The Importance of Treaties for Teaching American Indian History

Spotted Tail, Chief of the Brule Sioux 1880.

Sinte Galeska, ca. 1880, also known as Spotted Tail, a chief of the Bruleton, band of the Oglala Sioux, was one of the signers of the Fort Laramie Treaty.

American Indian Treaties can be an extremely important starting point for teaching the history of a Native American tribe or tribes from a particular area of the United States.

These historic documents mark the beginning of a tribe’s transition from Sovereign Nation, with it’s own independent government and land base, to a “domestic, dependent, Nation” (Supreme Court 1831).   Over time, these “dependent” Nations were sometimes further reduced to “confederations” where from just a few to twenty or more separate tribes, bands, and communities were moved into one reservation area together and treated as one governmental entity.

As the result of a request for the National Archives to loan eight original treaties to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. for their newly opened Nation to Nation Exhibit, we began digitizing Native American treaties to bring more to the public through the National Archives Online Catalog and DocsTeach.  On both DocsTeach and the Nation to Nation exhibit webpage, type-written transcriptions are included to make it easy for students to study the contents of these handwritten documents while still being able to see the original documents in color.

In addition, we’ve prepared the first of a series of DocsTeach teaching activities related to these treaties, entitled Treaties and Treaty Making. It can help teachers explain, in a simple way, the concept of treaty making between governments and the original sovereignty and independent nature of Native American tribes.  More DocsTeach activities will be added in the near future to further illustrate these concepts and to provide easy materials for classroom use.

American Indian Treaties currently available on DocsTeach include:

* 1790 – Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Creek Nation of Indians Signed at New York, 8/7/1790.

* 1794 – Treaty between the United States of America and the Tribes of Indians Called the Six Nations, 11/11/1794.

* 1795 – Treaty of Greenville, August 3, 1795 (Ratified Indian Treaty #23, 7 STAT 49), between the Wyandot, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomie, Miami, Eel River, Wea, Kickapoo, Piankashaw, and Kaskaskia Tribes and signed by “Mad” Anthony Wayne, that ended the Indian War on the Northwestern Frontier, commonly called “Wayne’s War, 8/3/1795.

1804 Sac and Fox Treaty

1804 Sac and Fox Treaty

* 1804 – Treaty between the United States Government and the Sauk and Fox Indians on November 11, 1804. (Ratified Indian Treaty #43, 7 STAT 84)

* 1807 – Treaty between the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandot, and Potawatomi Indians, 11/17/1807.

* 1809 – Treaty between the United States and the Delaware, Potawatomi, Miami and Eel River Tribes of Indians at Fort Wayne, Indiana, 9/30/1809.

* 1835 – Cherokee Treaty at New Echota, Georgia, December 29, 1835 (Ratified Indian Treaty)

* 1836 – Treaty between the United States and the Potawatomi Indians at Yellow River, Indiana, 8/5/1836.

* 1851 – Treaty between the United States and the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Assiniboin, Gros Ventre, Madan and Arikara Indians at Fort Laramie, Indian Territory, 9/17/1851.

* 1854 – Treaty between the United States and the Nisqualli, Puyallup and Other Indians at Medicine Creek, Washington Territory 12/26/1854.

* 1865 – Treaty of Little Arkansas River, October 14, 1865 (Ratified Indian Treaties #341, 14 STAT 703) between the U.S. and Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indians (Black Kettle Band) granting lands in reparation for the Sand Creek Massacre, 11/29/1964.

* 1868 – Fort Laramie Treaty, 4/29/1868.

* 1868 – Treaty between the United States Government and the Navajo Indians signed at Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory on June 1, 1868. (Ratified Indian Treaty #372, 15 STAT 667)

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See you at NCSS!

The National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference starts next week in Boston.

