Historic Photos

Red Thunder Cloud being interviewed by Dr. Goddard in 1981
Red Thunder Cloud being interviewed by Dr. Goddard in 1981

This section contains rare photographs that present Montaukett Indians from a historic perspective. This series of sixty rare photos with accompanying narrative was originally created by Red Thunder Cloud, a noted American Indian Linguist and Historian who spent many years documenting the Montaukett in pictures and prose. The photographs don’t follow any particular chronological order. They present personal glimpses of prominent tribal members, their families and how they inter-mingled over time on Long Island.

In a letter dated May 14, 1938, he introduced himself as “a 16 year old Catawba Indian and a Junior at Southampton High School” on Long Island. He further wrote that “as a very young boy I was brought up among the Narragansett Indians of Rhode Island. I have only been living with the Shinnecocks since July 27, 1937.

Starting in 1938, Red Thunder Cloud began collecting ethnographic data and folklore relating to the Long Island Indians, including the Montaukett, Shinnecock and Mashpee. During this period he published several papers on Long Island ethnography and folklore and he amassed a large collection of photographs – some of which are presented on this website.

Red Thunder Cloud was an interesting figure who was frequently mentioned in local Long Island media. He once sued the town of Southampton, demanding $100,000 “for damaging the cultural development of Catawba Indian language.” This was after the town dog warden destroyed nine of his dogs, which he claimed he had taught Catawba commands.

It is important to understand that much of the history presented in this section is from Red Thunder Cloud’s personal point of view. The narrative included with each photo reflects Red Thunder Cloud’s mindset at the time when he wrote them. Some of the claims made by him have been contradicted in other historical volumes. Some of his opinions might seem “politically incorrect” even offensive, but they are indicative of 1930’s and 1940’s thinking.

Red Thunder Cloud spent many years among the Montaukett and because of this, he was positioned to record Montaukett history from a very unique perspective. The Montaukett Indian Nation applauds Red Thunder Cloud for his invaluable contribution to the historical record of all Long Island’s Indigenous people. Red Thunder Cloud died on January 8, 1996.

Algonquian and Proud