Although information about indigenous tattooing in much of the New World is woefully and depressingly lacking, the Pacific Northwest of North America is one spot where some research managed to document a bit of the rich traditions of body modification and tattooing that took place there.
Below are excerpts of the report of anthropologist James G. Swan, made to the Smithsonian in 1874, about what he observed in Port Townsend, W.T. (Washington Territory).
“The chief or head man owns the house, and the occupants are his family and relatives, each one of whom will have on some part of the body a representation in tattooing of the particular figure which constitutes his or her family name or connection. …The chief will have all the figures tattooed on his body to show his connection with the whole. …The principal portion of the body tattooed is the back of the hand and forearm; and a Haidah, particularly the women, can be readily designated from any other northern tribe by this peculiarity. … The drawings of tattoo designs which accompany the carvings were copied by me from the persons of the Indians who came to my office for that purpose.”