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Native American History

Native American History Subject Guide


The William L. Clements Library holds numerous collections related to Native American history. Topics of particular strength include Native American material culture & traditional customs, Indian Wars, Indian-settler interactions, trade, negotiations & treaties, relocation, and assimilation.

Examples of major collections with Native American content from the Manuscripts Division include the Native American History Collection, Great Britain Indian Department Collection, Fort Wayne Indian Agency Collection, Southwest Territory and Mississippi Territory Collection, John M. Johnston Collection, and the Hilon A. Parker family papers.  Important collections within the Graphics Division that provide a rich source of visual information regarding Native American material culture and traditional customs include the Richard Pohrt, Jr. Collection of Native American Photography and the extensive print portfolios of Theodor De Bry, James Otto Lewis, McKenney & Hall, Karl Bodmer, and George Catlin. Highlights from the Book Division include the Eliot Indian Bible and Jesuit Relations, while noteworthy items from the Map Division include Indian reservation maps and manuscript maps with Native American content that originally hail from the papers of military figures such as British Generals Thomas Gage and Henry Clinton.

Book Division

  • Indian bibles & other printed materials related to Christian proselytism among indigenous populations
  • Indian captivity accounts
  • Exploration narratives highlighting interactions with indigenous peoples
  • Ethnographic & linguistic studies
  • Biographical works regarding prominent Indians and military officers involved in Indian Wars
  • Etchings, engravings, maps, and illustrations with Native American content included in books

Manuscripts Division

  • Materials in papers of military officers, soldiers, government officials, and civilians regarding wars fought alongside and against Native Americans
  • Deeds, treaties, and other documents related to the sale and acquisition of Indian lands
  • Diaries and letters with content related to observations of Native American culture and interactions between whites and Indians, including exploration, Indian trade, and the promotion of Christianity
  • Correspondence and other materials pertaining to Indian removal, Indian agencies, reservations, and boarding schools

Graphics Division

  • Photographs including portraits of famous Indian chiefs, warriors, U.S. Army Indian Scouts, prisoners of war, and boarding school students as well as scenes depicting reservation life and aspects of traditional clothing & customs
  • Lithographs, etchings, and engravings depicting Native American leaders, treaty signings, hunting scenes, villages, dances, games, and aspects of traditional clothing & customs

Map Division

  • Manuscript maps (primarily from military-focused collections) related to Native American lands, including demarcation of territories acquired through treaties
  • Maps showing the locations and boundaries of Indian settlements, trading posts, and reservations
  • Maps with cartouches containing Native American content

Subject Headings

Cartouches (Native Americans)
Clothing & dress
Frontier and pioneer life
Fur trade
Indian agents
Indian captivities
Indian dance
Indian encampments
Indian interpreters
Indian reservation police
Indian reservations
Indians of North America
Indians of North America–Biography
Indians of North America–Commerce
Indians of North America–Education
Indians of North America–Government relations
Indians of North America–Languages
Indians of North America–Missions
Indians of North America–Mixed descent
Indians of North America–Religion
Indians of North America–Relocation
Indians of North America–Social life and customs
Indians of North America–Treaties
Indians of North America–Wars
Indigenous peoples
Manners and customs
Military scouts
Prisoners of war
Richard Pohrt Jr. Collection of Native American Photography
Rites and ceremonies
Trading posts
Travel literature
Tribal chiefs
United States–Army–Indian Scouts
United States–Discovery and exploration
United States–Office of Indian Affairs

To find collections related to specific tribes and Native American individuals, perform subject or keyword searches using Library of Congress tribal and personal name subject headings (e.g. Lakota Indians; Ottawa Indians; Apache Indians; Iroquois Indians; Shawnee Indians; Pontiac, Ottawa Chief, -1769; Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief, 1768-1813; Sitting Bull, 1831-1890; Geronimo, 1829-1909; etc.)

To find collections related to specific military conflicts involving Native Americans, perform subject or keyword searches using Library of Congress subject headings for particular wars (e.g. King Philip’s War, 1675-1676; United States–History–French and Indian War, 1754-1763; Pontiac’s Conspiracy, 1763-1765; Red Cloud’s War, 1866-1867; Little Bighorn, Battle of the, Mont., 1876; etc.)

Online Resources

Selections in the Clements Library Image Bank and volumes from the Book Division scanned into HathiTrust relate to Native American history. 

Last Updated 2/5/2020