You can catch up with us at several events to hear what’s new at the National Archives and Presidential Libraries.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

NLJFK 93-C52-29: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, 15 November 1993

Pre-Conference Clinic:

Thurs, 11/20, 9 am — “One Tumultuous Year! 1963: The Struggle for Civil Rights” at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum


Fri, 11/21, 11:30 am — Guided tour of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, including special exhibit “To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis”


Conference Sessions:

Sammy the Eagle

Meet Sammy the Eagle, National Archives ambassador who teaches K–2 students about national symbols, in our interactive videoconferencing session.

Fri, 11/21, 10:05 am — Teaching the C3 Framework: A Guide to Inquiry-Based Instruction in the Social Studies with Chris Zarr of the National Archives at New York City and Kris Jarosik of the National Archives at Chicago, who will take part in the panel discussion

Fri, 11/21, 1 pm — Explore the National Archives from Your Classroom with Interactive Videoconferencing (IVC) with Jenny Sweeney of the National Archives at Fort Worth and Mickey Ebert of the National Archives at Kansas City

Fri, 11/21, 4:15 pm — Prequel to Independence: The Shot Heard round the World with Annie Davis of the National Archives at Boston

Fri, 11/21, 4:15 pm — Voices from the Past: Introducing Historical Letters to Elementary Students with Sam Rubin and Esther Kohn of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Sat, 11/22, 8 am — You’re the Curator: Creating a Historical Exhibit Using Multiple Literacies with Mira Cohen of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Sat, 11/22, 10:10 am — Investigating the Arts as a Civic Language with Alyssa Liles-Amponsah of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Sat, 11/22, 3:35 pm — Prioritizing the Federal Budget: A Kennedy Library Simulation for Students with Nina Tisch of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

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Reminder: Educators’ Open House

For those of you in the DC area, please join us at our Educators’ Open House on Thursday, November 13 from 5:30–7:30 pm at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C.

Come spend the evening and find out more about what we offer for you and your classroom!

No pre-registration is required. Light refreshments will be served. Please bring your colleagues along!

Ed Open House flyer 2014

NARA Educators’ Open House flyer 2014–Download and Print

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Profile in Courage Essay Contest

Today’s post comes from Esther Kohn, education specialist at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation invites U.S. high school students to write an essay on an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1956. The deadline for submissions to the Profile in Courage Essay Contest is January 5, 2015.Profiles in Courage Paperback Edition

In his 1956 book Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy recounted the stories of eight U.S. senators who faced dire consequences for standing up for the public good. Ostracized, rejected by voters, and even physically attacked, the elected officials in Kennedy’s Pulitzer prize-winning book put politics aside to do what they believed was right for the country.

A “Profile in Courage” essay is a carefully researched recounting of a story: the story of how an elected official risked his or her career to take a stand based on the dictates of the public good, rather than the dictates of polls, interest groups, or even constituents. The contest challenges high school students to discover new “profiles in courage,” and to research and write about acts of political courage that occurred after the 1956 publication of Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage.

The Profile in Courage Essay Contest requires young people today to grapple with big ideas:  How did Kennedy define political courage? Which public figures have demonstrated political courage? Which local, state, and national elected officials have risked their careers to take a stand for what is right?

Visit the John F. Kennedy Library website for contest information, eligibility and requirements, prize information, judging criteria, curriculum ideas, past winning essays, and more.

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New Resources for Teaching the History of Native America

Have you ever wondered where to look for Native American research materials for yourself or your students?  Do you sometimes need an interesting activity to help you engage your students in the history of Indigenous America?

This year we’ve been developing material specifically for you!

Researching American Indians Page

American Indian Nations in the United States were originally independent of the Federal government and treated as foreign nations.  (Until 1823, first the English and then the American governments even required anyone passing over Native American territory to acquire a passport.)

This changed when, in 1831, Justice John Marshall1 declared American Indian communities to thereafter be treated as “domestic, dependent, Nations.”  This placed tribal jurisdiction directly under the U.S. Government but not subject to state, county, or territorial governments.  Because of this unique relationship to the Federal Government, thousands upon thousands of important records are held by the National Archives (whose job it is to preserve permanently valuable records of the Federal Government) relating to American Indians.  These documents, photographs, and other primary sources are scattered throughout the records of over 90 different federal agencies, but the majority are in the records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

For the past 18 months, many archivists, exhibit specialists and educators at the National Archives have been writing instructional material to help lead you to documents specifically related to these records.  Within the last month, we’ve created new pages to help you and your students find materials related to American Indians both in our main online catalog and in person at National Archives research facilities.

