Cherokee Chief
Cherokee Chief
Native American Indian (NAI) Profile©

From the date of its first appearance in 1891 the Powell map of 
"Linguistic Families of American Indians North of Mexico" has 
proved of the widest utility. It has been reissued several times 
and copied into numerous publications. There has, however, been 
almost equal need of a map giving the location of the tribes 
under the several families.

To one familiar from his readings in early American history with 
the names and locations of our prominent eastern "tribes," such 
as the Delaware, Iroquois, Cherokee, and Choctaw, the preparation 
of a tribal map would seem to be simple, and it would indeed be 
so if all Indians had been grouped into bodies as clearly marked 
as those mentioned. But even in the eastern United States the 
term "tribe" is quickly found to have no uniform application. The 
Creeks were a confederation of a few dominant tribes and a number 
of subordinate bodies, each formerly Independent. The name 
"Delaware" is commonly said to have covered three tribes or 
subtribes, but while two of these seem never to have been 
independent of each other, the third, the Munsee, is often 
treated as if it were entirely separate. The name "Powhatan" was 
applied to about 30 tribes or subtribes which had been brought 
together by conquest only a few years before Virginia was 
settled, and the term "Chippewa," or "Ojibwa," is used for a 
multitude of small bands with little claim to any sort of 
governmental unity. In the case of the Iroquois, on the 
otherhand, the tribe was only a part of the governmental unit, 
the Iroquois Confederation, or Longhouse.

The northern Plains tribes present a certain coherence but 
farther south and west our difficulties multiply. An early 
explorer in Texas states that in that region, by "nation" was 
tobe understood only a single town or perhaps a few neighboring 
villages, and in fact the number of tribal names reported from 
this section seems almost endless. In the governmental sense, 
each Pueblo community was a tribe, and if we were to attempt 
acomplete list we should have in the first place a large number 
of existing, or at least recently existing, tribes, little and 
big, and a still greater number known only through the early 
writers or by tradition. In California, Kroeber (1925) states 
that there were no tribes in the strict sense of the term except 
among the Yokuts of the San Joaquin Valley and their immediate 
neighbors. Elsewhere in California, and in western Oregon and 
Washington as well, tribe and town might be considered 
convertible terms. As the number of these was continually 
shifting, it would be impracticable to enter them in that 
capacity in a work of the present kind.

North of the International Boundary, conditions are, if  
possible, worse, except in the southernmost section of Canada 
where lived tribes similar to those in the eastern parts of the 
United States, such as the Huron, Chippewa, Assiniboin, and 
Blackfoot, though the Chippewa, as already mentioned, require a 
some what elastic extension of our common concept of a tribe. On 
the north Pacific coast, however, the conditions noted in western 
Oregon and Washington are continued.

We have numerous local groups associated into several major 
divisions on linguistic grounds alone. Still farther north and 
east, among the Algonquians, Athapascans, and Eskimo, we are 
confronted with a bewildering array of bands and local groups, 
usually confined to one town and taking their name from it orfrom 
a certain territory over which its members hunted, and the 
numbers and names of these are uncertain even at the present 
time. Nothing remotely resembling scientific accuracy is possible 
in placing these bands, if we aim at chronological uniformity, 
and we must either enter great linguistic groups, embracing 
sometimes almost an entire stock, or make an arbitrary selection 
of bands with the idea of including those which we esteem the 
most important.

Northeastern Mexico and some parts of Central America may also be 
defined as band areas, but most of North America below the Rio 
Grande was occupied by well-recognized tribal divisions.

From all of the West Indies except Haiti, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, 
nothing like a complete list of tribes has survived, and even for 
the best documented of these, Haiti, it is impossible to say how 
many of the caciquedoms mentioned should be given tribal status.

