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Implications of Catlin's American Indian population estimates for revision of Mooney's estimate.

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Implications of Catlin’s American Indian Population
Estimates for Revision of Mooney’s Estimate
RUSSELL THORNTON
Department of American Indian Studies, University of Minnesota,
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455
K E Y WORDS Population estimates
Prehistory
.
American Indians
ABSTRACT
Catlin’s population estimates of 37 American Indian tribes for
the period 1832 to 1839 are compared with Mooney’s estimates for the same
tribes that range from the year 1600 to the year 1780. The remarkably close
correspondence between the two totals despite the difference in the time periods indicates considerable inaccuracy on the part of either Mooney or Catlin.
If Catlin is given credibility, then the necessity of current upward revisions of
Mooney’s population estimate is supported.
The landmark work on the total size of
the American Indian population in North
America a t European contact was conducted
by Mooney (’10, ’28). He compiled population
figures for individual tribes from a variety of
sources, particularly estimates of early explorers (Ubelaker, ’761, and for the time of
first European contact with the tribe (which
ranged from the year 1600 to the year 1845).
These figures were then summed to obtain a
grand total of 1,152,950 (Mooney, ’28) as an
estimate of the American Indian population
north of the Rio Grande River at first European contact.
Though there has always been considerable
divergence of native population estimates a t
European contact for the total Western Hemisphere, until recently most scholars have arrived a t figures for North America very close
to Mooney’s (Ubelaker, ’771.’ In the last few
years, however, several scholars have questioned seriously the accuracy of Mooney’s total estimate, and have suggested considerable
upward revision of it. These revisions range
from Ubelaker’s (‘77) estimate of 2,171,125 to
Dobyns’ (‘66) estimate of 12,250,000.
The historic population estimates of American Indians made by Catlin seem all but
ignored by both Mooney and his critics, however. Catlin wrote a detailed description of the
48 American Indian tribes he encountered
from 1832 to 1839. Published originally in
London in 1844 as Letters and Notes on the
AM, J.
PHYS. ANTHROP. (1978)49: 11-14.
Manners, Customs and Conditions of the
North American Indians, this book has been
reproduced recently in the United States (Catlin, ’73). It has been utilized in various ways
by anthropologists, historians and other scholars but not particularly often as a source of
population data for American Indians, even
though i t contains population figures for 41
tribes.
Recent analysis of Mooney’s sources of data
for his estimates (Ubelaker, ’76) indicates
t h a t Mooney utilized Catlin’s observations for
only one tribe, the Assiniboin, and obtained i t
from a secondary source.’ With this one
known exception, Catlin’s figures are thus
independent of Mooney’s subsequent estimates. Consequently a comparison between
the figures of Mooney and those of Catlin for
comparable tribes may contribute to the current analysis of Mooney’s total figure and
therefore to the issue of the size of the preEuropean American Indian population.
COMPARISON BETWEEN MOONEY’S
AND CATLINS ESTIMATES
Mooney’s and Catlin’s population estimates
I Sapper’s (Ubelaker, ’77) 1924 estimate of from 2,000,000 to
3,500,000 is the only early significant departure from Mwney of
which I am aware.
Of perhaps interent, the figure of 8,000 utilized by Mwney for
the Assiniboin (Ubbelaker. ’76) was apparently incorrect. Catlin (’73:
p. 531 estimated the ppulation of the Assiniboin as 7,000. A h , the
fact that the estimates of Catlin and Moaney are identical for the
Cherokee, Choctaw and Menomoni may suggest that Mwney utilized Catlin in more than this one inntance.
