Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

Native American Studies Research Guide: Government Documents

Government Documents Library

Published government documents are a rich source of information for individuals researching Native American history. They contain information on federal policy toward Native Americans, overviews of Indian wars, and reports of Indian agents.

For further assistance, consult with Julia Frankosky, the U.S. and International Government Information Librarian (telephone: 517.884.6387; e-mail : ) or visit the MSU Libraries Government Documents page.

In addition, MSU Extension has published many articles related to Native Americans.  Some of them are listed at the bottom of this column.  For more information contact Emily Proctor, Michigan State University Extension.

MSU Extension Postings about Native Americans

Cathy Newkirk. American Indians and the Affordable Care Act  MSU Extension.  January 29, 2014.  The Act contains special provisions for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has specific provisions for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Some of these benefits are effective if you are a member of a federally recognized tribe. Other benefits are available to people of Indian descent or who are otherwise eligible for services from the Indian Health Service, tribal program or Urban Indian Health Program.

Emily Proctor. Casinos. What are the different classifications of tribal gaming activities?  MSU Extension, October 22, 2015.

Emily Proctor. Indian Health Care Improvement Act improves quality of life. Signed back into law in 2010, this law sets up many provisions that are beneficial to indigenous populations across the country.  MSU  Extension, September 5, 2012.

Emily Proctor.  Legacy of federal policies in Indian country : Effects on Michigan tribal nations. MSU Extension, December 15, 2014.

John Amrhein. Building strong connections between tribal nations and county government: Part 1 - Sovereignty. County commissioners from 18 northern Michigan counties learn about Michigan tribal sovereignty, history and cooperative efforts with counties.  MSU Extension, December 24, 2014.

John Amrhein. Building strong connections between tribal nations and county government: Part 2 - History. MSU Extension, December 24, 2014.

John Amrhein. Building strong connections between tribal nations and county government: Part 3 – Improve relations.  MSU Extension, December 24, 2014.

John Amrhein.  Building strong connections between tribal nations and government: Part 4 – Cooperation. MSU Extension, December 24, 2014.

John Amrhein. Legacy of federal policies in Indian country : Effects on Michigan tribal nations.  MSU Extension, December 15, 2014.  Following the passage of the Peace Policy, Richard Pratt, a veteran of the Indian Wars and a U.S. military officer opened the first official U.S. Government operated Indian boarding school in 1879 in the town of Carlisle, Pa. The school was named Carlisle Industrial Training School. Carlisle opened with 136 students attending, as said in American Indian Education: A History, authored by Jon Reyhner and Jeanne Eder. Soon after Carlisle’s opening the missionaries with federal support created several more off-reservation boarding schools across the Nation, said Reyhner and Edner. This type of educational institution was allowed to be created under the policy.

Tracie Abram.  Native American health customs.  Medicine wheel that Native Americans use.   Extension, October 25, 2013.

Use the search engine at the top of the MSU Extension Page to find more.

Selected Government Documents

American State Papers.  The American State Papers reproduces many documents pertaining to Native Americans covering the years 1789 through 1827, and is perhaps the most valuable source of information on this topic prior to the establishment of the Office of Indian Affairs in 1824. The documents include letters from special Indian agents, reports to Congress, and records pertaining to Indian-White relations. Researchers should consult the volumes pertaining to military affairs as well as those relating to Indian affairs. Each volume has an index.  Available via the Library of Congress Web site.  Also available via HeinOnline.

The new American state papers: Indian affairs. Introd. by Loring B. PriestWilmington, Del., Scholarly Resources [c1972]  13 vols.  Main Library J33 .N4 :  Vol. 1 & 2 contains the annual reports of the Office of Indian Affairs, 1825-1859.

Annual Reports.
Congress required government agencies to submit annual reports, providing an overview of the agency's activities. The annual reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of American Ethnology, and the Secretary of War are particularly noteworthy. They are all reproduced in the Congressional Serial Set.  Robert M. Kvasnicka's and Herman J. Viola's The Commissioners of Indian Affairs, 1824-1977 contains the Serial Set citations for the Commissioner's annual reports. The reports are also usually available as separate Government Printing Office publications; each section contains the Superintendent of Documents (or SuDocs) Number; that number will enable a documents librarian to locate the report for you.

  • Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (SuDocs Number I 20.1:).   When Congress created the Office of Indian Affairs, it gave the Office responsibility for handling most matters between the Federal government and Native Americans. The Commissioner's annual reports address a wide range of topics relevant to any study of Native Americans. They are especially valuable for the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the Commissioner enclosed the annual reports of the Office's agencies and superintendencies. The reports often contain statistical data providing information on tribal population, supplies for the Indian Office and reports of special Indian commissions.  Note: Some volumes are available at the Library of Michigan and some in the MSU Government Documents Library, U.S. Documents Collection (3 West).  Others may be available in other formats.  Ask for assistance if you can't find the particular year you want.
  • Annual Reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology (SuDocs Number SI 2.1).   The Bureau operated within the Smithsonian Institution and studied Native American languages, religions, architecture and society. The reports often contain photographs, sketches and charts. Although the reports do not usually contain information on specific individuals, they may help you understand the culture in which your ancestor lived.  Note: some of the volumes have been cataloged and are located in the MSU Main Library under the call number E51 .U55  Others are available through the HathiTrust.  Note : The National Library of France provides free online access to many of the volumes!
  • Annual Reports of the Secretary of War (SuDocs Number W 1.1:).   Although the Office of Indian Affairs had primary responsibility for administration of Indian affairs, the War Department had significant dealings with Native Americans. The annual report of the General of the Army, is perhaps the most important section of the Department's report for this topic. In addition, to an overall report concerning the operations of the army, the General of the Army's report contains the annual reports of the army's military district commanders. These reports frequently discuss Native Americans.

Anthropological Papers (SuDocs Number SI2.3:).  Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1938-1966.  : Series of reports on culture and anthropology of Indians of North and South America. Indexed in Bulletin 200.   Note:  You can find many of these volumes  by searching SI2.3: as a call number; however the entries usually provide a cross reference number to E51 .U6 etc. or an online equivalent.

Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletins (SuDocs Number SI2.3:)  Note : the link lists the bulletins in order, but the locations, call numbers, and formats will vary.  Some local examples :

Other examples:

List of Publications of the Bureau of American Ethnology With Index to Authors and Titles.  Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 200 (End of Series).  "Established by Congress within the Smithsonian Institution in 1879, the Bureau of American Ethnology (initially the Bureau of Ethnology) was given the responsibility to conduct 'anthropologic researches among the North American Indians' (Bureau of Ethnology, 1st Ann. Rep., xi) at a time when change was occurring very rapidly. The effort that followed lasted nearly a century and played a defining role in the development of American anthropology as a discipline. Its written record is truly exceptional. The in-depth documentation, through text and illustrations, of Native American history, culture and linguistics is of a kind rarely seen today."

Handbook of North American Indians.   Government Documents Library (3 West), U.S. Documents Collection SI 1.20/2:  vol.;    also available in Reference (1 East) and Main Library E76.2 .H36-  20 volumes are planned in this comprehensive study of the Indians of North America.  For more information about each volume, click here.

Indians/Native Americans courtesy of the National Archives Archives Library Information Center (ALIC).  This page contains links to American history relating to Native Americans.  One of the most comprehensive list of online resources available, including:

  • NARA Resources
  • National Park Service Resources
  • Digital Collections
  • Genealogical Resources
  • Historical Background
  • Laws and Treaties
  • Tribal Resources

Documents of United States Indian policy / edited by Francis Paul Prucha.  Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, c2000.  3rd edition, 396pp.  Business Library KF8205 .D63 2000 : Two hundred thirty-eight official and quasi-official documents are presented here in chronological order, spanning from Washington's letter to Duane in 1783 to a March, 2000 list of federally recognized Indian tribes. A brief introduction accompanies each entry, explaining its significance and providing some context for its publication. Some documents are abridged; others are printed in full.... [The selections] include treaties, legislative enactments, judicial decisions, executive statements, and extracts from official commissions and committees which 'illustrate the history of the relations between the United States government and the American Indians from the founding of the nation to the present time....Among the topics dealt with are tribal self-governance, government-to-government relations, religious rights, repatriation of human remains, trust management, health and education, federal recognition of tribes, presidential policies, and Alaska Natives.  Also available online to the MSU community.

