Late 19th Century Map of Native American Languages

A Colorful Late-19th-Century Map of Native American Languages nipmuc

A Colorful Late-19th-Century Map of Native American Languages 

John Wesley Powell, explorer, geologist, and scientist, produced this map while he was the head of the Bureau of American Ethnology, as part of an 1890 Annual Report. According to Powell’s description of the project, the map plotted “linguistic stocks of American Indians,” as they were situated “at the time when the tribes composing them first became known to the European.”

The map was a culmination of decades of work, Powell wrote in the section of the bureau’s 1891 annual report that described its provenance. “The writer’s interest in linguistic work and the inception of a plan for a linguistic classification of Indian languages date back about 20 years, to a time when he was engaged in explorations in the West,” Powell wrote (using the third person to refer to himself).

read the full article at the slate

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