Native American Cultures Bibliography

North, Central and South America

All Periods

copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists Center

This is never going to be complete; there are too many tribes. In fact, we'd like more, if you've been reading (hint, hint). When we accrue enough we will be splitting off the individual ones (the Maya or the Plains tribes look to be first).

Search for Books at
Search by:

Anderson, Fred

Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 ****
Not only covers the milsci for one of the oft-skipped colonial wars, but deals with the effect it had on the colonies and on the Indian allies by eliminating the French north of the Caribbean. T1

Alva, Walter

"Discovering the New World's Richest Unlooted Tomb" **
National Geographic, vol. 174, no. 4, October 1988; pgs 510-515
Introduction to more detailed articles, but providing not only artifact photos but an overview photo of Sipan today. T2

"Into the Tomb of a Moche Lord" ****
National Geographic, vol. 174, no. 4, October 1988; pgs 516-549
Artifact and site photos, with a good introductory text to the Moche, who held a stretch of the Peruvian coast from 100-700 CE. T1

Arnold, Caroline & Richard Hewett (Illustrator)

The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde **
Houghton Mifflin Company; 2000 (orig. 1992); Paperback, 64pp.
We recommend this juvenile (ages 9-12) only for its splendid photography of ancient Southwest architecture. Its information on the Anasazi is actually rather dated, since the "disappearance mystery" is no longer considered important. T3

Aveni, Anthony F.

"Nazca Lines, Peru: Patterns on the Desert" ***
Mysteries of Mankind: Earth's Unexplained Landmarks
National Geographic Society, 1992
Good description of the method used to build this combination of path, map, ritual space, and observatory. Experimental archeology proved how little time, equipment, or preparation it really can take. Nice that a few shots with humans show that the figures are really too small to be aircraft parking zones. T1

De Betanzos, Juan

Narrative of the Incas ****
University of Texas Press
Finally translated, this was written in the 1500s based on the oral history of Betanzos' Inca wife, enriched by his own knowledge of the culture. T2

Black Elk, as told to John G. Neihardt

Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux ****
now from MJF; 280 pgs
Autobiography of a man and a tribe, including Custer, the ghost dance, and Wounded Knee. T2

Boaz, Franz

Introduction to Handbook of American Indian Languages ***
Holder, Preston, NY, 1911
Excellent early standard; good intro to basic linguistics. T3

Bray, Warwick

Everyday Life of the Aztecs *****!
Barnes & Noble, 208 pgs
An excellent base book for your collection. From this you can decide if you can pursue your idea further. T1

Burland, Cottie

North American Indian Mythology ***
Barnes & Noble, NY
A miscellany of tales from a number of tribes. T1

Capps, Benjamin

The Indians ***
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1973; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Mostly about the Plains tribes after they got horses, but occasionally there will be an odd intrusion of Choctaws, Pueblos, or the like, by careless editors of the many illustrations. Includes how to pack a tipi, saddles and bridles, cradleboards from different tribes, pipes, musical instruments, cooking gear, weapons, courting, marriage, and a great deal on religious ritual. T2

Catlin, George

Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of the North American Indians ****
Dover Publications, NY; 572 pg in 2 vol; illustrated by the author in 312 plates
Beautiful watercolours, personalized text of the author's 19th century wanderings among the increasingly displaced tribes. Includes vocabulary for some tribes. T2

Covington, J. W.

The Seminoles of Florida *****
The known history of the tribe. T2

Crow Dog, Leonard, & R. Erdoes

Crow Dog: Four Generations of Sioux Medicine Men ***
Traces the family from Crow Dog, one of Sitting Bull's compatriots, to Leonard Crow Dog of A.I.M. T3

Curtis, Edward S.

The North American Indian: The Complete Portfolios ****
Taschen, 768 pgs
800 captioned vintage photos. So old the foreward is by Theodore Roosevelt! Surely the perfect portrait of your characters is in here. T2

Densmore, Frances

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts ****
Dover, 122 pg
Once again, one tribe -- the Chippewa of Minnesota and Wisconsin -- become all "Indians." And you thought we were bad for lumping everyone together. Good book, despite the title, probably foisted on him by the publisher. T3

Dillehay, T. D.

