Penguin.com (usa)

North American Indians

North American Indians

George Catlin - Author

Peter Matthiessen - Introduction by

Paperback | $17.00 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9780142437506 | 560 pages | 24 Feb 2004 | Penguin Classics | 5.07 x 7.79in | 18 - AND UP
Summary of North American Indians Summary of North American Indians Reviews for North American Indians An Excerpt from North American Indians

George Catlin's masterwork—a rich and unique tribute to a lost way of life

From 1831 to 1837, George Catlin traveled extensively among the native peoples of North America—from the Muskogee and Miccosukee Creeks of the Southeast to the Lakota, Mandan, and Pawnee of the West, and from the Winnebagos and Menominees of the North to the Comanches of eastern Texas. Studying their habits, customs, and modes of life, he made copious notes and numerous sketches of ceremonies, buffalo hunts, symbols, and totems. Catlin’s unprecedented fieldwork culminated in more than five hundred oil paintings and his now-legendary journals, which, as Peter Matthiessen writes in his introduction, “taken together... constitute the first, last, and only ‘complete’ record of the Plains Indians ever made at the height of their splendid culture, so soon destroyed by traders’ liquor and disease, rapine and bayonets.”

  • A one-volume edition of Catlin's journals
  • Illustrated with more than fifty reproductions of Catlin's incomparable paintings


Introduction by Peter Matthiessen
Suggestions for Further Reading
Editor's Note

Letter No. 1
Wyoming, birth-place of the Author. His former Profession—First cause of his Travels to the Indian Country—Delegation of Indians in Philadelphia—First start to the Far West, in 1832. Probable extinction of the Indians. Former and present number of—The proper mode of approaching them, and estimating their character.

Letter No. 2—Mouth of Yellow Stone, Upper Missouri, 1832
Mouth of Yellow Stone. Distance from St. Louis—Difficulties of the Missouri—Politeness of Mr. Chouteau and Major Sanford—Fur Company's Fort—Indian Epicures—New and true School for the Arts—Beautiful Models.

Letter No. 3—Mouth of Yellow Stone, Upper Missouri
Character of Missouri River. Beautiful prairie shores. Picturesque clay bluffs. First appearance of a steamer at the Yellow Stone, and curious conjectures of the Indians about it. Fur Company's Establishment at the mouth of Yellow Stone—M'Kenzie—His table and politeness. Indian tribes in this vicinity.

Letter No. 4—Mouth of Yellow Stone, Upper Missouri
Upper Missouri Indians—General character. Buffaloes—Description of. Modes of killing them—Buffalo-hunt.

Letter No. 5—Mouth of Yellow Stone, Upper Missouri
Author's painting-room, and characters in it. Blackfoot chief. Other Blackfoot chiefs, and their costumes. Blackfoot woman and child. Scalps, and objects for which taken—Blackfoot bows, shields, arrows and lances. Several distinguished Blackfeet.

Letter No. 6—Mouth of Yellow Stone, Upper Missouri
Medicines or mysteries—medicine bag—origin of the word medicine. Mode of forming the medicine-bag. Value of the medicine-bag to the Indian, and materials for their construction. Blackfoot doctor or medicine-man—his mode of curing the sick. Different offices and importance of medicine-men.

Letter No. 7—Mouth of Yellow Stone, Upper Missouri
Crows and Blackfeet—general character and appearance. Crow lodge or wigwam. Striking their tents and encampment moving. Mode of dressing and smoking skins. Crows—Beauty of their dresses—Horse-stealing or capturing.

Letter No.8—Mouth of Yellow Stone, Upper Missouri
Further remarks on the Crows—Extraordinary length of hair. Crow and Blackfeet women—Their modes of dressing and painting. Differences between the Crow and Blackfoot languages. Different bands—Different languages, and numbers of the Blackfeet. Knisteneaux—Assinneboins, and Ojibbeways. Ojibbeways—Chief and wife. Assinneboins, a part of the Sioux. Wi-jun-jon (a chief) and wife. His visit to Washington.

Letter No. 9—Mouth of Yellow Stone, Upper Missouri
Contemplations of the Great Far West and its customs. March and effects of civilization.

