While serving as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Thomas Loraine McKenney was commissioned to collect portraits of Native Americans. Recognizing the perilous position of his subjects, he vowed to preserve “in the archives of the Government whatever of the aboriginal man can be rescued from the destruction which awaits his race.” The result of his efforts became History of the Indian Tribes of North America, published in three volumes between 1838 and 1844 with text by James Hall. Watch a short video about this book. Read Vol 1 and Vol 2 online.
“He was dressed in the full habit of an Indian chief; we have never seen a more dignified person, or a more becoming dress. The most prominent part of his apparel was a splendid cloak, or mantle of buffalo skin dressed so as to be of a fine white color; it was decorated by with small tufts of owls’ feathers and others of various hues… A splendid necklace, formed of about sixty claws of a grizzly bear, imparted a manly character to his appearance.”
— Vol. 2 – Wanata
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