Indian Affairs : Laws and Treaties. A digital reproduction of an historically significant, seven volume compilation of U.S. treaties, laws and executive orders pertaining to Native American Indian tribes by Charles J. Kappler. The volumes cover U.S. Government treaties with Native Americans from 1778-1883 (Volume II) and U.S. laws and executive orders concerning Native Americans from 1871-1970 (Volumes I, III-VII). The work was first published in 1903-04 by the U.S. Government Printing Office. Enhanced by the editors' use of margin notations and a comprehensive index, the information contained in Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties is in high demand by Native peoples, researchers, journalists, attorneys, legislators, teachers and others of both Native and non-Native origins.   Also available via HeinOnline.  Also available in print; each volume contains an index.

Indian Land Cessions in the United States, 1784-1894 : United States Serial Set, Number 4015 Annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.  The Schedule of Indian Land Cessions subtitle notes that it "indicates the number and location of each cession by or reservation for the Indian tribes from the organization of the Federal Government to and including 1894, together with descriptions of the tracts so ceded or reserved, the date of the treaty, law or executive order governing the same, the name of the tribe or tribes affected thereby, and historical data and references bearing thereon."  The Schedule of Indian Land Cessions comprises 709 entries with links to the related map or maps for each entry. The tables and essays are available in both searchable text and page images and the maps are available in images. Due to the complexity of information presented in each entry, it is strongly recommended that users print out both pages of a table entry for comparison with the related map.  (Note:  The MSU Map Library has a print copy (including maps) of Indian Land Cessions in the United States in a locked cabinet  Maps E51. U55 v.18, pt.2)

Statutes of the United States Concerning Native AmericansA compilation by the Yale University Avalon Project.

Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project.  This Project is a cooperative effort among the University of Oklahoma Law Center  and the National Indian Law Library (NILL), and Native American tribes providing access to the Constitutions, Tribal Codes, and other legal documents. Project Coordinators are David Selden (NILL) and Marilyn Nicely (OU).

HeinOnline American Indian Law Collection : Since the American Revolution, American Indian law has evolved into a complex web of treaties, federal statutes and regulations, federal case law, tribal codes, constitutions, and jurisprudence. This collection contains more than 800 titles and 750,000 pages. Click here for more information.

Survey of conditions of the Indians in the United States (1929-1944) via HeinOnline American Indian Law CollectionHearings before a subcommittee of the Committee on Indian Affairs, United States Senate, Seventieth Congress, second session, pursuant to S. Res. 79: a resolution directing the Committee on Indian Affairs of the United States Senate to make a general survey of the conditions of the Indians of the United States. Parts 1 – 41.  These hearings were held to investigate charges of incompetence and corruption on the part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and to document reports of extreme poverty and disease among the Indian tribes of the United States.    Check the online catalog for other formats.

Treaties with American Indians : an encyclopedia of rights, conflicts, and sovereignty / Donald L. Fixico, editor.  Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, c2008.  3 volumes.  Schaeffer Law Library (Level 1)  KF8203.6 .T74 2008 : Edited by Fixico (Arizona State U.), this three-volume encyclopedia is intended as a comprehensive reference tool for those interested American Indian treaties with the United States, primarily, and Canada. The first volume contains a number of thematic essays that cover federal and native views of treaty making; discuss relevant legislation, treaty substitutes, and court cases; explore the issue of treaties as international agreements; provide historical coverage of different treaty eras; discuss responsibilities and rights in the areas of land and resource property, water rights, hunting and fishing, tribal government authority versus federal jurisdiction, and the American Indian schools of 1794-1930; and explore some of the unique complexities of agreements concerning Hawai'i, Alaska, and Canada. Also included in this volume are six regional essays. The second volume contains analytic description of some 1200 individual treaties, listed chronologically. Also included in this volume are 28 entries on important treaty sites and the actual texts of 40 treaties fashioned between 1778 and 1923. The final volume contains 83 entries discussing important historical events (including significant court cases); brief biographies of around 140 key individuals; and 33 thematic articles on key treaty related issues, such as aboriginal title, allotments, annuities, assimilation, the doctrine of discovery, executive order reservations, federally recognized tribes, Indian country, non-recognized tribes, reserved rights doctrine, sovereignty, supremacy clause, trust doctrine, and trust responsibility.

