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Master's of Library and Information Science MLIS graduate student paper, San Jose State University, California, published in Provenance.ca in Feb. 2005,
Frank Winfield Locke, Jr., a Mashantucket Pequot, was born and raised in Connecticut and attended Bulkeley High School in Hartford. In the 1930s he played professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals and during World War II served in the United States Army in Europe. His brother Harold served in the Pacific and was issued a Purple Heart posthumously in 1945. Martha Hoxie Langevin, also a Mashantucket Pequot, was a skilled traditional basketmaker who was active in her community in the 1920s. These are just two of the stories told through collections held at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
We cannot begin to calculate the total amount of Native American material held in institutions worldwide. Since the European discovery of the Americas, mainstream society has been creating, collecting, and interpreting material related to Indian-white relations. These items include treaties, land agreements, pictorial works, missionary papers, and records of federal officials posted on reservations. These items, over the years, has been cataloged and made available to researchers. Many of the larger institutions that have sizeable Native American collections have published guides to assist researchers with finding the material.
In "Navigating Many Nations: LC Publishes Guide to Indian and Alaska Native Studies," Sara Day (1997) says that due to the size of the Library of Congress' holdings related to Native Americans "the library has been producing a series of resource guides by major subject categories" (para. 4). In 1997, the Library of Congress published the guide Many Nations: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Indian and Alaska Native Peoples of the United States. The booklet is not only an inventory of the collections, it also describes how to find and navigate through the thousands of items. The Library of Congress has been collecting Native American documents for over two hundred years and its holdings include "the largest body of Indian recordings in the country" (Day, 1997, para. 4). These recordings hold high importance to the study of Native American history, as oral tradition is the historical way of sustaining and spreading information in Native American cultures.
The Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art Library in Norman, Oklahoma, has one of the largest Native American archives in the United States. In The Gilcrease-Hargrett Catalog of Imprints, which was prepared for publication by G. F. Edwards, John C. Ewers states in the foreward that the Gilcrease has assembled "in one large collection thousands of rare published documents relating to more than forty-five Indian tribes of North America" (1972, p. vii). The Native American holdings in the Gilcrease include Indian trade records, mission records, tribal government records, and legal documents regarding removals, reservations, and land disputes. More specifically, the holdings contain the papers of Chief John Ross, which includes "over 1400 files relating to Cherokee history," and the papers of Chief Peter Pitchlynn, which includes "over 3700 individual files of Choctaw materials" (Erwin e-mail to author, 2002).
In addition to published guides, many archival institutions now have an official website and researchers can find details regarding the institution's holdings and access its finding aids. The Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico, which holds a large amount of Native American material, is one of these institutions. Detailed information regarding their collections can be found on their site. The American Indian Oral History Collection, which "documents oral traditions and recollections of Native Americans," and "contains 901 reel to reel audio tapes, 920 typed transcripts and 5 linear feet of contemporary clippings on Indian Affairs", is just one example of the kinds of material held at the research center ("Center" website). The center also includes the Robert E. Robideau American Indian Movement Papers; this collection contains "reports, court documents, Freedom of Information Act released FBI files, newspaper clippings, correspondence, handwritten notes, publications, audio cassette tapes, flyers, and research files pertaining to Robideau's life-long work as an American Indian activist" ("Center" website).
The Newberry Library in Chicago is another institution that contains a large amount of Native American material and maintains a very useful and thorough website. The Newberry collection began with Edward E. Ayer's donation of "more than 17,000 pieces on the early contacts between American Indians and Europeans" ("Newberry" website). The Newberry is also home to the D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History. The center's goals are to encourage research on American Indians, to "assist American Indian tribal historians in their research," as well as create a setting where all researchers of American Indians, whether of Indian heritage or not, can come together to "discuss their work" ("Newberry" website). On their website details are given regarding the center's activities including research seminars, public programs, and research fellowships for women of American Indian heritage.
