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Native American Collections at The Bancroft Library: Key Collections & Searching Tips

Highlights of the various Native American materials held at The Bancroft Library

Key Collections

Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. Collection of Early Californian and Western American Pictorial Material
BANC PIC 1963.002--PIC (viewing print use only, original documents restricted due to fragility, many images available online)

The Robert B. Honeyman Jr. Collection of Early Californian and Western American Pictorial Material contains more than 2300 items, focusing on pictorial interpretations of the old West, with emphasis on the early California and Gold Rush periods.  A wide variety of formats and media are represented, including original oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, lithographs, engravings, etchings, lettersheets, clipper cards, ephemera, plates, and spoons.  Scattered throughout are various portrayals of Native Americans.
Collection Finding Aid (contains digital images)

C. Hart Merriam collection of Native American photographs
BANC FILM 2004 (microfilm use only, original documents restricted due to fragility, many images available online)

The pictorial component of C. Hart Merriam papers relating to work with California Indians contains photographs, primarily taken by C. Hart Merriam, documenting California Indian tribes as he conducted research on their languages. Images depict individuals, dwellings, artifacts, and related geographic regions. Some Alaskan and other North American Indian images are also present.
Collection Finding Aid (contains digital images)

William Ashburner collection of photographs from the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel
BANC PIC 1957.027--PIC (viewing print use only, original documents restricted due to fragility, many images available online)

This collection is a set of 144 large format photographic prints taken on the Clarence King surveys of 1867 to 1869. The set is focused on the western portion of the King Survey and includes locations in California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. Images of Native Americans in this region is included.
Collection Finding Aid (contains digital images)

Stereoviews of Indians and the Colorado River from the J.W. Powell survey
BANC PIC 1980.082--STER

This collection contains 107 stereographic prints taken during John Wesley Powell's exploration of the Colorado River, conducted under the auspices of the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 1869 to 1872.  The photographers include John K. Hilliers, E. O. Beaman, and James Fenmore. The collection has of scenes in the Colorado Valley, including views of the Colorado River and the Native American inhabitants of this region and their dwellings.
Collection Finding Aid (contains digital images)

Western survey expeditions of 1871, 1872, 1873, and 1874
BANC PIC 1905.17116-.17119--STER

This collection contains 150 albumen stereographs taken of and for the Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian from 1871 to 1874. Timothy H. O'Sullivan and William Bell were the official photographers of the surveys. Included are images of Zuni, Navajo, Apache, and Ute Indians.
Collection Finding Aid (contains digital images)

Views from the United States Pacific Railway expedition and survey
BANC PIC 1905.14071-.14148--PIC

This collection contains 116 prints depicting towns, camps, forts, countryside, views along Missouri River, Indians, and pioneer life.

The North American Indian : being a series of volumes picturing and describing the Indians of the United States, and Alaska
f E77 .C8 & ff E77 .C8 plates VAULT 
(collection restricted, curatorial approval needed for use, facsimile available)

This forty volume set (twenty of illustrated text and twenty of oversized plates) contains 2,234 photogravures depicting Native Americans.  While the original set requires curatorial approval for use, a facsimile set is available for viewing, containing all images used in the original Curtis volumes: f E77 .C8 2014 & ff E77 .C8 2014 plates.

Michelle Vignes photograph archive
BANC PIC 2003.108--PIC
(only --PIC boxes 1-24 are available for research)

The American Indian Movement and other Native American files (PIC boxes 16-21) contain photographs of the occupation of Alcatraz, the siege at Wounded Knee, urban Indian health clinics, D-Q University, various pow wows, Indian casinos, and leaders and activists such as Dennis Banks.  Also documented are numerous Native American women, including artists and craftswomen and storytellers of the Southwest. 

Ira Nowinski California Native American photograph archive
BANC PIC 2006.079--PIC

This collection is an extensive survey of contemporary California Native American groups with emphasis on festivals and other gatherings which demonstrate the preservation and revival of traditional cultures.  Photographs document tribal ceremonies, traditional regalia, baskets and other examples of material culture, ceremonial structures, regional environments, and other subjects.  The collection also has many individual and group portraits.  In addition, Nowinski's research files for the project are included.
Collection Finding Aid

American Indian Community History Center poster collection
BANC PIC 2008.010

This collection contains 347 posters in varying sizes that were collected by the Intertribal Friendship House Community History Project. These posters promote various events (exhibitions, concerts, powwows, demonstrations, etc.) and other themes pertaining to Native American culture, history and politics.

Fang family San Francisco examiner photograph archive photographic print files
BANC PIC 2006.029 (AVAILABLE BY APPOINTMENT ONLY, and some portions restricted)

This extensive collection contains approximately 850,000 local news photographs taken by staff of the San Francisco Examiner, the majority of which were never printed in the paper.  The American Indian Movement in the Bay Area is particularly well-documented.
Collection Finding Aid

Searching Tips


In the Advanced Keyword Search tab, searches can be limited to pictorial material by selecting Pictures/Graphics in the Material Types section.

Online Archive of California

When searching collections in OAC, the  icon indicates that digital images are available for viewing online.


Calisphere is the repository for digital images from The Bancroft Library.  While these images are also accessible via the Online Archive of California, searching through this portal may be more efficient if one is only interested in already digitized items.