American Indian treaties : a guide to ratified and unratified colonial, United States, state, foreign, and intertribal treaties and agreements, 1607-1911 / David H. DeJong.  Salt Lake City : The University of Utah Press, [2015]  348pp.  Schaeffer Law Library  on order : "When it comes to American Indian treaties, the American polity too often forgets the realities of history. Prevailing perceptions are often not only inaccurate but also premised on outright falsehoods. Treaty-making was profoundly influenced by tribal conceptions of diplomacy. Colonial and early U.S. treaties especially were clothed in ritual, metaphor, and covenants that emphasized the sacred nature and purpose of diplomacy and represented a time when tribal nations were equal partners. To understand the nature and meaning of tribal treaties one needs to read them and recognize their sacred pledges and meaning, which are still relevant today. This volume examines intertribal treaties and treaty-making and provides understanding of both the agreements and the diplomatic protocols in which they were enmeshed. It summarizes colonial Indian treaty discourse, intertribal treaties and diplomacy, the different eras of ratified and unratified U.S. treaties, foreign and state treaties with Indian nations, and the Indian agreements that followed the cessation of official treaty-making. It provides extensive lists of over 1,500 Indian treaties from all tribal diplomatic eras and includes dates, participants, purposes, and references"-

Native American Treaties: Their Ongoing Importance to Michigan Residents.  When Indians and Europeans first met on the North American continent they brought distinct and very different world views to the encounter. Over several centuries the Indian communities of North America and the European immigrants who settled on this continent shared very mixed experiences that ranged from war to negotiation. This web page focuses on the negotiations that have occurred between Euro-Americans and three Native American communities, the Chippewa, Odawa, and Potawatomi.  This web site explores the treaties that effect the people, Indian and Euro-American, who live in Michigan, and offers six case studies to explain how treaties signed between 1795 and 1864 had relevance in the past and continue to have importance today.  Also see Understanding Treaties and The Historical Context Preceding Treaty Negotiation in the 1820s : ​​​An essay by Joshua D. Cochran and Frank Boles. All courtesy of The Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University (Mt. Pleasant, MI).

Treaty of Greenville (August 3, 1795). Following the Indian loss at the Battle of Fallen Timbers the previous year, representatives of a  coalition of Indian tribes, known as the Western Confederacy, and the local frontiermen of the United States, signed a treaty at Fort Geenville, endng the Northwest Indian War in the Ohio Country.  Fort Detroit and a small area around it was ceded to the Americans in what would later become the state of Michigan.  Available online as part of the Avalon Project.  7 Stat. 49

Treaty of Detroit (November 17, 1807). A treaty between the United States and the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandot and Potawatomi Native American nations. The treaty was signed at Detroit, Michigan on November 17, 1807, with William Hull, governor of the Michigan Territory and superintendent of Indian affairs the sole representative of the U.S. With this treaty, the First Nations ceded claim to a large portion of land in what is now Southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio. Available online from Potawatomi Web. 7 Stat. 105

Treaty of Brownstown (November 25, 1808).  A treaty between the United States and the Council of Three Fires (Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi), Wyandott, and Shawanoese Indian Nations. It was concluded November 25, 1808 at Brownstown in Michigan Territory, and provided cession of a strip of Indian land for a road to connect two disconnected areas of land previously ceded by Indians to the United States.  7 Stat. 112