The primary reason for tribes to maintain their own archives is to gain control over their own material and more importantly their own history. In his article "Archival Captive - the American Indian," William T. Hagan states, "To be an Indian is having non-Indians control the documents from which other non-Indians write their version of your history (1978, p. 135). This, I believe, is the fundamental reason for tribal archives. As Hagan has observed, the problem with traditional Native American archival collections is that they are "the product of white men" (1978, p. 137).
She sees information as a powerful tool that Native Americans have not been able to use in the past and that fact has hindered their progress both socially and economically (Salabiye, 1978, p. 8). She also states that "we don't need more literature on pottery and legends;" she sees the purpose of tribal libraries and archives is to allow Native Americans access to their own historical documents so they can not only write their own histories but also obtain "accurate information in terms of current, timely, hard data and statistics" which is needed in this "era of self determination" for Native Americans (Salabiye, 1978, p. 8). Tribes with their own archives can collect material that they see as important. With an archives on a reservation, this material will be closer to the people it is meant to help. No longer will they have to travel to other institutions and perhaps have to apply for permission to see material about their own people.
Another purpose for tribes to maintain their own archives is to control documents that can be used in cases against the federal and state governments (Hagan, 1978, p. 139). Hagan says that in the past, in order to successfully win their cases, the tribes have had to depend on documents that "are in archival possession, not theirs" (1978, p. 140). A tribe's own archives gives them a place to organize and maintain their own tribal government records, which according to Fleckner, is becoming more complex as the tribal governments grow in size and start to produce a larger amount of paperwork (1984, p. 2, 3). With the development of tribal archives and their ability to collect and organize their own records, tribes will have control over the documents that may be needed to prove, among other things, their federal recognition as a tribe and legal land ownership.
The final reason for a tribe to own its own archive is that it will give them a place to hold, organize, and use material that they obtain from other institutions. This will involve finding material related to their tribe, contacting that institution and obtaining copies. This will allow access to more people as the material will be located on a group's own reservation. Individuals will not have to travel around the country to look at the various collections, but only go to their local archive and do their research there.
The history of tribal archives has to include the history of tribal libraries, since a tribe's own library can be a necessary step in the development an archives. And any research into tribal libraries has to include the literature of Lotsee Patterson of the University of Oklahoma. At the forefront of the study of tribal libraries for the past thirty years, Patterson recounts their evolution in "History and Status of Native Americans in Librarianship." According to Patterson, libraries on reservations could not begin until the mid 1970s when Congress passed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (2000, para. 2). This act, as well as other legislation, gave tribes more control over their individual management. It also made it possible for tribes apply for funds to improve their reservations, which for some included building their own library. Along with federal assistance, the development of gaming establishments has made it possible for some tribes to build and maintain their own libraries, cultural centers, and museums.
In 1979, the American Indian Library Association (AILA), an affiliate of the American Library Association, was founded because "there was increasing awareness that library services for Native Americans were inadequate" and that "individuals as well as the government began to organize to remedy the situation" (AILA website). The goals of the association include assisting in establishing and maintaining tribal libraries, developing standards for the libraries, assisting with the creation and maintenance of tribal archives, educating others about the needs of tribal libraries, helping with the funding for and training of Native American librarians, developing grant proposals, and helping individual tribe members use their own libraries and resources (AILA website). The association holds national conferences, generates a newsletter, and assists Native American students with finding scholarships to attend library programs.
Since 1979 further funding programs have been created and more tribes are successfully obtaining grant money to build their own library. In 1996, the Museum and Library Act created the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This legislation "moves federal library programs from the Department of Education to the Institute" (IMLS website). Lotsee Patterson (2002) states that "in 1999, the Institute of Museum and Library Services made Basic Grant awards to 205 tribes and villages" (para. 1). Patterson also affirms that although tribal libraries still have continuing problems with funding and staffing, they are "slowly developing in both numbers and size" (2002, para. 1).
