Erdoes, Richard Papers

Span Dates: 1920 - 2008
Bulk Dates: 1965 - 1998
Volume: 171.99 Linear Feet ((318 boxes) + 12 cold storage, 5 broadside)


The Richard Erdoes Papers consist of correspondence, writings, audio and moving image recordings, photographs, subject files, and other materials related to Erdoes’s work with and about American Indian peoples, particularly the Rosebud Lakota. The papers contain source materials—recordings, photographs, and subject files—which Erdoes used in his “as-told-to” autobiographies and other works about American Indians. Coupled with drafts of his works in Series II, these materials document Erdoes’s process of recording, transcribing, and compiling his books. The materials present in the collection are valuable not only as a resource for scholars interested in how Erdoes produced his most famous texts, but also for research about the subjects he documented. Erdoes’s relationship with several key figures in the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the Red Power movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s allowed him to document important moments in American Indian civil rights history, including the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 and its aftermath. His papers include documents, photographs, posters and other materials related to the trials and imprisonment of Lakota medicine man Leonard Crow Dog. Taped interviews with Archie Fire Lame Deer and Leonard Crow Dog include discussion of homosexuality. The papers are a source for research about twentieth century American Indian spiritual beliefs and traditions; the Native American Church; and American Indian cultural revitilization efforts,

Hist/Bio Note

Richard Erdoes, illustrator, photographer, and author of more than a dozen books about American Indian life, was born in Vienna, Austria July 7, 1912. A student during the rise of Naziism, he immigrated and was welcomed into the German exile community in New York, and launched a successful career as a freelance illustrator and photographer. Over the next two decades, he contributed to publications like National Geographic, American Heritage, Stage Magazine, and Life Magazine. Erdoes became deeply intrigued by contemporary Native American life and spirituality. Outraged by his first-hand experience of conditions on reservations and fascinated by the American Indian belief systems he encountered, Erdoes wrote, illustrated, and edited an extensive number of adult and children’s books on American Indian cultures, folklore, and life over the next four decades. He became a passionate advocate for American Indian civil rights, and an avid documenter of tribal life and spiritual revitalization, particularly among the Lakota. Richard Erdoes died on July 16, 2008 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Finding Aid

An extensive finding aid is available. Original tapes of the Leonard Crow Dog and Archie Fire Lame Deer interviews are restricted due to fragility of the medium, but copies can be ordered.


This collection is held at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. P. O. Box 208330 New Haven CT 06520-8330 US (203) 432-2977


Native American Spirituality | Author/editor | Artist/musician/poet