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!
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.
We share interesting articles about a wealth of American Indian subjects, such as:
- code talkers and other American Indians in the military,
- Native Americans in various census returns, and
- federal agencies who kept records about American Indian nations and communities across the United States and throughout U.S. history.
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.
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).