Tribal archives have developed along with tribal libraries and often face the same challenges. One of the greatest challenges for tribal archives is that Native Americans have traditionally had an oral history tradition, which does not result in written documents that can then be preserved, cataloged, and made available to researchers. Herman J. Viola (1982) states in his article "Tribal Archives Programs: Past & Present" that Native Americans do not "have the concept of history as shared by most non-Indians" and that they "lack the resources needed to write personal, family, or tribal history" (p. 5). Viola also states feels "this attitude is changing" and that "a number of tribes have become interested in acquiring and preserving the existing knowledge of their culture and history by collecting documents and photographs and by conducting oral history programs" (1982, p. 5).
In the past thirty years many groups and projects have been established to assist tribes and their communities to build their own libraries, archives, and cultural centers. In 1980 the National Endowment for the Humanities funded a conference "to assess the archival needs of the Indian community" (Viola, 1982, p. 6). Five points were brought out of this conference: 1.) archives were a priority for tribes; 2.) the need for tribal archives is going to continue to grow; 3.) the tribes have not been collecting archival material in the past, and the few items they do own are in need of preservation and restoration; 4.) tribes needed to be educated as to the importance of archival material; and 5.) tribal members must be trained to manage their own archives (Viola, 1982, p. 6).
Another such program was held at the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation August 16-17, 1999. The "Arizona Forum On Tribal Museums, Libraries and Archives," which was supported by the Arizona Sate Library, Archives and Public Records, and funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services had a total of 83 participants from various tribal organizations throughout the American Southwest ("Arizona Forum" website). The goal of the forum was to "increase understanding and awareness of tribal libraries, museums and archives" ("Arizona Forum" website). The forum discussed the following issues: asserting control over a tribe's own material; grants and other sources for funding; information technology; use of sensitive material; past misrepresentation of Native Americans; and establishing rules for access to tribal archives ("Arizona Forum" website).
Since the development of tribal archives, what has actually been done? What archives exist and allow researchers access to their holdings? How many tribal archives are there in the United States? In 1995, Lotsee Patterson and Rhonda Harris Taylor, both of the University of Oklahoma, wrote the Directory of Native American Tribal Libraries. Ninety-eight tribes responded to their survey stating that they had a tribal library; seven of those stated that they had archives. In the 2003 edition of the Reference Encyclopedia of the American Indian, 40 tribes stated that their library, museum, and/or cultural center included an archive. These archives are scattered throughout the United States. The list below, alphabetical by state, represents just a handful of the tribal archives now open
Oglala Lakota College Archives, Kyle, South Dakota
The Oglala Lakota College Archives (OLCA) began in 1983 as the Curriculum Resource Center. It maintained the records of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), which had been located in Denver until its closing in 1982 (OCLA website). The resource center later joined with the Oglala Lakota College (OLC) to manage the Oglala Sioux Tribal records, thus creating the Oglala Lakota College Archives. In 1984, when the tribe passed Ordinance 84-01, a records management program was created at the OLCA. In 1987, the tribe passed Resolution 87-23 "designating the Oglala Lakota College Learning Resource Center as the public library for the Pine Ridge Reservation," as well as establishing that the Oglala Lakota College archives were "the official Oglala Lakota Tribal Archives" (OLCA website). Their website states that the purpose of the archives is
Another purpose of the archives is to enable scholars and the general public to have the opportunity to study historical and cultural records of the Oglala Lakota people. It is also intended to emphasize "the importance of maintaining Lakota culture and fostering tribal self-determination" (OLCA website).
Access to these records is available to anyone with prior authorization from the appropriate organization (OLCA website). to collect, preserve and make accessible for research purposes the permanent records of Oglala Lakota College, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, in order to help document the founding, development, organization, management and achievements of these three institutions. (OCLA website)
The archives are made up of three categories of material:
The special collections and manuscripts at the archives are not fully processed and it is estimated that "only 45% of the manuscript collections" are organized (OLCA website). In my summary below of some of the specific collections, I did not include the amount of material because the inventories are "for general reference only... [and the] numbers may not be accurate" (OLCA website). Some specific collections are: Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservation's Historical Document Collection, 1900-1980, which includes two linear feet of material regarding the Wounded Knee Massacre, Black Hills Claim, and religious controversies. Nicholas Black Elk Correspondence, 1931-1983, which contains material related to the Oglala Holy man Black Elk. Enos Poor Bear Papers, 1961-1984, which contains correspondence, news clippings, photographs and certificates of Poor Bear, who was the Oglala Sioux Tribal Chairman from 1964-1966 and 1968-1970.