Treaty of Springwells (September 8, 1815).  A treaty signed at what is now Ft. Wayne, Detroit, Michigan between the United States and the Wyandot, Delaware, Seneca, Shawanoe, Miami, Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatimie, Tribes of Indians, residing within the limits of the State of Ohio, and the Territories of Indiana and Michigan.  This treaty officially ended all hostilities between the U.S. and the Native Americans. Based on the terms of the agreement, the U.S. agreed to restore to the Indians all of their possessions, rights, and privileges before their engaging in the War of 1812 as allies of the British. In return, the Native American tribes agreed to only place themselves under the protection of the U.S. government. The treaty also reaffirmed the Treaty of Greenville, the Treaty of Detroit, and any other accords established between both parties. The purpose of the Treaty of Springwells was to absolve the Native Americans for supporting the British in the War of 1812 and to secure their further allegiance to the United States.

Treaty of Chicago (August 29, 1821). The first treaty of Chicago was signed by Michigan Territorial Governor Lewis Cass and Solomon Sibley for the United States and representatives of the Ottawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi on August 29, 1821, and proclaimed on March 25, 1822. The treaty ceded to the United States all lands in Michigan Territory south of the Grand River, with the exception of several small reservations. Also, ceded by the Indians was a tract of land, easement between Detroit and Chicago (through Indiana and Illinois), around the southern coast of Lake Michigan, while specific Indians were also granted property rights to defined parcels.  Available online from the Potawatomi Web.

Treaty of Washington (March 28, 1836).   The Ottawa and Chippewa nations of Indians ceded much of the land in the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs of the U.S., Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Available online from Kappler.  7 Stat. 491; Treaty with the Chippewa (1836)

U.S. & Canadian federal treaties and agreements with Chippewa Indians

Miscellaneous Gems

American Indian Policy Review Commission, Final Report, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2Available via Proquest Congressional.  May 17, 1977.

Answers to Your Questions About American Indians.  U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affars, 1970.  42pp.  Government Documents, U.S. Documents Collection (3 West) I20.2:In2/21/970

BIA Profile : The Bureau of Indian Affairs and American Indians.  U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affars, 1981. 72pp.  Government Documents, U.S. Documents Collection (3 West)  I20.2: P94

Contact with the Indians Theme Study (pdf)  A National Park Service study from the 1930s, when reports were typed by hand!

The Creek War, 1813-1814. Blackmon, Richard. Center of Military History. United States Army, Washington, D.C., 2014 

The five civilized tribes in Indian territory: the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole nations U.S. Department of the Interior, Census Bureau.   Washington, United States Census Printing Office, 1894.  70pp.  Government Documents Library Microfiche Collection (3 West) CIS US Exec MF I1207-1 Microfiche (Available in print in the Library of Michigan Rare Book Room)

An Historical Analysis of the Saginaw,Black River and Swan Creek Chippewa Treaties of 1855 and 1864. A report by Anthony G. Gulig, Ph.D., Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater commissioned for the State of Michigan, July 30, 2007.

A History of Indian Policy.  S. Lyman Tyler.  U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affars, 1973.  328pp.  Government Documents, U.S. Documents Collection (3 West) I20.2 : H62  (Also available in Main Stacks under call number E93 .T97 : While much material is published about American Indian culture and customs, this is the first authoritative account of Federal Indian policy from the Colonial period to the present....The purpose of this study has been to bring together in one work a brief history of the Indian policy of the United States. More detail has been supplied for the period since 1930 to enable to reader to see the processes involved in the adoption, administration, and eventual changes of Indian policy....The center of attention has been the development and changes of policy. Historical information concerning the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian history, and general history has been supplied only as necessary to understand the changes in policy in their historical setting....The 10 chapters cover: the nature of Indian policy; the Indian and the European; treaties and Indian trade; tribal removal and concentration westward; reservations for Indian tribes; allotments to individual Indians; tribal reorganization; Indian relocation and tribal termination; Indian policy and American life in the 1960's; self determination through Indian leadership, 1968 to 1972; and Indian policy goals for the early 1970's.