A short study of the conditions above outlined shows that only 
two alternatives are open in a work like the present. Either one 
must, in effect, alter it to a town and band map, entering the 
most minute recorded subdivisions and setting his results forth, 
not on one map but on dozens, or he must be satisfied with a 
relatively conventional classification, having in view popular 
convenience rather than scientific uniformity, and making the 
best grouping he can of those peoples which did not have real 
tribal organizations. In the present undertaking the latter plan 
has been followed, but clues to the more scientific study have 
been given by including lists of "subdivisions" and "villages." 
There is no profession that these lists are complete; a perfect 
presentation of them would demand an investigation for which 
there is as yet no opportunity. The rest of the accompanying text 
has been devoted to certain items of information likely to be 
called for first by the general reader, including: the origin of 
the tribal name and a brief list of the more important synonyms, 
the linguistic connections of the tribe - it has not seemed 
feasible to try to include the physical and cultural connections- 
its location, a brief sketch of its history, its estimated and 
actual population at different periods (based mainly on Mooney's 
(1928) study and the reports of the United States and Canadian 
Indian Offices), and the "connection in which it has become 
noted," particularly the extent to which its name has been 
perpetuated geographically or otherwise. I have also included 
references to the more important sources of information. Two 
works have been used as basic authorities. One, the "Handbook of 
American Indians" (Hodge, 1907, 1910), is general in scope and 
may be assumed throughout except for the tribes of Mexico, 
Central America, and the West Indies. The other is, Kroeber's 
"Handbook of the Indians of California" (1925), is the base 
authority used in treating the Indian groups of that State. In 
the Gulf area I have utilized the results of my own studies, 
published and unpublished.

As far as possible each tribe, or group has been treated by 
itself, but in Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska, to 
avoid needless repetition, the history of the tribes isconsidered 
as a whole. The section on Mexico, Central America, and the West 
Indies represents an after thought. Both map and text material 
were drawn originally from the "Indian Languages of Mexico and 
Central America" (Thomas and Swanton, 1911), and Dr. Lehmann's 
(1920) monumental work on "Zentral Amerikas," but they have been 
made over thoroughly in the light of the classification and map 
of Dr. J. Alden Mason (1940) and Frederick Johnson (1940), and no 
attempt has been made to take up the history of the several 
tribes or indicate other authorities.

A brief history of the present undertaking will perhaps enable 
the reader to obtain a better understanding of it, appreciate the 
difficulties encountered in the compilation, and in consequence 
view its shortcomings, of which as the compiler I am keenly 
aware, with due charity. It represents an evolution both in 
method of procedure and in the extent of territory covered. In 
the beginning I was governed by the older tradition regarding map 
work of the kind, the idea of entering a tribe in the place where 
it was first encountered by Whites, but anattempt to carry out 
this plan soon presented difficulties because neighboring tribes 
were often encountered a century or more apart and their relative 
positions may have changed utterly in the interval. There is no 
certainty, for instance, that the Indians outside of the narrow 
strip of territory opened to our vision by De Soto's army in 
1539-43 were in the same relative position when Carolina was 
settled about 1670 and Louisiana in 1699. It is particularly to 
denoted that, while De Soto found eastern Arkansas full of towns, 
it was almost deserted when Marquette and La Salle visited it in 
1673 and 1682. We also know that great alterations took place in 
the St. Lawrence Valley between the voyages of Cartier in 1534-43 
and Champlain's appearance there in 1603.

In view of these difficulties, I gave up this plan and tried the 
device of putting each tribe in the region with which it was most 
closely associated historically. But with what region were the 
Shawnee, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, and some other 
tribes most closely associated? The Middle West or the Plains are 
rather too general terms. Moreover, tribes acquired this close 
association with certain sections at very different periods and, 
if this plan were carried out, the map as a whole would be 
historically inaccurate. Thus the Delaware upon the whole were 
associated most closely with the valley of the river which bears 
their name, but when the Foxes had reached Iowa and the Dakota 
had occupied South Dakota, where they are best known, the 
Delaware had removed many hundred miles from this region. The 
Abnaki were most closely associated with western Maine but were 
uprooted in the middle of the eighteenth century and moved to 
Canada. The Huron are most closely connected historically with 
the region of Lake Simcoe, Ontario, but they were driven from 
there in the middle of the seventeenth century, and a hundred 
years later under the name Wyandot they, or at least part of 
them, came to be "closely associated" with Ohio. Thus we have 
here two associations of the same tribe.