Crow Indian Archives, Little Big Horn College Library, Crow Agency, Montana
The Crow Indian Archives opened in 1986 and strives "to preserve the history and culture of the Crow Indians through the preservation of historical manuscripts, personal papers, [and] official reports" ("Little Big Horn" website). Their holdings include papers, scrapbooks, family histories, photographs, federal government records, research material of past researchers, and a "special collection of published Crow books and articles, including rare and out-of-print materials" ("Little Big Horn" website). Their website states that
Even with that goal in mind, the archives are open to everyone interested in doing research on the Crow Indians ("Little Big Horn" website). The Crow Indian Archives also contains many audio/visual recordings of the living Crow people; available on the website is a link to contact the archivist if the interested person knows "anyone who should be interviewed and recorded" ("Little Big Horn" website).
Some specific collections held at the archives are: the Joseph Medicine Crow Collection, 1880-1987, which contains 32 boxes of manuscript material related to the life and studies of Joseph Medicine Crow, a Crow veteran of World War II, writer of several published articles, and part-time professor at Little Big Horn College. The collection includes material on tribal politics, speeches and personal papers of Medicine Crow, as well as historical documents collected by Medicine Crow that dates back to the origin of the tribe. Pease Collection, 1824-1990, which contains 41 boxes of material related to mainly tribal politics, economics, and government, collected and donated by Eloise Whitebear Pease a Crow who has been active in various organizations and tribal committees throughout her whole life and tribal historian; the collection is comprised of legal cases, tribal program records, reports of studies conducted on the Crow Reservation, maps and newspaper clippings of tribal news ("Little Big Horn" website).
The Haskell Cultural Center and Museum, Lawrence, Kansas
The cultural center, museum, and the archives are all part of the Haskell Indian National University. The university was developed from the U. S. Industrial Training School, which was founded in 1884 as a school to "assimilate Native American children into mainstream America" ("Haskell" website). Located in a new building funded by money received from the American Indian College Fund and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the center holds an "archive collection, which includes records and manuscripts... [that] reflect Haskell's history both as an educational institution and as a National Historic Landmark" ("Haskell" brochure).
The institution states that its purpose "is to celebrate Native cultures and facilitate cross-cultural understanding and education while promoting tourism and economic development" ("Haskell" website). The center is also thinking of the future and serves "as a teaching facility to train... Haskell students in becoming tribal archivists and tribal museum managers" ("Haskell" website). The archival collections are open to the public as well as the students and staff of the university. The chief collection at the Haskell is the Frank A. Rinehart Collection, comprised of "809 glass plate negatives depicting American Indian tribal members attending the Trans-Mississippi Exposition and Indian Congress in Omaha, Nebraska in 1898" ("Haskell" brochure). There is a searchable computer database on the website that makes it possible for anybody to search the collection. The archive also contains the records of the university, which "reflects the history of native education, evolving from boarding school to a full university" ("Haskell" website).
Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Mashantucket, Connecticut
The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Mashantucket, Connecticut, opened in August 1989, and is one of the largest native-owned museum/library/archives in the United States. After receiving federal recognition as a tribe in the 1980s, the Mashantucket Pequot opened the Foxwoods Resort Casino in 1992. Denis Finnin (1998) states that "with the revenues produced by the casino, [the Mashantucket Pequot] now have the means to commemorate their nations' history and the story of their own survival on a scale that was unimaginable before" (para. 1). The "mission of the archives... is to appraise, acquire, organize, preserve, and make available the archives of the tribe and to support the inquiries, primary research, and programs of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation" (DiMichele, 1999, p. 15).