The Settlement of the Americas ****
Based on the newer chronology that recognizes pre-Clovis sites, notably Monte Verde in southern Chile, this moves back the timescale on the view of the earliest Americans. T2

Doll, Don

Vison Quest: Men, Women and Sacred Sites of the Sioux Nation ****
Fully illustrated, for those of you who can't travel to the traditional sites. Many modern personalities of traditionalists. T3

Donnan, Christopher B.

"Iconography of the Moche: Unraveling the Mystery of the Warrior-Priest" ****
National Geographic, vol. 174, no. 4, October 1988; pgs 551-555
More detail on the Moche rulers found in Peru; see Alva, above. Beautiful paintings reconstruct the appearance of the people. T2

Dooling, D. M.

The Sons of the Wind: The Sacred Stories of the Lakota ****
HarperCollins, Publisher; 1984; 136 pg
Creation myth, as collected about 1900 by James Walker, MD, from the medicine men of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux), and strung into a continuous mythos by Dooling, working from Walker's notes. T3

Eddy, John A., PhD

"Probing the Mystery of the Medicine Wheels" ****
National Geographic, vol.151, no. 1, January 1977; pgs 140-146
Gives the detailed alignments of Bighorn Medicine Wheel and Mouse Mountain Medicine Wheel. Points out that these wheels are so old that the alignments with stars rising at dawn would now not be dead on. T2

Fagan, B. M.

Kingdoms of Gold, Kingdoms of Jade ***
Thames & Hudson
Good general history of the civilizations of the Americas before the European invasion. T1

Grant, Bruce

Concise Encyclopedia of the American Indian ****
Wings; 352 pg
Good general reference on many tribes: history, customs, artifacts. T3

von Hagen, Adriana & Craig Morris

The Cities of the Ancient Andes
March 1998; Hardcover, 240pp.
Traces the development of village cultures into city-states and nations, from 2500 BC. Has some wonderful "everyday life" vignettes T2

von Hagen, Victor W.

World of the Maya **
Mentor Books, NY, 1960

Hay, Clarence L., editor

The Maya and Their Neighbors ***
Dover; 634 pg
Essays by Kroeber, Morley, Viallant, and other ethnologists. Includes a linguistic map. T2

Hirschfelder, A. & P. Molin

The Encyclopedia of Native American Religions ***
For our use, suffers from division into some 1200 articles, through which you have to back-and-forth when hunting the beliefs and practices of any one tribe. T1<

Hyams, Edward, and George Ordish

The Last of the Incas: The Rise and Fall of an American Empire ****
Good detail on the royal family and the structure of society in late Inca culture. T2

Ingraham, Holly

People's Names : A Cross-Cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of over 40,000 Personal and Familial Names in over 100 Cultures *****!
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 1997; 613 pgs, index, select annotated bibliography
The Historical half has chapters for Cherokee, Sioux, Cheyenne, Delaware, Nahuatl, Maya, and Quechua naming, besides a general Native (North) American miscellany chapter. T1

Kendall, Ann

Everyday Life of the Incas *****!
Barnes & Noble, 216 pgs
This will put all the basics of routine and architecture as well as ritual and mythology in one place for you. T1

de Landa, Bishop Diego

Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, with Other Related Documents *****!
trans. by William Gates; Baltimore, 1937; now from Dover Publications, Inc., NY
Classic account by the chief prelate, who recorded the little he knew and burnt every Mayan book he could find. Required base document for the Maya, whether you like the Spaniards or not. T2

Laubin, Reginald & Gladys

American Indian Archery *****!
University of Oklahoma Press, OK, 1980
Excellent discussion of bow and arrow styles and materials by practicing bowyer willing to try any material in experiment. T3

Mails, Thomas E.

