Red Thunder Cloud collection

Red Thunder Cloud was an alias of Cromwell Ashbie Hawkins West (1922-1996), who posed as a Catawba and native speaker of the language. In 1938, he wrote a letter to Frank G. Speck, introducing himself as a "16 year old Catawba Indian." He continued his masquerade for the rest of his life and served as an assistant and informant to linguists and anthropologists. While his veracity was questioned by some, it was not until his death that it was confirmed that he was not Catawba, much less a Native American. For more information, please see Ives Goddard's article "The Identity of Red Thunder Cloud" at
Materials relating to Red Thunder Cloud collected by his friend Oreste Vincent Unti: (1) Photographic print (8x10) inscribed "Best wishes Bernie from Red Thunder Cloud." (2) Two-page letter in Spanish to Oreste Unti from Armando Diaz, East Hampton, NY, May 22, 1945. (3) Two-page letter to Oreste Unti from "Your Brother Tez" [i.e. Red Thunder Cloud], Catawba Lodge, East Hampton, NY, n.d. (4) Photocopy of obituary for Oreste Vincent Unti published in the Chestnut Hill Local (Oct 25, 2001). (5) Periodical published by Red Thunder Cloud at Catawba Lodge: "The Indian War Drum: The Voice of the Eastern Indians" Vol. 1 No 2. (Feb 1946).
Cite as
Manuscript 2005-07 Red Thunder Cloud collection, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Repository Loc.
National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, Maryland
Indians of North America--Ethnic identity
National Anthropological Archives
Unti, Oreste Vincent
Red Thunder Cloud 1919-1996
Physical description
5 pages; 1 photographic print; and 1 periodical
Collection descriptions
Local number
NAA MS 2005-07
Catawba Indians
Indians of North America Southern States