Resources Related to American Indians and Native American Heritage

November is National American Indian Heritage Month. At the National Archives, we have several resources for teaching about American Indians and the history of Native Communities.

Join us for a free teacher webinar on November 18, 2020, from 7-8 p.m. EST: “Native Communities and the Vote: Teaching about American Indian Voting Rights through Documents.” Learn how to incorporate primary sources related to American Indian voting rights into your lessons. We’ll share activities and resources from the National Archives, and explore how to include discussions of evolving rights over time as related to Native Communities and the right to participate in Federal elections. Register today.

The billions of historical documents and other materials housed at the National Archives include information relating to American Indians from the 18th through the 21st century. The National Archives preserves and makes available the documents created by Federal agencies in the course of their daily business. The documents we hold related to Native American and Alaska Native communities reflect their interaction with the U.S. Government.

You can explore photographs, artwork, and artifacts related to American Indians, and documents related to topics such as Indian Schools and removal policy, on our American Indians page on DocsTeach.

Topics on DocsTeach include:

Treaty
Lower portion of the Treaty with the Delawares, 1778.

You can also access dozens of recently digitized Native American treaties on DocsTeach, like the 1778 Treaty with the Delawares, the first treaty between the new United States and an Indian Nation. This treaty set a precedent: the United States would deal with Native Nations as it did with other sovereign countries – through written treaties.

In addition to those on DocsTeach, hundreds of Native American treaties have been scanned and are now freely available online, for the first time, through the National Archives Catalog. These treaties – plus extensive additional historical and contextual information – are also available through the new Indigenous Digital Archive Treaties Explorer as a result of our partnership with The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. This project was possible thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous donor.

Our American Indians page on DocsTeach also includes several teaching activities like The Impact of Westward Expansion on Native American Communities, which asks students to explore a variety of historical documents to get a sense of the issues faced by Native Americans due to settlement and U.S. Government Indian policy.

Small images of documents in the teaching activity

The activity Assimilation of American Indians presents early 20th century Bureau of Indian Affairs surveys of Native families assessing “industriousness,” health, education, and living conditions. Students analyze these primary sources to determine the role and activities the Federal Government undertook in an attempt to “Americanize” or assimilate Native Americans.

People standing in front of a house
Image included in the Reservation Survey for Frank Doud and his family, 1922

You can find additional resources for National American Indian Heritage Month from a variety of institutions, including the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, and the Smithsonian Institution, at https://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov.

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