The Mystic Warriors of the Plains ****
now from Barnes & Noble
This is the classic that provided so much of the authenticity of Dances With Wolves, a MUST READ before writing about the Plains horse-tribes. T1

The Cherokee People: The Story of the Cherokee from Earliest Origins to Contemporary Times *****!
Marlowe; 368 pgs
This gets that extra rating because Plains culture is so much more familiar, to the point that most people think of it as the only Native American culture. If you don't know, the Cherokee were one of the Five Civilized Tribes (so dubbed by the invaders), so intelligent that once having only the CONCEPT of writing explained to him, Sequoia went home and with some friends invented the Cherokee "alphabet" (actually a syllabary). T1

McIntyre, Loren

"Lost Empire of the Incas" ****
National Geographic, vol. 144, no. 6, December 1973; pgs. 729-787
By exploring the present activities of the natives of the Andes, McIntyre throws a great deal of light on the Incas: what a quipu looks like -- indeed, what the Inca looked like, since the modern natives in festive dress are indistinguishable from their ancestors in art -- how to build a rope bridge, how it feels to be run over by cavalry, reconstructions of ancient Cuzco, drying potatoes, carrying a sacrificial lama to a sacred islet in a reed boat, and so forth. T2

McLoughlin, William G.

Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic. ***
Princeton University Press.
Describes the success of the Cherokees in the late 18th and early 19th centuries up to their removal to the Indian Territory, despite their having operated as full citizens of the US. T2

Melham, Tom

"Medicine Wheels, United States and Canada: Puzzles of the Plains" ***
Mysteries of Mankind: Earth's Unexplained Landmarks<
National Geographic Society, 1992
Discusses the several theories about the medicine wheels, which are insoluble. Interesting photos. T1

Morgan, Lewis H.

League of the Iroquois ****
1851; now from JG Press; 124 pgs
Covers the complex politics of the northeastern tribes, dealing with each other and the Europeans. T2

Paterek, Josephine

Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume *****!
Norton; 516 pgs
At last! A costuming lap-breaker for North America! Cover pre-contact as well as post-contact costume, in detail down to the accessories, for both men and women. T1

Powell, Peter J.

Sweet Medicine *****!
University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; 1969
A detailed history of the Cheyenne, male and female, from their point of view. Fine reading. T1

Prescott, William Hickling

History of the Conquest of Mexico, with a Preliminary View of the Ancient Mexican Civilization and the Life of the Conqueror Hernando Cortez ****

Go To Project GutenbergHistory of the Conquest of Peru, with a Preliminary View of the Civilization of the Incas ****
Classics to give you a solid grounding in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, the Maya in Yucatan, and the Inca Empire in Peru. The view of the native cultures is dated, but you can correct that in further reading. T2

Roberts, David

In Search of the Old Ones ***
Simon & Schuster, NY; 271 pg
A good, up-to-date grounding in what is so far known of the Anasazi who built a string of now-deserted pueblos 700 years ago, mostly sheltered in sandstone cliffs. T2

Salmonson, Jessica Amanda

The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era ****
Paragon House, NY, 1991; 290 pg, no index, bibliography

Salmonson includes a number of women warriors from different cultures, including the violent Goddesses of Central America. However, she has missed a couple (or had to edit them out to make space requirements), like Buffalo Calf Road Woman (see Powell). T2

Sandoz, Mari

Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglala ****
1942; now from MJF
The sort of biography you need if this is your period. Very good detail biography, a bit shy of 500 pages. T2

Schele, Linda

A Forest of Kings: the Untold Story of the Ancient Maya *****!
Morrow, NY, 1990
The actual history of the Maya, finally deceiphered from their system of writing and pieced together from the many monuments of Yucatan. T1

Schmidt, Peter, ed.

Maya ****
Beautiful catalog from an exhibition gives background essays as well as images. T1

Spence, Lewis

The Myths of the North American Indians *****!
Dover; 450 pg, 36 illos
Covers the Algonquin, Iroquois, Pawnee and Sioux, with a lot of anthropological chapters, too. T1

Starita, Joe

The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge: A Lakota Odyssey ****
Putnam; 388 pgs
Orally kept history of a Sioux family from the days of Custer to 1990. T3

Starkey, Marion L.

