouan, and Muskhogean families.

In 1902 the work on the Handbook was again systematically taken up, at the instance of Secretary Langley, who detailed Mr Hodge, at that time connected immediately with the Smithsonian Institution, to undertake its general editorial supervision. The scope of the subject-matter was enlarged to include the relations between the aborigines and the Government; their archeology, manners, customs, arts, and industries; brief biographies of Indians of note; and words of aboriginal origin that have found their wa} r into the English language. It was proposed also to include Indian names that are purely geographic, but by reason of the vast number of these it was subsequently deemed advisable to embody them eventually in an independent work. Moreover, it was provided that the work should be illustrated as adequately as time and the illustrative material available would admit, a feature not originally contemplated. To fully cover this vast field at the present time is impossible, by reason of the fact that research among the native tribes, notwithstanding the extensive and important work that has been accomplished in recent years, has not advanced far beyond the first stage, even when is taken into account the sum of knowledge derived from the researches of the Bureau and of other institutions, as well as of individuals.

The lack of completeness of our present knowledge of the tribes was, perhaps, never better shown than when an attempt was made to carry out the enlarged plan of the Handbook. With its limited force the Bureau could scarcely hope to cover the entire range of the subject within a reasonable time; consequently various specialists not directly connected with the Bureau were invited to assist an invitation that was accepted in a manner most gratifying. It is owing to the generous aid of these students that a work so complete as the Handbook is intended to be was made possible, and to them the Bureau owes its deep appreciation. That the Handbook has many imperfections there is no doubt, but it is hoped that in future editions the weak points may be strengthened and the gaps filled, until, as researches among the tribes are continued, the compilation will eventually represent a complete summary of existing knowledge respecting the aborigines of northern America.

In many instances the treatises are satisfactorily illustrated; in others, much necessarily has been left to a future edition in order that the present publication m&y not be further delayed. The work of illustration was entrusted largely to Mr. De Lancey Gill.

Contributors to the Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico

The contributors to Part 1, in addition to those who have rendered valued assistance by affording information, correcting proofs, and in other ways, are as follows, the names being arranged in the alphabetical order of the initials attached to the signed articles:

  1. A. C. F. Alice C. Fletcher of Washington.
  2. A. F. C. Alexander F. Chamberlain of Clark University.
  3. A. H. A. Hrdlicka of the United States National Museum.
  4. A. L. D. Anna L. Dawes of Pittsfield, Mass.
  5. A. L. K. A. L. Kroeber of the University of, California.
  6. A. S. G. Albert S. Gatschet, formerly of the Bureau of American Ethnology,
  7. C. M. F. Cora M. Folsom of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, Hampton, Va.
  8. C. T. Cyrus Thomas of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  9. E. G. PI Elaine Goodale Eastman of Amherst, Mass.
  10. E. L. H. Edgar L. Hewett of Washington.
  11. F. B. Franz Boas of Columbia University.
  12. F. H. Frank Huntington, formerly of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  13. F. H. C. The late Frank Hamilton Gushing of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  14. F. V. C. F. V. Colville of the United States Department of Agriculture.
  15. F. W. H. F. W. Hodge of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  16. G. A. D. George A. Dorsey of the Field Museum of Natural History.
  17. G. B. G. George Bird Grinnell of New York.
  18. G. F. Gerard Fowke of Saint Louis.
  19. G. P. M. George P. Merrill of the United States National Museum.
  20. H. E. B. Herbert E. Bolton of the University of Texas.
  21. H. W. H. Henry W. Henshaw, formerly of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  22. J. C. The late Jeremiah Curtin of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  23. J. D. M. Joseph D. McGuire of Washington.
  24. J. H. D. Josiah H. Dortch of the Office of Indian Affairs.
  25. J. M. James Mooney of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  26. J. McL. James McLaughlin of the Office of Indian Affairs.
  27. J. N. B. H. J. N. B. Hewitt of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  28. J. O. D. The late J. Owen Dorsey of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  29. J. K. S. John R. Swanton of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  30. J. W. F. J. Walter Fewkes of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  31. L. F. Livingston Farrand of Columbia University.
  32. M. E. G. Merrill E. Gates of the Board of Indian Commissioners.
  33. M. K. S. M. K. Sniffen of the Indian Rights Association.
  34. O. T. M. Otis T. Mason of the United States National Museum.
  35. P. PI B. Paul Edmond Beckwith of the United States National Museum.
  36. P. E. G. P. E. Goddard of the University of California.
  37. R. B. D. Roland B. Dixon of Harvard University.
  38. R. H. L. Robert H. Lowie of New York.
  39. S. A. B. S. A. Barrett of the University of California.
  40. S. C. Stewart Culin of the Brooklyn Institute Museum.
  41. S. M. B. S. M. Brosius of the Indian Rights Association.
  42. W. E. Wilberforce Eames of the New York Public Library,
  43. W. H. Walter Hough of the United States National Museum.
  44. W. H. H. William H. Holmes of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
  45. W. J. William Jones of the Field Museum of Natural History.
  46. W. M. The late Washington Matthews, United States Army.


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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2 thoughts on “Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico”

  1. Hey my name is Regina Fenner I’m inquiring about my ancestors, they are from the poospatuck Indian Tribe on mastic Long Island. I’m trying to find more history of my tribe that is told. I’m trying to find my ancestors that I don’t know, I’m sure there’s more to us than what I’ve known over the years. The tread well , ward, Davis,Hawkins, Fowler ,suydam, Silva ,Nichols, rhoades, duryea, cuffee,and Morin .

  2. Monterrey Williams

    my husband is 1/2 Washo. He received a roll number as a child. He is ill with Multiple Myeloma ( bone cancer ) and would like to get a copy of his roll number for grandchildren. His Grandmother was Phyllis Washo. His mother was Florine Murray born in Salvation Army-Oakland CA 11-05-1933. Her Family lived in Marysville CA.
    His uncle James Washo served in WW11.

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