This site presents an online version of The North American Indian, Edward Curtis’s twenty-volume publication totaling nearly 5000 pages of narrative text and over 2200 images. For more information on the original publication, see About the Work.
This site has been tested for compatibility with Internet Explorer 6 for Windows, Mozilla 1.6 on Windows and Macintosh, and Safari 1.2 on Macintosh. It is optimized for viewing in a screen resolution on 800 x 600.
Tables of Contents
Expand and collapse buttons (Plus and minus signs)
By clicking the expand button (plus sign) next to a volume title, or selecting a volume number at the top of the screen, you can browse a list of chapters and sub-chapters. You can display contents for several volumes at once. Close each list by clicking the collapse button. Close all lists at once by clicking the Table of Contents bar at the top of the screen.
You can browse lists of image titles by clicking the buttons next to Illustrations (for plates in a bound volume) or Portfolio (for the large accompanying plates). If you click on the word Illustrations, you will go directly to a facsimile of Curtis’s illustrations list at the front of the volume.
You can limit page viewing to illustrations only, or text only, by selecting from a pull-down view selector menu. Wait for your selected view to appear before turning to another page.
You can go to the beginning or end of a volume by clicking the outer arrows at the top or bottom of each screen.
When you reach the last page of volume text, you can turn to the portfolio plates by clicking the right inner arrow.
What page are you viewing? The page and volume numbers appear at the top of the screen, while the scan numbers (e.g. 13 of 304) appear in the lower left margin.
View uncorrected OCR
You can read a machine-converted version of the text for any page by clicking the link in the lower right margin of the screen. That will take you to all the searchable text for a volume. You can cut and paste, save or print any portion of this text. But note that it is “uncorrected OCR”, meaning some spelling errors remain from machine transcription, especially for diacritics. To return to the page image view, click any page link (e.g. “view image of page 159”).
Go to page or plate
See under Search.
When you perform a keyword search you are searching all text, including image titles and captions. Remember you are searching uncorrected OCR, created electronically with approximately 99% accuracy. The text contains occasional errors (generally in spelling and interpretation of diacritics).
Don’t include diacritics in search terms. Don’t use punctuation (e.g. cliff dwellers not cliff-dwellers). You can use either upper or lower case. You can truncate words by using % (e.g. myth% = myth; myths; mythology; mythological).
Retrieved search terms are not highlighted on the displayed Curtis pages.
You can search a phrase or compound word by entering the sequence of words: burden basket; Coyote Chant. To search for combinations of words use “and” (a Boolean operator): buffalo and hunt. To search synonymous or alternative words use “or”: house or dwelling. Searching synonyms is important because you are not searching controlled vocabulary (subject headings with cross references); you will find all of these words in Curtis’s text--house, home and dwelling; maiden and girl.
If you search broad topics like myths, ceremonies, population, and vocabulary you will find many results, including references to Curtis’s original volume index pages, where you can see a more detailed topical break-down. You can also search the text for specific terms, names and places, such as: deerskin; horses; tipi; cactus; Geronimo; South Dakota; Taos, etc.
On the Library of Congress site, Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian: Photographic Images, you can browse or search subject headings assigned to the 722 large plates, featuring customs, clothing, artifacts and social roles.
Go to page or plate
From the Search page you can go directly to a particular volume and page number, or to an illustration facing any numbered page (illustration pages are not numbered). You can also go directly to a portfolio plate number (the 772 large plates are numbered consecutively, not by volume).
Tips on finding images
You can find images several ways:
Finding a known image
More information on each image is available by clicking the link below the image view. You will find full captions plus details such as engraver, image copyright date, and dimensions of the original.
- On the Search page, use .
- On the Search page, search image titles and captions, which are included in any keyword search.
Tips on finding tribal information
You can find where certain tribes are featured several ways:
Finding information on a known tribe
- Search tribal names as keywords. For the major tribes this will yield many results, but you can also use keyword searching to find groups not featured in volume titles, such as Blackfoot, Potawatomi, Pawnee, etc.
- Look for detailed references to tribal customs in any volume’s original index. You will find volume index pages included in the results of many keyword searches. You can also browse the facsimile pages of any volume’s index, and then go to referenced pages from the search page.
- Read the “tribal summary” and sample vocabulary included in the Appendix of the volume covering a particular tribe or tribes.
- Browse tribes by name. The forms of tribal names come from Library of Congress Subject Headings, but Curtis variations are in parentheses if they differ significantly (e.g. Tohono O’Odham Indians, called Papago by Curtis). Clicking on a tribal name takes you to the broad section of the volume(s) featuring the tribe.
- Browse tribes by region (culture area). The culture area names (e.g. “New Southwest,” “Great Basin”) come from Library of Congress Subject Headings. The regional browse list does not include place names. Clicking on a tribal name takes you go to the broad section of the volume(s) featuring the tribe.
- Browse volume titles in the Tables of Contents.
Printing and downloading
- You can print single pages using your web browser.
- If you want to print more than one page of text at a time – go to the uncorrected OCR view, highlight selected text, paste it into a text document, and print. Remember that uncorrected OCR text contains occasional errors (generally in spelling and interpretation of diacritics).
- You can download and save any screen image, using your web browser.
||In the volumes of The North American Indian, illustrations are not numbered; they are described as "facing page 10"(etc.)
||Illustration is the term used by Curtis to describe the medium-sized images (photogravure plates) bound into the volumes.
||The published Curtis images are photogravure prints, produced by a photo-mechanical process in which a photographic image is chemically etched onto a metal plate. The plates are inked and, for the Curtis publication, hand printed.
||The images in both the volumes and portfolios are plates, meaning they are printed separately from the text on individual pages. On this web site, "plate" indicates a portfolio image.
||A folder of large, unbound plates was produced to complement each volume. The portfolio plates are numbered consecutively, totaling 722.
||The tribal browse page lists tribes by “regions”, or culture area designations. The names of the culture areas come from Library of Congress Subject Headings.
||There are no subject headings assigned to the Curtis volumes or images. Keyword searching means searching the original text of the publication.
||The list on the tribal browse page comes from Library of Congress Subject Headings. Curtis variants are supplied if they differ significantly. Note that a keyword search of the text will yield additional tribes not featured in volume titles or the browse page, such as Blackfoot, Potawatomi, Pawnee, etc.
||This text was created electronically and contains occasional uncorrected errors (generally in spelling and diacritics).
||The North American Indian is a work in twenty bound volumes, each averaging over 200 pages of narrative text plus around seventy medium-sized photogravure plates ("illustrations").