The Cherokee Nation ****
JG Press; 355 pgs
A good, solid history of the tribe, covering culture but giving more thematic space to their relations with the Europeans, leading to the Trail of Tears. T1

Stierlin, Henri, ed.

Architecture of the World: Ancient Mexico *****!
Taschen, 192 pg

Architecture of the World: Mayan *****!
Taschen, 192 pg
Both these make the valuable contribution of approaching the buildings as architecture, not as supports for pictures, or hiding places for tombs, to which too many archeological books fall prey. T2

Stuart, Gene S.

"Palenque, Mexico: Messages to the Gods" ***
Mysteries of Mankind: Earth's Unexplained Landmarks
National Geographic Society, 1992
Great atmospheric photos, basic visitor text. T1

Stuart, George E.

"Who Were the 'Mound Builders'?" *****!
National Geographic, vol. 142, no. 6, December 1972; pgs. 783-801
Excellent introduction to the artifacts as well as the mounds, including a reconstruction of the town of Cahokia, built within sight of present-day St. Louis, and a small map showing in which states mounds cluster, which can guide you to contacting more local sources. T1

Tanner, John

The Falcon: A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner *****!
1830, now from Penguin.
Tanner was abducted by the Shawnee when he was nine, sold to the Ojibwa, and grew up in the tribe. His did not adapt to white society despite attempts when he was grown, and rejoined the Ojibwa. A fascinating look at the peoples and the gulfs between them. T2

Thompson, E. H.

People of the Serpent ***
NY, 1932
Basic work on the Maya.

Timmons, Boyce D., and Alice Tyner Timmons, editors

Authenticated Rolls of 1880, Cherokee Nation
Cha-ga-yau Books
Interminable lists, sometimes unavoidably difficult to read. Groups families and gives sex. Spelling in English varies, according to which census taker wrote it down. T3

Townsend, Richard F.

The Aztecs ****
Thames & Hudson
History, but lots of cultural detail, including choclate-brewing. T1<

West, Elliott

The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado ***
University Press of Kansas.
Starts with the rise and creation of the Plains horse-nomad culture, rather than acting like it had been forever, or else was created entire just as the white eyes arrived. Shows the conflict over the Plains created by prospectors and miners. T2

Whitlock, Ralph

Everyday Life of the Maya *****!
B&N, 175 pgs
An excellent book with which to start both you reading and your collection. More than introductory, it provides a broad framework on which to hang the rest of your information. T1


The Doors of Time ****

Voyager, 1992; laserdisc, 59 min.

Mayan, Olmec, and Aztec art from the Mexican National Museum of Anthropology. There are 133 works in still-frame, with 350+ close-ups, and 12 maps. The ten chapters on different cultures have alternate soundtracks in English and Spanish. T3

Search for Books at
Search by:


Ancient Guatemala ***

Covers the Maya of Guatemala, who naturally did not think in terms of modern borders.


Ancient World Web *****!

Superb linksite, which it would be silly to try and duplicate here. Especially fine for including Asian, American, and African sections, not just Europe and the Near East.


Aymara ***

Basics on the Aymara of the Andes, who added the potato to the world's diet.


H-GIG Historical Times & Places ***

A thorough-going linksite maintained by the University of California at Riverside, H-GIG sorts by area, by era (ancient, Medieval, early Modern<includes European expansion>, Modern, and 20th C), or by topic (military, women, etc.). It's a good place to start a hunt for books and essays online.


Mayan Cuisine *****!

Deals not just with what foods were available, and how cooked, but the whole work and economy of food production and distribution.


Pre-Columbian Culture *****!

This graphics-rich site from Mexico has special sections on the Mayans, Mexicas, and the Olmecs.

To Renaissance and Reformation Europe Bibliography

To Western Expansion Bibliography

Back to Times and Places