For a time it seemed as if some of these inconsistencies were 
unavoidable and that any attempt at chronological accuracy was 
out of the question. Such is indeed the case if we insist upon 
absolute, documented accuracy, because Alaska, western Canada, 
and the northwestern part of the United States were almost wholly 
unknown until the latter half of the eighteenth century and there 
is no authentic information regarding many tribes until the 
beginning of thc nineteenth when many eastern tribes, and some of 
those on the Plains, had been displaced or destroyed. But on 
experimenting along this line I discovered that if we select the 
year 1650, or rather a few years prior to that date and assume a 
fairly static condition for 30 or 40 years afterward, we can 
determine the location of most of the tribes of the eastern and 
southern United States and eastern Canada in afairly satisfactory 
manner, and this arrangement was finally decided upon. Up to 1649 
the Hurons were still in Ontario; the Erie, the Neutral Nation, 
and the Susquehanna had not been destroyed by the Iroquois; and 
King Philip's War, which was to scatter the New England Indians, 
did not break out until 1675. The Virginia Indians had suffered 
very much as a result of their risings in 1622 and 1644 but 
continued to occupy the same general territories in which the 
colonists found them. By 1650 the Gulf region had been traversed 
by Spanish expeditions and Florida had been settled nearly a 
hundred years, but there had been little displacement of the 
aborigines even in Florida, and between the accounts of the 
Spanish chroniclers and the later narratives of Virginia traders, 
and the South Carolina colonists after 1670 we are able to get a 
fair idea of the position of the principal Southeastern peoples 
at that date. Meantime the French penetrated into the Ohio Valley 
and as far south on the Mississippi as the mouth of the Arkansas 
by 1673, and to the ocean by 1682, and they founded Louisiana in 
1699. La Salle's Texas colony, established in 1885, however 
unfortunate for himself and the other participants in the 
venture, gives a more than fair view of the Indians of that great 
territory, soon supplemented by the reports of those who 
accompanied the later Spanish expeditions. Moreover, this data 
may be checked in some measure by the much earlier reports of 
Cabeza de Vaca bearing on the years 1528 to 1536 and the 
chroniclers of Moscoso's invasion of east Texas in 1542. Moving 
still farther west, we find that New Mexico had been occupied by 
Spaniards long before the date selected, that Coronado had 
crossed the southern Plains, and that travelers by sea and land 
had visited southern California. In the meantime eastern Canada 
had been penetrated by two European nations from two directions- 
by the French along St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes and by 
the English Hudson's Bay Company through their posts on the body 
of water which gives them their name. Moose Factory was founded 
in 1671, Fort Nelson in 1682, and Fort Churchill in 1688. From 
these as bases explorers and traders soon worked their way far 
inland, and on the other hand the commandants collected 
considerable information from the natives themselves regarding 
the regions from whence they came.

As has been said, there was beyond a great tract of country which 
remained unvisited by Europeans until well into the eighteenth 
century, but over much of this area there is no evidence of 
recent tribal movements, and some movements are known 
sufficiently well to justify an attempt to reconstruct the 
earlier conditions. Thus the migration of Haida from the northern 
end of the Queen Charlotte Islands to Prince of Wales Island 
evidently occurred in recent times, not earlier than the 
eighteenth century, and it is clear that they replaced the 
Tlingit there since the names of their towns in the invaded 
country are all derived from Tlingit. Whether the movement of the 
Tsimshian to the coast of British Columbia and the, probably 
contemporary, removal of a part of the Tlingit northward, 
happened before or after we shall never know, but it seems to 
have taken place long before the Haida emigration just mentioned. 
It was formerly believed that mass migrations of impressive 
character took place in the Columbia River Valley about the 
beginning of the nineteenth century. This idea was perhaps set in 
motion by George Gibbs (1877) in speaking of the migrations of 
Klikitat Indians, and was suggested in some particulars by Mooney 
(1928) but elaborated by James Teit (1928) and adopted and 
amplified by Berreman (1937). This involved the assumption that 
before that time both banks of Columbia River from The Dalles to 
the mouth of Snake River were in possession of Salishan tribes, 
that south of them lay the Cayuse and Molala, and south of them 
again the ancestors of all of the Shahaptian peoples except the 
Nez Perces; and that about the beginning of the nineteenth 
century the Shoshoneans of the interior moved northward, pushing 
the Shahaptians ahead of them; and that these in turn, after 
disrupting the Cayuse and Molala, expelled the Salishans from the 
valley of the Columbia in the region just indicated. More recent 
researches by Ray, Murdock, Blyth, and Steward (1938) seem to 
indicate that this is entirely erroneous and that, except for a 
displacement of the Molala and a relatively recent expansion of 
Shahaptians toward the south at the expense of the Shoshoneans, 
the tribes and stocks seem to have occupied substantially the 
same areas in the earliest times of which we have any record as 
they did when the reservations were established. At any rate, 
supposition of stability in tribal location makes the work of the 
cartographer much simpler, and we will accept the tribal 
distribution shown by Ray in his paper published in 1938 as being 
as near the probable situation in 1650 as can now be determined. 
From the fact that he indicates the northern boundary of 
Shoshonean peoples in the eighteenth century, it is assumed that 
the regards the rest of his map as valid for that century.

