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Native American Heritage Month
November is Native American Heritage Month. We invite you to join the National Archives in recognizing and paying tribute to the ancestry, history, and contributions of Native Americans.
Native American Indian Dancers dressed in traditional native Indian customs perform a story in dance

Native American Indian Dancers dressed in traditional native Indian customs perform a story in dance, 11/7/2003. National Archives Identifier 6656401

Among the historical records housed at National Archives facilities throughout the country, researchers can find information relating to Native Americans from as early as 1774. Learn more on our Native American Heritage web page and view related records in the National Archives Catalog.

Portraits of Indians from Southeastern Idaho Reservations
 Memorial from the Ladies of Steubenville, Ohio, Protesting Indian Removal

L: Portraits of Indians from Southeastern Idaho Reservations, 1897 - 1897, Bannock, ca. 1897 National Archives Identifier 519336

R: Memorial from the Ladies of Steubenville, Ohio, Protesting Indian Removal, 2/15/1830 National Archives Identifier 306633

When the U.S. entered World War I, American Indians volunteered to serve despite a long history of discrimination against indigenous people and their traditional culture. Many Native Americans weren’t even recognized as U.S. citizens. In honor of National American Indian Heritage Month and Veterans Day, a collection of World War I records are being exhibited in the East Rotunda Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC through December 4, 2019 to highlight one of the unique ways that Native American soldiers used their language and cultural heritage to serve the country.

Miner, Cpl. George, a Winnebago from Tomah, Wisconsin; standing, with rifle, on guard duty, Niederahren, Germany

Miner, Cpl. George, a Winnebago from Tomah, Wisconsin; standing, with rifle, on guard duty, Niederahren, Germany, 1/2/1919 National Archives Identifier 530786

During World Wars I and II, the U.S. military needed to encrypt communications from enemy intelligence. American Indians had their own languages and dialects that few outside their tribes understood; therefore, their languages were ideal encryption mechanisms. Over the course of both wars, the Army and the Marine Corps recruited hundreds of American Indians to become Code Talkers. Records at the National Archives document the origins of this program and the group’s wartime contributions.

Records of the U.S. Marine Corps. World War II – Navajo Indians

Records of the U.S. Marine Corps. World War II – Navajo Indians. National Archives Identifier 74251390

Federal agencies, especially the Bureau of Indian Affairs, documented the Native American residents of reservations as well as their living and working conditions. The photographs in these series document daily life, work (especially farming), construction projects, houses, reservation schools, and traditional crafts. Thousands of them have been digitized and are available in the Catalog in Record Group 75: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Hay operation at Duckwater Reservation (Idaho and Nevada). Gene Thompson (Mission) and Drew Mike (Piaute)

Hay operation at Duckwater Reservation (Idaho and Nevada). Gene Thompson (Mission) and Drew Mike (Piaute). National Archives Identifier 298645 

Ratified Indian Treaties Digitization Project

The National Archives is in the final year of a four-year effort to digitize a set of 377 Ratified Indian Treaties from the vault holdings at the National Archives in Washington DC. This project is supported by an anonymous donor and the National Archives Foundation. The National Archives is performing much-needed conservation work on these materials and will digitize the entire contents of the file for each treaty. This includes scanning the Treaties themselves along with accompanying papers: the Presidential Proclamations, and the Resolutions of Ratification by Senate. All scanned materials will be available in our National Archives Catalog. Conservation treatments have been completed on all 377 of the treaties, and more than 268 of the treaties have been digitized. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2020. 

Ratified Indian Treaty 133: Arikara (Ricara) – Arikara Village
Ratified Indian Treaty 360: Sioux (Sisseton [Sissiton], Wahpeton [Warpeton]) – Washington, DC

L: Ratified Indian Treaty 133: Arikara (Ricara) – Arikara Village, July 18, 1825. National Archives Identifier 57698865

R: Ratified Indian Treaty 360: Sioux (Sisseton [Sissiton], Wahpeton [Warpeton]) – Washington, DC, 1867. National Archives Identifier 58234673

Nation to Nation Exhibit 

In collaboration with the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Archives loaned more than 20 original Indian treaties for the inaugural exhibits. Since 2014, original treaties between the U.S. Government and American Indian Nations have been on display in the exhibit Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations. When we first began working together on the exhibition, the plan was a four-year run with eight treaties. It’s been such a success that the exhibit has been extended into 2021.

Learn more about Native American Heritage Month as well a featured collection of Native American Records in NARA’s holdings on National Archives News.

Searching the Dawes Rolls

The Dawes Commission, known formally as the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, was appointed by President Grover Cleveland in 1893 and headed by Henry L. Dawes to negotiate land with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes.

Tribe members were allotted land in return for abolishing tribal governments and recognizing Federal laws. In order to receive the land, individual tribal members first had to apply and be deemed eligible by the Commission.

 The Commission accepted applications from 1898 until 1907, with a few additional people accepted by an Act of Congress in 1914. The resulting lists of those who were accepted as eligible for land became known as the Dawes Rolls. The Rolls contain over 101,000 names and can be searched to discover the enrollee’s name, sex, blood degree, and census card number. Today these five tribes continue to use the Dawes Rolls as the basis for determining tribal membership.

For step by step instructions on how to search the Dawes Rolls, visit our NARAtions blog.

Interested in more conducting more research? Consult History Hub for more Native American records and resources at the National Archives:

The American Solider in World War II Transcribe-a-thon

Join us in a continuing celebration of Veterans Day with a transcribe-a-thon focused on uncensored, handwritten reflections from World War II soldiers on war and military service: The American Soldier in World War II

More than 2,000 pages were transcribed during a 72-hour transcribe-a-thon earlier this week, over 65,000 pages have been transcribed since the project’s launch in May 2018. You can still participate! The project continues on Zooniverse. Can you help transcribe another 2,000 pages?

The American Soldier in World War II  project is a collaboration among multiple units at Virginia Tech (College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; University Libraries; and Center for Human-Computer Interaction), the National Archives and Records Administration, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional support from the Social Science Research Council. 

Get started transcribing! 

Record Group Explorer Missions for Citizen Archivists

In a recent newsletter, we announced a new pathway to view and explore the records of the National Archives: the Record Group Explorer. You can use this tool to see an overview of the scans of records currently available in our Catalog, organized by Record Group and format.

To celebrate the launch of the Record Group Explorer, we are creating special missions inspired by Record Groups. Give the Explorer a try while contributing as a citizen archivist! Jump in and help tag and transcribe Records from the U.S. Secret Service and the Records of the Government of the District of Columbia. We’ll feature additional Record Groups for future missions.

Each of your contributions to these records will help unlock history and make them easier to find in our Catalog for other users. 

Get started transcribing!
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