11
12
RUSSELL THORNTON
TABLE 1
Comparison of Mooney’s and Catlin k population estimates for selected American Indian tribes
Arikara
Assiniboin
Atsina
Blackfoot
Cherokee
Cheyenne
Choctaw
Comanche
Cree
Creek and Seminole
Crow
Delaware
Hidatsa
Iowa
Kansa
Kickapoo
Kutenai
Mandan
Mooney
11600.1780)
Catlin
(1832-18391
3,000
10,000
3,000
15,000
7,000
4,300 ’
16,500 ’
22,000
22,000
3,500
15,000
7,000
15,000
18,000
4,000
8,000
2,500
3,000
15,000
35,000
3,000
23,500
1,500 ’
‘
’
7,000
2,000
1,200
800
1,500
1,400
1,560
700
2,500
3,600
2,000
1,200
3,000
’
Menomoni
Missouri
Mohegan
Ojibwe
Omaha
Osage
Oto
Pawnee
Peoria
Ponca
Potawatomi
Sarsi
Sauk and Fox
Shawnee
Sioux
Tuscarora
Winnebago
TOTAL
Mooney
11600 17801
Catlin
(1832-18391
3,000
1,000
600
35,000
3,000
400
400
2,800
6,000
1,500
6,200
6,200
900
10,000
1,500
800
600
450
2,700
700
2,200
6,500
5,500
3,000
1,200
25,000
45,000
500
4,000
246,800
“
20,000
200
4,000
5,000
3,800
’
’
247,110
‘ Catlm’s estimate is for number of lodges, asserting a n average of 10 per lodge.
.Includes Cherokee hoth east and west of t h e Mississippi River.
This figure is the midpoint of Catlin’s actual estimate.
Includes Cree and Muskegon in Canada.
‘ T h e figure uaed for the Seminole 1s the midpoint uf Catlin’s actual estimate.
Includes Munsee.
j This estimate 1s for only t h e extreme western Ojihwe, and does not include the Chippewa around Lake Superior. a s does t h e
estimate of Mooney
Includes Pawnee Picts, estimated a t 9,000.
“These a r c listed a s “Mascouten” by Mooney but a r e thought to be identical with the Peoria (Mwney, ‘28: p. 11)
for 37 American Indian tribes are presented in
table 1.In reporting Catlin’s estimates, I have
changed the spelling of certain tribal names to
conform to current usage and, on occasion,
have changed the name itself, following Sebeok (‘73) in both instances, e.g., Circee was
changed to Sarsi, Minataree to Hidatsa, Grosventres des Praires to Atsina. For purposes of
comparison, 1 have listed Creek and Seminole
together, as did Mooney but not Catlin, and
have included Catlin’s estimate for Pawnee
Picts with his estimate for Pawnee? Four of
Catlin’s estimates - for the Oneida, Piankashaw, Seneca and Wea - may not be compared as they are included by Mooney with
tribes not considered by Catlim4 It should be
noted that in two instances Mooney’s figures
include considerably larger groups than Catlin’s, i.e., Mooney includes all Cree and Muskegon in Canada whereas Catlin does not, and
Mooney includes the total Ojibwe in the
United States and Canada whereas Catlin refers to only the extreme western Ojibwe.
The total population figures of Mooney and
Catlin for these 37 tribes are remarkably
close: Mooney’s is 246,800; Catlin’s is 247,110.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
The closeness of the two total population
figures despite their respective times of reference being from over 50 t o over 230 years
apart suggests considerable inaccuracy on
the part of either Mooney or Catlin.‘ It seems
well-documented that the original American
Indian population in the United States declined sharply between the periods of the two
estimates because of disease, most notably
smallpox, warfare, and other factors (Crosby,
‘72: pp. 35-63; Hadley, ’57: pp. 24-25). I t also
seems well-documented t h a t this decline continued until the nadir of the American Indian
population was reached in either the last part
of the Nineteenth Century (Driver, ’68) or the
first part of the Twentieth Century (Dobyns,
’66; Hadley, ’57: p. 25). Given that the American Indian population decreased between first
It may be t h e case t h a l these Pawnee Picts referred t o t h e
Wichita.
Catlin’s estimates for these tribes are: Oneida, 350; Plankashaw,
170; Seneca, 1,200; and Wea, 200.
Though Mooney’s estimates ranged from the year 1600 to the
year 1845, depending on when t h e tribe i n question had initial European contact, his estimates for the 37 tribes of companson all range
from 1600 to 1780.
Obviously, It is also possible t h a t hoth may be very Inaccurate.