Photograph of Navajo Indian Code Talkers Henry Bake and George Kirk, 12/1943

Photograph of Navajo Indian Code Talkers Henry Bake and George Kirk, 12/1943

We share interesting articles about a wealth of American Indian subjects, such as:

We include resources and information for K-12 teachers and students as well as special pages of instruction for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students.

Indian Nations vs. Settlers on the American Frontier

The K-12 page describes and leads students and teachers to specialized pages on This DocsTeach activity, to use in class or as homework, can be found at

In addition to instructional material, a special list can help you navigate the extremely complicated process of locating Bureau of Indian Affairs records for tribes within a specific state.  And you can even locate records from various Bureau of Indian Affairs’ boarding and day schools.

General view of buildings, Rocky Boy Agency, Montana Chippewa, 1936

General view of buildings, Rocky Boy Agency, Montana Chippewa, 1936

We haven’t yet included a list leading to records for particular Indian tribes, but we hope to in the near future.



1 U.S. Supreme Court, Cherokee Nation v Georgia (1831).  

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From Camp David to the Carter Center: Leadership and Legacy in the Life of America’s 39th President

The following is excerpted from the 2015 National History Day (NHD) Theme Book article “From Camp David to the Carter Center: Leadership and Legacy in the Life of America’s 39th President,” by Kahlil Chism, education specialist at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. The full article, primary sources, and suggested teaching activities can be downloaded from the NHD website.

In September 1978, President Jimmy Carter accomplished one of the most momentous feats of U.S. foreign policy ever attempted—brokering peace between two Middle Eastern countries that had been at war for nearly 30 years. While American presidents from Harry Truman through Richard Nixon had faced Mid-East region crises while in office, President Carter was the first to make an effort at establishing a preemptive peace between two of that region’s major powers.

Menahem Begin, Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat meet during the Camp David Summit

Menahem Begin, Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat meet during the Camp David Summit., 9/7/1978, From the Carter White House Photographs Collection, Jimmy Carter Library, National Archives Identifier 181106.

Carter put his political reputation on the line by inviting Mohammed Anwar al Sadat, president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and Prime Minister of the State of Israel Menachem Begin to come to Camp David for a face-to-face summit. The result of that summit was the Camp David Accords, which were signed on September 17, 1978.

[In 1978], the Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded—a first in the 80-year history of the prize—to Sadat and Begin. And in 2002 Jimmy Carter also received the Nobel Peace Prize “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”1 The Nobel Committee noted that “Carter’s mediation was a vital contribution to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, in itself a great enough achievement to qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize.”2

It stands to reason then that in 1981, as former President Carter was preparing to chart a course for his future, the success of the Camp David summit would serve as the direct inspiration for the organization that will become his legacy, The Carter Center.

By January 1981, two decades before he was honored by the Nobel Committee, 56-year-old Carter found himself among the pantheon of America’s youngest former presidents. He spent most of that year writing his memoir, Keeping Faith, planning his presidential library, and pursuing his hobbies of woodworking and watercolors.

But it wasn’t enough. “I had the same kind of thoughts about alleviating tensions in the troubled areas of the world,” he noted in his book, “promoting human rights, enhancing environmental quality, and pursuing other goals that were important to me. These were hazy ideas at best, but they gave us something to anticipate which could be exciting and challenging during the years ahead.”3

In January 1982, the former president had an epiphany. “One night I woke up and Jimmy was sitting straight up in bed,” Mrs. Carter recalled….‘What’s the matter?’ I asked. ‘I know what we can do at the library,’ he said. ‘We can develop a place to help people who want to resolve disputes….If there had been such a place, I wouldn’t have had to take Begin and Sadat to Camp David.’”4

Carter was the first former president to start a nonprofit organization upon leaving office. The Carter Center was founded in 1982, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; teaching farmers to increase crop production; and resolving conflicts.5

Read Kahlil Chism’s full article in the 2015 NHD Theme Book. Find more NHD resources from the National Archives and the Presidential Libraries on our NHD Resources page.