Indians of the Great Lakes Area.  U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affars, 1968.  25pp.  Government Documents, U.S. Documents Collection (3 West) I20.51:G79/968  Many other titles are also available, including : Central Plains, Alaska, Arizona, California, Dakotas, Lower Plateau, Montana/Wyoming, New Mexico, North Carolina, Gulf Coast, Northwest, Oklahoma.

Michigan Tuition Waiver Program.   Paul G. Conners, Michigan Legislative Service Bureau, Legislative Research Division, Research Report Volume 20, Number 3, May 2000.  Historical document reviewing free tuition program offered in Michigan.  Although the state eliminated the program as a line item in the annual budget process, various colleges and universities are still offering this assistance.

The Problem of Indian Administration (The Meriam Report).   Report of a Survey made at the request of Honorable Hubert Work, Secretary of the Interior,
and submitted to him, February 21, 1928. The report combined narrative with statistics to criticize the Department of Interior's (DOI) implementation of the Dawes Act, and overall conditions on reservations and in Indian boarding schools. The Meriam Report was the first general study of Indian conditions since the 1850s, when the ethnologist and former US Indian Agent Henry R. Schoolcraft had completed a six-volume work for the US Congress. The Meriam Report provided much of the data used to reform American Indian policy through new legislation: the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. It strongly influenced succeeding policies in land allotment, education, and health care. The report found generally that the US federal government was failing at its goals of protecting Native Americans, their land, and their resources, both personal and cultural. Wikipedia summaryNational Indian Law Library copy. Wisconsin Historical Society copyMSU Library print copy.

Speeches of Mr. Cass, of Michigan, on the condition of the Indians : delivered in the Senate of the United States, January 25 and February 1, 1855.  Washington : Printed at the Congressional Globe Office, 1855.  13pp.  Special Collections Rare Books E416 .W4 1854

The States and their Indian CitizensTheodore W. Taylor.  U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affars, 1972.  307pp.  Government Documents, U.S. Documents Collection (3 West) I20.2 : St2/3 : Examines Native Americans and the relationship of their descendents to the non-Indian society around them.

Government Agency/Organization Websites

Tribal Government and Native American Resources from indexes all government websites (federal, state, local) regardless of their domain (not just .gov and .mil). The tribal resources here are just a small portion of this website.

American Indian Health.  An information portal to issues affecting the health and well-being of American Indians.  Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

Commission on Civil Rights.  This link explains the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Indian Bill of Rights.

Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, Office of Native American Programs (ONAP) .  Ensures that safe, decent and affordable housing is available to Native American families, creates economic opportunities for tribes and Indian housing residents, assists tribes in the formulation of plans and strategies for community development, and assures fiscal integrity in the operation of the programs.

Environmental Protection Agency, American Indian Environmental OfficeLeads EPA's efforts to protect human health and the environment of federally recognized Tribes by supporting implementation of federal environmental laws consistent with the federal trust responsibility, the government-to-government relationship, and EPA's 1984 Indian Policy.  Also maintains an extensive list of related links to federal agencies assisting Native American tribes and individuals on various issues.

Federal Register - Procedures for Establishing That an American Indian Group Exists as an Indian Tribe.  The Office of the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs is examining ways to improve the Department's process for acknowledging an Indian tribe, as set forth in regulations. This document announces a comment period, tribal consultation sessions, and public comment sessions on a preliminary discussion draft of potential revisions to improve the Federal acknowledgment process.  Will this make it easier for tribes to be recognized by the federal government?  Time will tell.  Source : IndianZ, June 27, 2013.