For the position of the interior Athapascan tribes before they 
were attacked by thc Cree, I am indebted to Dr. Diamond Jenness, 
formerly Chief of the Department of Anthropology of the National 
Museum of Canada, who was also kind enough to go over most of my 
Canadian section and has made many valuable suggestions and 

The scope of the work has also been expanded territorially as it 
progressed. Originally it was intended merely as a convenient 
guide to the tribes of the several states of the American Union 
and Alaska, demand for such a work being considerable. But since 
the original linguistic map of the Bureau had included the 
Dominion of Canada and Greenland, it was later determined to make 
this of the same extent. And finally, owing to the 
representations of a leading anthropologist, it was amplified to 
take in Mexico, Middle America, and the West Indies.

The method of treatment for Canada and Greenland has been 
practically identical with that for the United States, but it was 
thought best to represent on the map not merely the tribes but 
the band divisions of the larger northern tribes, such as the 
Chippewa, Cree, Algonkin, Montagnais, and several of the 
Athapascan groups, including the Kutchin and Khotana of the far 
Northwest and Alaska. Many of these band names are English and 
wholly modern, but it is highly probable that some of them 
correspond to more ancient divisions and, since they have found a 
place in literature, the identification of their locations will 
be convenient. For the placing of those in the Northeast I am 
particularly indebted to the late anthropologists Dr. Frank G. 
Speck, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. John M. Cooper, 
of the Catholic University of America.

Objection has been made to entering the names of Eskimo tribes or 
bands on the map, since almost all refer simply to "people living 
at such-and-such a place," most of them had little permanence, 
and there was an enormous number of them, the ones I have 
mentioned being merely a selection. On the other hand, it may be 
urged that some groups, notably those in Alaska, had considerable 
continuity, that most of them probably owed their existence to 
certain natural food supplies which would tend to reproduce other 
tribes at the same spots even though these were broken up, and 
that finally most of the tribes here entered have obtained a 
place in Eskimo literature and it is convenient to know where 
they lived even though they may have been no more important than 
other tribes not mentioned. Besides, if this were not done, the 
map would have little more value, so far as the Eskimo country is 
concerned, then the linguistic map. In the text I have indicated 
the relative lack of importance of the Eskimo tribes by treating 
all under the one head "Eskimo," and their names, like the band 
names of the northern Indians just mentioned, are in different 
type. The West Greenland names are, of course, quite modern but 
are thought to represent the principal bands of an earlier date.

As already stated, that portion of the map south of the territory 
of the United States is based on the map of "Mexico and Central 
America" published by Dr. Thomas and myself (1911), on the work 
of Lehmann (1920) mentioned above, but particularly on the papers 
of Mason 1940) and Johnson (1940). Although European influence in 
this region goes back to the early part of the sixteenth century, 
relatively little tribal displacement had taken place by 1650. On 
the West Indies, however, it was very different, and, if we were 
to note only the tribes extant there in 1650, little could be 
inserted. However, it has seemed best to submit to the an 
achronism here by giving the tribes in occupancy when Spaniards 
first came among them at the end of the fifteenth century and 
beginning of the sixteenth. In this part of the map I have 
followed Lehmann except in Jamaica and Haiti, but I have omitted 
several of his Jamaica names which seem to be merely those of 
towns. The tribal distribution in Haiti is the result of my 
studies of Peter Martyr's "De Orbo Novo," and I have increased 
the five "provinces" given by Las Casas (1875-76) because it 
seems to me that Marien in the northwest and Maguana in the 
center should have independent status. Probably the caciquedoms 
here and in the other islands were in a constant state of flux.