1 “The Nobel Peace Prize 2002,” Nobel Prize. 2013. Accessed March 25, 2014 – http://

2 “The Nobel Peace Prize 2002.” – laureates/2002/press.html

3 Jimmy Carter, Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President. (New York: Bantam, 1982), 575

4 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 1995).

5 “Carter Center Accomplishments,” Carter Center. 2014. Accessed March 25, 2014:

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Ahoy Mateys! New Whaling Documents Come to DocsTeach this Month

Today’s post comes from Chelsea Tremblay, social media intern in our Education and Public Programs division.

In the mid 1800’s, the Charles W. Morgan set sail in search of one thing: the mighty whale. The last wooden whaling ship in the United States, the Morgan braved the ocean’s rough waters for treasures such as whale bones and oils—not to mention the thousands of dollars seamen earned from these goods.

Whaling is a major part of history! The once popular practice offers numerous windows into the past in various ways: music (sea shanties), art (scrimshaw, knots), mathematics (measurement, navigation), science (whales, oceans, man’s impact on nature), and geography. 

Now you can peek into the past using DocsTeach where 19 documents about the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship were just added!

Search through these records to learn about the goods seamen brought back from their trips. In this merchandise log from 1874, the crew brought back 6,080 gallons of whale oil! Whale oil was heavily in demand at the time because it was used to light lamps and make candles. Sperm whale candles (or spermaceti) are actually said to be to be the brightest, purest candles.

Ask your students: Can you determine how much money they earned from all of that oil?



These documents can also teach us a bit more about life at sea. Sure, the salty sea breeze rustling through your hair and having nothing but the horizon ahead seems like a dream. However, life as a whaling crew member wasn’t quite so romantic. Here you can find the names of two men who deserted the Charles W. Morgan when it made port in May of 1874.


In this collection of new records you can also find discharge certificates and even death certificates.

Some ideas for incorporating these documents in the classroom are:

  • Vocabulary lessons (“absconded”, “manifest”, “[paid] duties”)
  • Whaling math (How much did just one gallon of whale oil cost? What was the average age of a seaman?)
  • Mapping the different ports where the Charles W. Morgan landed

You can create your own activity on DocsTeach using these tools!

Comment below with your thoughts on whaling and your unique ways of incorporating these documents in your classroom, or send a tweet to @DocsTeach #whaling!

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November Education Programs

Today’s post comes from Renee Rhodes, social media intern in our Education and Public Programs division.

We have education programs coming up at our locations around the country and at the annual NCSS conference in Boston. Join us!

Participants at a National Archives Program

Our calendar of events for December is coming soon!

November Events:

(Simi Valley, CA) Lebanon, Syria and Iraq: Roots of Current Conflict – November 1, 10 am – 3:30 pm  

  • Teacher workshop hosted at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. RSVP to

(New York, NY) Navigating the Newness: Improving Content, Pedagogy and Professionalism – November 4, 7:30 am – 3 pm

  • The National Archives at New York City and partner presents on DocsTeach and professional development activities. Register.

(Washington, DC) Making Their Mark Adult Education Workshop Series: Meet the Pen Doctor – November 5, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

  • hands-on workshop in conjunction with the “Making Their Mark” exhibit at the National Archives Museum.

(West Branch, IA) Getting Started on Research – November 7 10 am – 12 pm.

  • National History Day research with the staff at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Topics will include internet research, primary and secondary sources, process papers, researching, bibliographies, and more!

(Online & College Station, TX) “Texas A&M University Chemistry Road Show” –  Thursday, November 13, 10:30-11:30 am and 12:30- 1:30 pm

(Washington, DC) Educators’ Open House – Thursday, November 13, 5:30–7:30 pm

  • After-hours exhibits at the National Archives museum, light refreshments, and information about resources, workshops, DocsTeach, NHD, and more! Email RE: “Educators’ Open House” for more info.