Letter No. 10—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
Voyage from Mouth of Yellow Stone down the river to Mandans—Commencement—Leave M'Kenzie's Fort. Assinneboins encamped on the river—Wi-jun-jon lecturing on the customs of white people—Mountain-sheep. War-eagles—Grizzly bears. Clay bluffs. Grizzly bear and cubs—Courageous attack—Canoe robbed. Voluptuous scene of wild flowers, buffalo bush and berries. Adventure after an elk—War-party discovered. Magnificent scenery in the "Grand Detour." Antelope shooting. "Grand Dome." Prairie dogs—Village.

Letter No. 11—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
Location—Village. Former locations, fortification of their village—Description of village and mode of constructing their wigwams. Description of interior—Beds—Weapons—Family groups. Indian garrulity—Jokes—Fire-side fun and story-telling. Causes of Indian taciturnity in civilized society.

Letter No. 12—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
Bird's-eye view of the village. The "big canoe"—Medicine-lodge—A strange medley. Mode of depositing the dead on scaffolds. Respect to the dead—Visiting the dead—Feeding the dead—Converse with the dead—Bones of the dead.

Letter No. 13—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
The wolf-chief—Head-chief of the tribe. Mandans' personal appearance—Peculiarities—Complexion. "Cheveux gris." Hair of the men—Hair of the women. Bathing and swimming. Mode of swinning—Sudatories or vapour baths.

Letter No. 14—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
Costumes of the Mandans—High value set upon them—Made of war-eagles' quills and ermine. Head-dresses with horns. A Jewish custom—Portrait of Mah-to-toh-pa.

Letter No. 15—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
Astonishment of the Mandans at the operation of the Author's brush. The Author installed medicine or medicine-man. Crowds around the Author—Curiousity to see and to touch him. Superstitious fears for those who were painted. Objections raised to being painted. The Author's operations opposed by a Mandan doctor, or medicine-man, and how brought over.

Letter No. 16—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
An Indian beau or dandy. A fruitless endeavour to paint one. Mah-to-toh-pa (the four bears), second chief of the tribe—The Author feasted in his wigwam. Viands of the feast. Pemican and marrow-fat—Mandan poetry—Robe presented. Mah-to-toh-pa's exploits in battle.

Letter No. 17—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
Polygamy—Reasons and excuses for it. Marriages, how contracted—Wives bought and sold. Paternal and filial affection—Virtue and modesty of women—Early marriages—Slavish lives and occupations of the Indian women. Pomme blanche—Dried meat—Caches—Modes of cooking, and times of eating—Attitudes in eating. Separation of males and females in eating—the Indians moderate eaters—Some exceptions. Curing meat in the sun, without smoke or salt—The wild Indians eat no salt.

Letter No. 18—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
Indian dancing—"Buffalo dance." Discovery of buffaloes—Preparations for the chase—Start—A decoy—A retreat—Death and scalping.

Letter No. 19—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri>br> Game of Tchung-kee. Feasting—Fasting and sacrificing—White buffalo robe—its value. Rain making. "The thunder boat"—The big double medicine.

Letter No. 20—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
Mandan archery—"Game of the arrow." Wild horses—Horse-racing. Foot war-party in council.

Letters No. 21 & No. 22—Mandan Village, Upper Missouri
Mandan religious ceremonies—Mandan religious creed. Three objects of the ceremony. Place of holding the ceremony—Big canoe—Season of commencing—and manner. Opening the medicine lodge—Sacrifices to the water. Fasting scene for four days and nights. "Great Medicine." Bel-lohck-nah-pick (the bull dance). Pohk-hong (the cutting or torturing scene). Eh-ke-nah-ka-nah-pick (the last race). Extraordinary instances of cruelty in self-torture. Sacrificing of the water. Tradition of O-kee-hee-de (the Evil Spirit). Mandans can be civilized. Origins of Mandans.

Letter No. 23—Minataree Village, Upper Missouri
Location and numbers—Origin. Principal village. Vapour baths. Old chief, Black Moccasin. Two portraits, man and woman. Green corn danc


To keep up-to-date, input your email address, and we will contact you on publication

Please alert me via email when:


The author releases another book