Encyclopedia of Native Tribes of North America
Encyclopedia of Native Tribes of North America
Encyclopedia of Native Tribes of North America Encyclopedia of Native Tribes of North America Encyclopedia of Native Tribes of North America

* Book Type:

Not Available Online
Publisher: Firefly Books

Edition Notes: Second Edition
Author Statement: by Michael G. Johnson ; Color plates by Richard Hook
Audience: Trade
Specs: full-color throughout, 100 commissioned artworks, 300 photographs, 21 maps, language table, bibliography, reference appendix, glossary, index
Pages: 336
Trim Size: 8 1/4" X 11 3/4" X 1 1/16"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20141017
Copyright Year: 2014
Price: Select Below

Encyclopedia of Native Tribes of North America

"A model of excellence in the art of reference volume publishing... Every public and school library... should acquire this treasure. It will remain the standard for many years to come."
--Dr. James A. Clifton, Department of Anthropology, Western Michigan University

"This substantial reference remains one of the most elaborately illustrated books on Native Americans now in print... Highly recommended."
--Library Journal

This superb, fully illustrated reference offers the most up-to-date and essential facts on the identity, kinships, locations, populations and cultural characteristics of some 400 separately identifiable peoples native to the North American continent, both living and extinct, from the Canadian Arctic to the Rio Grande.

The abundance of illustrations and photographs form an especially rich store of material describing the vast range of Native American material culture. The maps are valuable pictorial representations of major historical events. Population and settlement trends based on the most recent US Census paint detailed portraits of all officially recognized tribes.

The book includes:

  • More than 600 color and archival photographs
  • Extensive visual coverage of tribal dress and cultural artifacts
  • 46 maps, including prehistoric cultural and historic sites and tribe distribution maps, as well as maps showing movement of tribes and non-indigenous troops during conflicts
  • More than 100 specially commissioned color illustrations.
  • Comprehensive, authoritative and up-to-date, Encyclopedia of Native Tribes of North America is an important and accessible record of the Native American peoples and an essential addition to all school and library collections.


    Michael G. Johnson was a scholar of Native American studies. He researched the history and culture of diverse indigenous cultures of North America for more than 50 years during which he visited more than 30 Indian communities and reservations. He set new standards of scholarship and wrote for both academics and non-specialist readers. Johnson was associate editor of American Indian Crafts and Culture magazine, a contributing writer to Whispering Wind magazine, and the author of more than 15 books still in print. In July 2000, he received The Denali Press Award from the American Library Association. Johnson died in August 2019 at the age of 82.


    By Dr. James A. Clifton Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College

    I thought that the first edition of this beautiful book was a near-flawless example of the book publishing art. So I am delighted to see this somewhat enlarged new edition, the original gem much improved by the addition of new facets and a polishing of the whole. Author Michael Johnson, illustrator Richard Hook and the publisher's copy editors and book designers have obviously collaborated to superb effect in this upgrading.

    In the original, Hook's panoptic multitribal color plates were stunning, but so full of visual information about crafts and costumes as to overwhelm the viewer. These multitribal plates were also separated from the pertinent text entries. In the new edition, the composite plates have been broken up, each separate figure enlarged and relocated adjacent to the appropriate text description, with substantial reinforcing effect. That decision was obviously an editor's or book designer's decision, unnamed talents who deserve credit for contributing to the usefulness of this book. Author and publisher also have added a great many additional photographic plates, historic and contemporary. Altogether, this is the most lavishly illustrated reference book about North American Indians available in print.

    Michael Johnson has corrected the few glitches in his original exposition, updated numerous entries following recently published scholarly works, and included a useful, illustrated glossary. Adding to his original scholarship, Johnson has produced a sound, accurate and concise course of instruction about the native tribes of North America.

    This new edition is an updated, enlarged (sufficient to lose the "Concise" in the first edition's title) model of excellence in the art of reference volume publishing. With Michael Johnson and Richard Hook, they have produced a beginning student's book, a collector's book, a young person's book, a librarian's book, an artist's book, a general reader's book, a costume designer's book and even a scholar's book. It is a banquet for the eyes, a pleasure to hold and handle, and a resource for the mind.

    Johnson, one of the world's most respected savants of North American Indian arts, crafts and material culture, worked in close partnership with famed illustrator, Richard Hook, whose color plates are meticulous in detail and dazzling in artistic quality. Of Johnson (an engineer by profession) it may be said that he is an amateur, meaning his lifelong pursuit of knowledge about Indians has been his avocation and that he lacks academic credentials to tack on to his name. But it must also fairly be said that he shares his status with Darwin and Gibbon. Of Hook it may be accurately said that in preparing his illustrations he had to work from archival or museum materials, visual and textual, rather than from living models, unlike his 19th-century predecessors such as George Winter, George Catlin or Rudolph Frederich Kurz. But it must also be fairly said that Hook is easily the superior in artistic talent and mastery of technique to any of his precursors.

    Johnson's introductory essay, covering prehistoric and historic Indian populations, languages and cultural distributions, and his 10 chapters describing the many tribes in North America's culture areas put me in mind of Frederick Webb Hodge's 1907 classic, Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, which had the entire staff of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology, and other scholars, as contributors. This book is that sound, useful and handy a reference work. The author's coverage of the tribes in each culture area is comprehensive, not abbreviated, and his summaries of each tribe's affiliations and history are solid and perceptive.

    I am particularly impressed by the amount of attention Michael Johnson has given to the distinguishing details of the ethnology of North America. These details include a classification of Indian languages, together with a summary of culture areas; and lists of the tribes and languages (with translations of ethonyms) preceding each of the 10 culture area chapters, from the Northeastern Woodlands to the Arctic. His brief chapter, "The Indian Today," is honest and perceptive, and is sufficient to remind readers that "the Indian" certainly did not disappear with the passenger pigeon.

    For some decades a swelling popular and academic interest in North America's native peoples has caused a flood of hastily prepared "Dictionaries" or "Encyclopedias" of things Indian. The shelves of our libraries now groan with the weight of such poor stuff, typically as shaky in scholarship as they are inferior in accuracy in editing, art, print quality, paper and binding. The Encyclopedia of Native Tribes of North America does not belong in this opportunistic genre. It stands in marvelous contrast, in a class, and of a quality, by itself.

    James A . Clifton, Ph.D.



      Classification of Indian Languages
      Tribes and Cultures
        Northeastern Woodlands
        Southeastern Woodlands
        Plains and Prairie
        Great Basin
        Northwest Coast
        Maps Detailing the First Nations of Canada and Native People of Alaska
      The Indian Today
      Native Populations
      Select Bibliography

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