The center is comprised of a museum, research center, research library, archives and special collections, and a children's library (DiMichele, 1999, p. 15). The archives and special collections include
Although the "primary clientele of the tribal archives are the members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation," the archives are open to anyone interested in researching the history of the tribe (DiMichele, 1999, p. 15). Besides the museum exhibits and research facilities, the Mashantucket contributes to Native American scholarship and to their own community by holding annual history conferences and the annual Native Basket Makers Market and Fair ("Mashantucket" website).
The material held by the Mashantucket Pequot includes tribal government records, oral histories, photographs, scrapbooks, tribal newspapers and newsletters, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, maps, ledgers, and family and personal papers of tribal members (DiMichele, 1999, p. 15). In March 1999, the archivists at the Mashantucket compiled a bibliography of the collections (which they update quarterly). The following collection information is taken from the October 2002 version of the bibliography. As mentioned in my introduction the Mashantucket has the Correspondence of Martha Hoxie Langevin, 1926-1927, which contains letters written by Langevin to her daughter Alice Guevremont. Langevin was a basket maker and her letters pertain to "methods of basket making...and the political issues facing the Mashantucket Pequots during the 1920s." ("Mashantucket" website).
Tribal archives are growing despite the challenges they encounter when they make the decision to start an archives. The archives that are now opened are indeed contributing to their tribe's own history and cultural identity. The archives are educating the tribe's own people as well as the general public; they are bringing together their communities with activities and programs; they are giving tribes control over their own documents which may be needed to win legal cases to obtain land or federal recognition as a tribe. Although there is still a lot of work to do in the future to make tribal archives stronger institutions, including developing better partnerships with non-Indian archives, finding better and more consistent sources of funding, and encouraging Native Americans to donate material to their own archives, I hope that we eventually find that Hagan's "archival captive" is a thing of the past and that Native owned archives continue to develop into important community centers and valid centers for Native American research.
American Indian Library Association Website. (2004, November).
Arizona Forum on Tribal Museums, Libraries and Archives, Arizona Department
of Library, Archives and Public Records Website. (2002, October).
Biggs, B., & Herlihy, C. S. (1994). The Luiseño culture bank project: From museum shelves to HyperCard. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 18(1), 55-65.
Center for Southwest Research Website, University of New Mexico. (2002, October).
Day, S. (1997). Navigating many nations: LC publishes guide to Indian and Alaska Native studies. Library of Congress Information Bulletin 56. Retrieved October 23, 2002, from online Wilson Web.
DiMichele, D. L. (1999). The archives and special collections of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. CRM, 2, 15-17.
Ewers, J. C. (1972). Foreword. In G. P. Edwards, Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art Library. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Finnin, D. (1998). At the museums: Invisible no more. Archaeology, 51(6).
Retrieved November 2, 2002, from
Five State American Indian Project Website, Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Fleckner, J. A. (1984). Native American archives: An introduction. Chicago: Society of American Archivists.
Hagan, W. T. (1978). Archival captive - the American Indian. The American Archivist, 41(2), 135-142.
Haskell Cultural Center & Museum Brochure. (2002?)
Haskell Cultural Center & Museum Website. (2004, October).
Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Website. (2004, October).
Klein, B. T. (Ed.) (2003). Reference encyclopedia of the American Indian. 10th ed. Nyack, New York: Todd Publications.
Little Big Horn College Library Archives Website. (2004, October).
Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Archives and Special Collections. (2004). Bibliography of Pequot materials.
Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center Website. (2004, November).
Newberry Library Website. (2002, October).
Oglala Lakota College Archives Website. (2004, October). Available:
Patterson, L. (2000). History and status of Native Americans in librarianship. Library
Trends, 49(1). Retrieved October 23, 2002, from online Wilson Web.
Patterson, L. & Taylor, R. H. (1995). Directory of Native American tribal libraries.
University of Oklahoma. Retrieved October 17, 2002, from
Salabiye, V. S. (1978). The library experience - a Native American viewpoint. American Indian Libraries Newsletter, 2(2), 7-9.
Viola, H. J. (1982). Tribal archives programs: Past & present. American Indian
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