In treating the linguistic stocks, considerable compromise has 
been found necessary. Since the publication of Powell's map 
(1891) the investigations of various students have rendered 
certain changes necessary, but other proposed changes have not 
been accepted by all students, and some are violently opposed.

The connection between Shahaptian, Waiilatpuan, and Lutuamian, 
first suggested by Hewitt (1897) and recently confirmed by Jacobs 
(1937), has made it necessary to put these three groups of 
languages into one stock which is here called Shapwailutan, a 
name made up of the first three syllables of the original stock 
names and in that form suggested by Hewitt many years ago. The 
connection of Natchez with the Muskhogean family, originally 
proposed by Brinton and confirmed by me, has been recognized in 
the present classification. I have also placed the former 
Tonikan, Chitimachan, and Attacapan stocks under the stockname 
Tunican in accordance with the results of my own researches 
though the inclusion of the first mentioned is not entirely 
beyond question. Dr. J. P. Harrington's studies (1910) have made 
the relationship between Kiowan and the Tanoan tongues so evident 
that they have been placed in one family and given the name 
Kiowa-Tanoan. There no longer seems to be any excuse for keeping 
the old Shoshonean, Piman, and Nahuatlan stocks apart, and I have 
followed Buschmann (1859) and Brinton (1891) in uniting them as 
Uto-Aztecan. Kiowa-Tanoan is probably related to this but the 
fact has still to be demonstrated.

In California we are confronted by some puzzling questions as to 
relationships, which have been made the basis of violent 
differences of opinion. Some of our ethnologists have been very 
skeptical regarding the Algonquian connection of Yurok and Wiyot 
but I let it stand as on Kroeber's Handbook (1925) pending exact 
determination. On the other hand, the validity of the so-called 
Penutian stock seems to be recognized by all of those who have 
had the best opportunities to study the languages composing it 
and is admitted here. The relationship between some of the 
languages of the other great stock created by Dixon and Kroeber 
(1919), the Hokan, is also allowed by other students. A doubt 
still remains whether all of the languages classified under this 
head, even in the original and most conservative usage of the 
term, should go with it. Or rather, it seems doubtful whether our 
information is sufficient to justify the erection of this stock 
over against the Penutian. Mr. J. P. Harrington (personal 
information) is of the opinion that the distinction between 
Hokanand Penutian is artificial and that the languages of both 
groups and of various others not as yet brought together are 
probably related. But since the name Hokan has received literary 
recognition, it seems best to continue it provisionally for the 
forms of speech first placed in that category. Kroeber's 
confirmation of Brinton's suggestion regarding the Scrian and 
Tequistlatecan stocks has served to add them to the Hokan family 
through Yuman, and Sapir proposed extension to Subtiaba and 
Coahuilteco. I am favorably disposed toward very considerable 
extensions of the present family boundaries but feel that more 
unanimity of opinion is desirable before including the more 
radical suggestions in a general work of this kind. Personally, I 
am convinced that a very large part of the vocabulary and 
structure of the Siouan and Muskhogean languages has had a 
commonorigin and believe that it will ultimately be found best 
toconsider them as branches of one stock, but adequate proof has 
not yet been presented. Thc Tunican stock also shares certain 
well-marked structural peculiarities with Muskhogean while having 
connections also with the ancient Texas stocks, but the meaning 
of this has yet to be determined. It is plain that the structural 
parallelism between Athapascan and Tlingit is not accidental, and 
some striking similarities extend to Haida. Whether the somewhat 
similar parallelism between Salishan, Chimakuan, and Wakashan 
means genetic relationship is another problem, but the answers to 
these are not as yet sufficiently assured to incorporate any 
changes from the older classification in this work. It is evident 
that a future map devoted to the distribution of languages in 
North America must give something more than stocks or supposed 
stocks. It must show the degree of relationship between languages 
as well inside as outside of stock boundaries.

