GALLATIN, Albert (1761-1849)
A Table of Indian tribes of the United States, east of the Stony Mountains: arranged according to languages and dialects
[Washington: 1826]. Letterpress broadside. (21 7/8 x 18 1/8 inches). Matted.
Extraordinary table mapping the Indian languages of the United States.
At the beginning of the Indian removal era, Albert Gallatin convinced the U.S. government to fund an investigation into the languages of the Native Americans being displaced. His motivation for systematizing Native languages stemmed largely from a long fascination with phililogy, encouragement by Humboldt, and correspondence with DuPonceau and others on the subject; from the government's perspective, bringing "civilization" to Native tribes first required proof of their intelligence. Working through the War Department, Gallatin secured $2000 in funding for the project and promptly had Secretary of War James Barbour issue a circular to Indian agents. Dated May 15, 1826, the circular begins: "It is the intention of the government to collect and preserve such information as may be obtained concerning the Indian languages." Included with the letter were three enclosures. The first, in an effort to establish a uniform comparative vocabulary, consisted of a list of 600 English words for which the agent was supposed to send back to the War Department their native language equivalent. Second, a list of sentences which was to be translated so that grammatical forms and structure could be compared. The third enclosure was the present broadside, described by Barbour in his circular letter as "an attempt, with the materials already within his reach, to arrange the Indian Tribes of the United States east of the Stony Mountains, according to languages and dialects." The Table lists 102 native tribes, grouped by languages and geographic locations. Gallatin's sources included previous work by Duponceau and Heckewelder, but also his own interviews with visiting delegations to Washington between 1824 and 1826. Gallatin had hoped the study would eventually be published by the government; however, a lackluster response to the circular derailed the project. Gallatin would eventually publish the results he was able to compile within the second volume of Archaeologia Americana: Transactions of the American Antiquarian Society (1836). Gallatin's Table -- the first work of its kind -- is extremely rare. We locate only six extant examples (Yale, American Philosophical Society, New York Historical Society, Morgan Library, American Antiquarian Society and Northeastern State University).
Not in Shaw and Shoemaker. See Sean P. Harvey, "'Must Not Their Languages Be Savage and Barbarous Like Them?' Philology, Indian Removal and Race Science" in Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 30., No. 4 (Winter 2010), pp. 505-532; Elisabeth Tooker, "Classifying North American Indian Languages before 1850" in Anthropology, History, and American Indians: Essays in honor of William Curtis Sturtevant (Smithsonian: 2002).