Books by 19th Century American Indian Authors


There are hundreds of public domain books and articles about Native Americans freely available online. Nearly all were published before 1923, as it is assumed that most books published since that date still have valid copyrights.

Links are provided below for four books from the 1800s that were authored by Native Americans. Three of the authors were Ojibwa or Ottawa Indians who received schooling and learned to write English extraordinarily well. The fourth, Chief Black Hawk, narrated his story to an interpreter. All four authors are more interested in describing tribal history and culture than in telling their own life stories.

In addition to these four books, you can find links to dozens more books and articles about Native Americans on the History of the Great Lakes States website. On the Home Page, under the subject heading “Native Americans” you will find 6 links to pages on the Great Lakes region and each of the five states within it. There are also books about Native Americans on many other pages, especially those under the subject “Biographies and Memoirs” and “Fiction“.

Indian Life and Indian History, by an Indian Author. Embracing the Traditions of the North American Indians regarding themselves, particularly of that most important of all the Tribes, the Ojibways. By the Celebrated Kah-Ge-Ga-Gah-Bowh, Chief of the Ojibway Nation; known also by the English name of George Copway

Boston: Colby. 1858
Copway, GeorgeGo to Book

George Copway was born in 1818 in present-day Ontario, and his parents were of the Missasauga band of Ojibwa. He was raised as a traditional Ojibwa and learned to hunt for the fur trade. He converted to Methodism and was sent at age 16 to a Methodist mission, working among Ojibwas. He later married the daughter of an English gentleman, and the couple continued to do missionary work. He also published at least two books in addition to this one, possibly with the assistance of his wife.

History of the Ojebway Indians with Especial Reference to their Conversion to Christianity

London: Bennett. 1861
Jones, Peter (Kahkewaquonaby)Go to Book

Peter Jones (1802-1856) was born in Upper Canada and was raised to the age of 14 with his Ojibwa mother’s tribe, then went to live with his Welsh-born father. At 21 he converted to Methodism, and was later made a minister. He spent much of his career preaching to Ojibwa and Mohawk Indians in Upper Canada. This book about the Ojibwa Indians was completed and published after his death.

History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan. A Grammar of their Language, and Personal and Family History of the Author

Ypsilanti, MI: 1887
Blackbird, Andrew J.Go to Book

Blackbird (Mack-e-te-be-nessy) was an Ottawa chief’s son who served as an official interpreter for the U.S. government and later as a postmaster while remaining active in Native American affairs as a teacher, adviser on diplomatic issues, lecturer and temperance advocate. In this work he describes how he became knowledgeable about both Native American and white cultural traditions and chronicles his struggles to achieve two years of higher education at the Ypsilanti State Normal School. He also deals with the history of many native peoples throughout the Michigan region (especially the Mackinac Straits), combining information on political, military, and diplomatic matters with legends, personal reminiscences, and a discussion of comparative beliefs and values, and offering insights into the ways that increasing contact between Indians and whites were changing native life-ways. He especially emphasizes traditional hunting, fishing, sugaring, and trapping practices and the seasonal tasks of daily living.

The Life of Black Hawk; Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak

Chicago: Donnelley 1916
Quaife, Milo Milton, ed.Go to Book

The autobiography was dictated by Black Hawk in 1833, using the official U.S. interpreter for the Sacs and Foxes. This took place shortly after the Black Hawk War, when Black Hawk was in the custody of the Government.
This volume is a re-issuance by the Wisconsin Historical Society, with a new introduction, of an 1834 publication named:

“Life of Ma-Ka-Tai-Me-She-Kia-Kiak or Black Hawk, embracing the tradition of his nation – Indian wars in which he has been engaged – cause of joining the British in their late war with America, and its history – description of the Rock-River village – manners and customs – encroachments by the whites, contrary to treaty – removal from his village in 1831. With an account of the cause and general history of the late war, his surrender and confinement at Jefferson Barracks, and travels through the United States, dictated by himself.”