CATLINS AMERICAN INDIAN POPULATION ESTlMATES
European contact and the period of Catlin’s
estimates and that it continued to decrease for
several decades afterwards, i t is unlikely that
the estimates of Mooney and Catlin are both
correct.
Catlin’s population figures for the period
1832 to 1839 obviously should be evaluated in
terms of both his competence as an observer
and population figures obtained from other
sources. There seems little doubt but that Catlin developed extreme familiarity with the
tribes he visited, as his book contains detailed
descriptions of tribes and individuals encountered. The book also contains frequent discussions of population changes and their causes
for Indian peoples from European contact
until Catlin’s time. It is certain that Catlin
was extremely interested in American Indian
population sizes and had a good grasp of the
dynamics of population change.
Whether Catlin was familiar with existing
population estimates a t the time of his writing seems a matter of conjecture. It is possible
that the figures he recorded had been influenced by or obtained from sources other than
his direct observations; however, there is no
evidence of this from his work.? A comparison
of Catlin’s figures with other, independent
work on specific tribes for the 1830’s and
1840’s indicates a high accuracy on Catlin’s
part. For example, Catlin’s figure of 1,560 for
the Kansa in the 1830’s is very close to the
1843 census figure of 1,588 and to other estimates of the period (Barry, ’731,as is his 2,000
figure for the Mandan (Glassner, ’74).
It would seem that Catlin should be given
high credibility. If so, his population data lend
support to the necessity of the current revisions of Mooney’s total figure, and could, in
fact, contribute to more accurate estimation
of the pre-European American Indian population. The fact that Catlin observed 247,110
Indian people in these 37 tribes in the 1830’s
whereas Mooney estimated only 246,800 a t
first European contact suggests that an accurate estimation of the total North American native population would be considerably
13
larger than Mooney’s of 1,152,950. Whether it
would be closer to Ubelaker’s (’77) estimate of
2,171,125 or to Dobyns’ (’66) of 12,250,000remains to be demonstrated.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Support in the preparation of this paper was
provided by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs a t the University of Minnesota.
This support is acknowledged gratefully. The
author wishes to thank Tim Dunnigan, Joan
Marsh-Thornton, and Douglas H. Ubelaker
for reading and commenting on an earlier
draft of this paper. The author, however, is
solely responsible for the content of the paper.
LITERATURE CITED
Barry, L. 1973 The Kansa Indians and the census of
1843. Kans. Hist. Q., 29: 478-490.
Catlin, G . 1973 Letters and Notes on t h e Manners,
Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians,
2 Vols. Dover Publication, Inc. New York.
Crosby, A. W. 1972 The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Greenwood Press,
Westport, Connecticut.
Dobyns, H. F. 1966 Estimating aboriginal American
population: an appraisal of techniques with a new hemispheric estimate. Cur. Anthrop., 7: 395-416.
Driver, H. E. 1968 On the population nadir of Indians in
t h e United States. Cur. Anthrop., 9: 30.
Glassner, M. I. 1974 Population figures for Mandan
Indians. Indian Historiam, 7: 41-46.
Hadley, J. N. 1957 The demography of t h e American
Indians. Ann. Am. Acad. Poli. SOC.
Sci., 311: 23-30.
Mooney, J. 1910 Population. In: Handbook of American
Indians North of Mexico, F. W. Hodge,ed. B. A. E. Bull.,
30: 286-287, Part 2. Washington.
1928 The aboriginal population o f America
north of Mexico. J. R. Swanton, ed. Smithsonian Misc.
Coll., 80: 1-40.
Sebeok, T. A , , ed. 1973 Current Trends in Linguistics.
Vol. 10, Part 2. Mouton and Company, The Hague.
Ubelaker, D. H. 1976 The sources and methodology for
Mooney’s estimates of North American Indian populations. In: Native Population of t h e Americas in 1492.
W. M. Denevan, ed. Universityof Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 243-288.
1977 Prehistoric New World population size:
historical review and current appraisal of North American estimates. Am. J. Phys. Anthrop., 45: 661-666.
’In only one place dues Catlin cite a population estimate US
another indindual. It 18 a n estimate made by a superintendent of
Indian affair@a t St. b u i a and waa for the Blackfoot population.
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