Newberry Library North American Indian Photographs (Newberry Library)
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About this Collection

Collection Description

This selection of photographs of Midwestern Indian tribes—Menominee, Ojibwa, Winnebago, Santee, Yankton, and Yantonai—is derived from a much larger collection of over 6,000 images of North American Indians in the Newberry Library's world-renowned Edward E. Ayer Collection. In collecting contemporary 19th and early 20th century photographs, Ayer sought to document Indian experience during his own lifetime. The images he assembled, mainly posed studio portraits together with some outdoor and candid scenes, provide an invaluable visual record of away of life that was rapidly changing. They also document the rapid spread of photographic technology and provide evidence of local photographers and photographic studios throughout the Midwest.

This digital project attempts to preserve the documentary evidence inherent in each photograph. It includes digitized versos if they contain marks and notations. It also relies on the photographs themselves for descriptive information. Where there is none, titles and descriptions have been supplied from the from the Ayer Indian Photographs Index [Chicago,Ill.: Newberry Library, 1982?]. Call number: Ayer folio E89.E38. The names of subjects, photographers, dates, locations, and even tribal affiliations are often lacking or may be incorrect. We encourage anyone with additional information to contact the library (

The project was funded by an award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Newberry Library. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact a Reference Librarian ( or call the Library's Reference Desk at (312) 255-3506.

Indians of North America - Portraits

Image of Ne-bah-quah-om (Big Dog), chief, Chippewa.
Whitney's Gallery, Saint Paul.