No doubt the positions assigned to certain tribes in the present 
map will surprise many ethnologists. This will be particularly 
true of the placing of some of those of the Plains like the 
Arapaho, Kiowa, Kiowa Apache, and Arikara. In fact, some of these 
locations are extremely speculative but they aregoverned by the 
necessity of harmonizing them with the locations of other tribes 
at the time selected as standard, 1650. In the case of certain 
tribes removed from their original seats before 1650, or whose 
locations were learned only at a considerably later time, the 
date of known occupancy is indicated in parentheses.

The present work was well under way before it was learned that 
something similar was being undertaken by Professor Kroeber, and 
Kroeber's work has since appeared (1939) as "Cultural and Natural 
Areas of Native North America." This magnificent publication will 
undoubtedly continue to occupy a place all by itself for a long 
time but it is evidently intended mainly for the university 
student, though its usefulness will by no means be confined to 
such students, and in other particulars the purposes of that 
study were quite distinct from those which the present writer has 

"It aims," says Prof. Kroeber, "first, to review the 
environmental relations of the native cultures of North America. 
Its second purpose is to examine the historic relations of the 
culture areas, or geographical units of cultures." My own 
compilation has no such ambitious purposes. It is merely intended 
to inform the general reader what Indian tribes occupied the 
territory of his State and to add enough data to indicate the 
place they occupied among the tribal groups of the continent and 
the part they played in the early period of our history and the 
history of the States immediately to the north and south of us. 

It attempts to be rather a gazetteer of present knowledge than a 
guide to the attainment of more knowledge.

The preparation of this manuscript extended over several years 
and some new material was added indeed until my retirement from 
active membership on the staff of the Bureau of American 
Ethnology in 1944. It is admittedly defective in the use of 
material published during the years since that date.

In the synonymy only those forms have been given which differ so 
much from the popular designation of the tribe as to make 
identification difficult.

Although I have usually leaned very largely on Mooney's 
population figures (1928) in my over-all estimates. my own for 
the South-eastern tribes, as shown by those on map 3 of Bulletin 
137 (Swanton, 1946), would generally be considerably smaller.

The work has been done from the point of view of the United 
States, and therefore the Chippewa have been treated under 
Minnesota, the Huron under Ohio, and the Assiniboin under 
Montana, although their centers were rather north of the 
International Boundary.

On the maps the boundary lines between modern political nations 
and states are indicated by long dashes; those between linguistic 
stocks or major divisions of that type by short dashes and 
divisions between smaller tribal or group bodies by dots. {1}

NOTE {1} This has not been consistently carried through on the 
maps. - P.R.S. 

(Source: "The Indian Tribes of North America";  By John R. 
Swanton; Retired from active membership on the staff of the 
Bureau of American Ethnology in 1944.

Brinton, The
"Linguistic Families of American Indians North of Mexico"
Cooper, John M., Dr.
Anthropologist; Dr. John M. Cooper, of the Catholic University of America.
co-author Professor Kroeber
Gibs, George
Harrington, J.P. Dr.
Dr. J. P. Harrington's studies
"Handbook of American Indians", Ed. 1910
Jenness, Diamond Dr.
Anthropologist; Dr. Diamond Jenness, formerly Chief of the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum of Canada.
Kroeber, Prof.
co-author Dixon
Kroeber, Prof.
"Handbook of the Indians of California"
Kroeber, Prof.
"Cultural and Natural Areas of Native North America."
Johnson, Frederick
"Classification and map of Mason & Johnson
Lehmann, Dr.
"Zentral Amerikas,"
Mason, J. Alden Dr.
"Classification and map of Mason & Johnson
Mooney, James
Powell Map
Speck, Frank G., Dr.
Anthropologist; Dr. Frank G. Speck, of the University of PA.
Swanton, John R.
"Indian Languages of Mexico and Central America"
co-author Dr. Thomas
Swanton, John R.
South-eastern tribes, as shown by those on map 3 of Bulletin 137
Teit, James
Thomas, Dr.
"Indian Languages of Mexico and Central America"
co-author John R. Swanton
Source & Reference "The Indian Tribes of North America" By John R. Swanton; 1944 [Retired from active membership on the staff of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1944] File: INTRO1.TXT Revised: July 05, 1993 By" Paul R. Sarrett, Jr, [email protected] End of File!
NAI - Index
SFA - Index

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Text - Copyright © 1996-2001 Paul R. Sarrett, Jr.
Created: Dec. 01, 1996; Aug. 10, 2001