(Washington, DC) Facilitated Interactive Table for Teens – Friday, November 14, 4 – 4:45 pm

(Philadelphia, PA) NHD Philly Teacher Workshop “Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project – Saturday, November 15, 11 am

  • At the National Museum of American Jewish History, with lunch, led by: the teacher who supervised this initial NHD Project, National Archives Education Specialist Ang Reidell, and the museum’s education outreach manager, Vera Da Vinci. Email RE: “Life in a Jar” for more info.

(Riverside, CA) National History Day Learning Lab – November 15, 9 am to 2 pm

  • The National Archives at Riverside and partners, with presentations, workshops, and archivist meetings to help with NHD projects on the CSU Fullerton Campus. Archivist appointments 10:30 am–2 pm. Registration limited to 100 students.

(Online & College Station, TX) “A Thanksgiving Parade: The Historical Tapestry of Gratitude” – November 20, 10:30-11:30 am & 12:30- 1:30 pm


(Boston, MA)
National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference
November 21-23

Pre-Conference Clinic, Thurs, 11/20, 9 am — “One Tumultuous Year! 1963: The Struggle for Civil Rights” at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Tour, Fri, 11/21, 11:30 am — Guided tour of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, including special exhibit “To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis”

Conference Sessions:

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National Archives’ Educators’ Open House

Announcing the first ever National Archives’ Educators’ Open House! Come spend the evening with your colleagues at the National Archives Building to find out more about what we offer for you and your classroom.

Thursday, November 13, 2014
5:30-7:30 pm
National Archives Building
Washington, D.C.

Ed Open House flyer 2014

NARA Educators’ Open House flyer 2014–Download and Print

NARA Education Specialists will be on hand all evening to answer questions, chat, and share information about National Archives resources. In addition, our Education Specialists will be conducting several short demonstrations of our online and distance learning opportunities, award winning website, professional development opportunities, and much more.

Educators can find out about:

  • Primarily Teaching, NARA’s annual professional development workshop for teachers
  • National History Day resources
  • New NARA app and eBook on the Bill of Rights
  • Constitution in Action Learning Lab program
  • Distance learning options
  • Online resources, such as
  • And more!

Educators are welcome to visit our exhibits, including Records of Rights, Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures, and the Public Vaults. The Rotunda, which holds the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, will be open from 5:30-6:15.

No pre-registration is required. Light refreshments will be served.

Share this with your colleagues!

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Forty years ago: Desegregation in Boston Public Schools

Boston, Massachusetts, has long been a crucible for social, cultural, and political change. But Boston is also a city of contradictions.

Forty years ago, a group of parents filed a formal complaint in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts.  The case beings with this simple sentence: “This is a class action brought by black children attending the Boston public schools and their parents.”

Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al., United States District Court Civil Action Case File No. 72-911-G—known as the Boston schools desegregation case—occupies 54 large storage boxes in the National Archives at Boston.  The case was presented over a period of two years, and on June 21, 1974, Federal Judge W. Arthur Garrity ruled that the School Committee of the City of Boston had “intentionally brought about and maintained racial segregation” in the Boston public schools.

The response to the implementation was protest, at times violent, but eventually the Boston Public Schools would change.

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During the summer of 2014, a group of educators from across the country—elementary through college—spent a week at the National Archives at Boston and Chicago studying issues of civil rights.

They scanned documents like the above letter from Mrs. Sumner Bernstein. She wrote to Boston Public Schools Superintendent Leary explaining how, though she initially “went along with the plan,” she became angry and fearful after her daughter’s experiences at her new school (10/22/1974, from the Records of District Courts of the United States). All of the newly digitized documents are available online by entering “Primarily Teaching 2014” in the documents search box.

They also used these newly digitized primary sources to create online teaching activities related to education equality:

You can create your own activities on this subject with the tools available on DocsTeach!

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