The Indian Claims Commission was a judicial panel for relations between the United States Federal Government and Native American tribes. It was established in 1946 by the United States Congress to hear claims of Indian tribes against the United States. The commission was conceived as way to thank Native America for its unprecedented service in World War II and as a way to relieve the anxiety and resentment caused by America’s history of colonization of Indigenous peoples. The Commission created a process for tribes to address their grievances against the United States, and offered monetary compensation for territory lost as a result of broken federal treaties. However, by accepting the government's monetary offer, the aggrieved tribe abdicated any right to raise their claim again in the future, and on occasion gave up their federal status as a tribe after accepting compensation.... Anthropologists, historians and legalists as well as government officials were the dominant researchers, advocates and legal counsel for the plaintiff tribes and the defendant federal government. Anthropological research conducted for the Commission led towards the foundation of the American Society for Ethnohistory (ASE), when the research and historical reports compiled in evidence for Native American claims was first amassed in 1954 at the inaugural Ohio Valley Historic Indian Conference, the predecessor organization later renamed as the ASE. A collection of the studies was published in the series "American Indian Ethnohistory", by Garland Publishing, in 1974. The methodology and theory of ethnohistorical research in general traces back to the work done by anthropologists and other scholars on claims before the Commission. The Commission also encouraged many neglected Indian groups in Southeast, the Northeast and California to create tribal organizations in order to pursue land claims. In particular, the 1946 act allowed any "identifiable" group of native descendants to bring a cause of action without regard to their federal recognition status. Tribes such as the Poarch Band of Creek Indians of Alabama trace their modern federal status to the efforts of Chief Calvin McGhee and his 1950s work with the Indian Claims Commission. Indian land claims, in fact, were one of the key reasons the Bureau of Indian Affairs established its Federal Acknowledgment Process in 1978. The Commission was adjourned in 1978 by Public Law 94-465, which terminated the Commission and transferred its pending docket of 170 cases to the United States Court of Claims on September 30, 1978. By the time of the Commission's final report, it had awarded $818,172,606.64 in judgments and had completed 546 dockets.  From wikipedia entry.

National Indian Gaming Commission. As an independent federal regulatory agency, the National Indian Gaming Commission (Commission) was established pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (Act). The Commission comprises a Chairman and two Commissioners, each of whom serves on a full-time basis for a three-year term. The Chairman is appointed by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate. The Secretary of the Interior appoints the other two Commissioners. Under the Act, at least two of the three Commissioners must be enrolled members of a federally recognized Indian tribe, and no more than two members may be of the same political party....The Commission maintains its headquarters in Washington, D.C., with regional offices, located in Portland, Oregon; Sacramento, California; Phoenix, Arizona; St. Paul, Minnesota; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Washington, D.C. Check out the Reading Room section to review compacts between various Native American Tribes and their respective state governments. lists/locations of authorized tribal gaming operation locations (casinos). etc.

U.S. Administration for Indian Affairs.  ANA promotes self-sufficiency for Native Americans by providing discretionary grant funding for community based projects and training and technical assistance to eligible tribes and native organizations.

U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Indian Affairs Online Books Page courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania and the HathiTrust.

U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Indian Affairs Book Collection from the Internet Archive.

U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Natural Resources. Subcommittee on Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs.  Has jurisdiction on Native Americans issues, including the care and allotment of Native American lands and general and special measures relating to claims that are paid out of Native American funds.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Indian Affairs.  Has jurisdiction to study the unique problems of American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native peoples and to propose legislation to alleviate these difficulties. These issues include, but are not limited to, Indian education, economic development, land management, trust responsibilities, health care, and claims against the United States. Additionally, all legislation proposed by Members of the Senate that specifically pertains to American Indians, Native Hawaiians, or Alaska Natives is under the jurisdiction of the Committee.  Visit this site to review legislation and occasionally live broadcasts of hearings.

U.S. Department of Interior. Bureau of Indians Affairs.  Check out the Documents Library for items such as a Guide to Tracing Your American Indian AncestryTribal Leaders Directory, Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible to Receive Services From the US BIA, American Indian Population and Labor Force Reports

U.S. Department of Inteior, National Park Service, Native American Graves Protection and Repartiation Act.  NAGPRA is a Federal law  passed in 1990. NAGPRA provides a process for museums and Federal  agencies to return certain Native American cultural items -- human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony -- to lineal descendants, and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. NAGPRA includes provisions for unclaimed and culturally unidentifiable Native American cultural items, intentional and inadvertent discovery of Native American cultural items on Federal and tribal lands, and penalties for noncompliance and illegal trafficking. In addition, NAGPRA authorizes Federal grants to Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and museums to assist with the documentation  and repatriation of Native American cultural items, and establishes  the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review  Committee to monitor the NAGPRA process and facilitate the  resolution of disputes that may arise concerning repatriation under NAGPRA. Click on the data bases tab for links to:

  • Native American Consultation Database (NACD) is an easy way to identify a current official contact for Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. Names and addresses of tribal leaders are entered from the current Indian Affairs Tribal Leaders Directory as well as current contact information for each Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO). Maps showing the location of Indian reservations, Indian land claims, and military installations are available to provide information that can be used during consultation. Use the state tables compiled from Indian Land Cessions 1784-1894 as additional consultation resources. Changes in contact information or corrections to the data should be sent to the database administrator. Updated Dec 2001
  • Culturally Unidentifiable (CUI) Native American Inventories Database provides information about Native American human remains that have been determined to be culturally unidentifiable and has been compiled on behalf of the Review Committee pursuant to 43 CFR 10.10 (g). The database summarizes the inventory information submitted by museums and Federal agencies and is not meant to be an exact copy of their inventory data. Though an effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the data presented in this database, slight discrepancies between these and the actual museum and agency inventories may remain. Efforts to verify data are ongoing... The database now includes 18,030 records describing 128,126 Native American human remains and 1,049,407 associated funerary objects inventoried by 754 museums and Federal agencies. Among the human remains included here are 6,400 that have been culturally affiliated since they were first inventoried as culturally unidentifiable. Templates for notices pursuant to 43 CFR 10.11 are available for use in preparing draft Federal Register notices. View a listing of Notices of Inventory Completion using the 10.11 CUI rule. Corrections, updates, and additions to this database will be made as museums and agencies continue to verify the data that have been entered, or submit revised inventories. Updated Feb 2014
  • Culturally Affiliated (CA) Native American Inventories Database. This database represents an extensive tool of reference for anyone wishing to have a snapshot on the current status of many of the Native American human remains that have been culturally affiliated as a result of consultation with tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. All individuals on this database should be represented in a Notice of Inventory Completion. The database summarizes the inventory information submitted by museums and Federal agencies and is not meant to be an exact copy of their inventory data. Though an effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the data presented in this database, slight discrepancies between these and the actual museum and agency inventories may remain. The database includes 6,135 records and accounts for 58,174 Native American human remains and 1,262,849 associated funerary objects inventoried by 569 museums and Federal agencies. Corrections, updates, and additions to this database will be made as museums and agencies continue to verify the data that have been entered, or submit revised inventories. Updated Feb 2014

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Tribal Justice. The mission of the Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ) shall be to provide a principal point of contact within the Department of Justice to listen to the concerns of Indian Tribes and other parties interested in Indian affairs and to communicate the Department's policies to the Tribes and the public; to promote internal uniformity of Department of Justice policies and litigation positions relating to Indian county; and to coordinate with other Federal agencies and with State and local governments on their initiatives in Indian country. Additional information about OTJ responsibilities can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations. Click on the Selected Resources tab for an extensive list of resources and federal agencies providing links of interest to Native Americans.

White House Council on Native American Affairs. By Executive Order, President Obama established the White House Council on Native American Affairs on June 26, 2013. The policy behind the formation of this council is to recognize the government–to-government relationship, as well as the unique legal and political relationship that exists between the federal government and tribes. Greater engagement and consultation is critical to policies that advance tribal self-determination and prosperity. The Council will be chaired by the Department of Interior, and will consist of 31 federal agencies and organizations. It will meet three times a year, and will assist the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs in the organizing of an annual White House Tribal Nations Conference.   Description taken from EPA's Tribal Portal.

Government Document Finding Tools

Catalog of Government Publications 

Congressional Serial Set
In addition to annual reports the Congressional Serial Set contains many other reports, petitions and statistics pertaining to Native Americans. Researchers are available in the Congressional Serial Set.  Consult Stephen L. Johnson's Guide to American Indian Documents in the Congressional Serial Set: 1817-1899 ,( KF8201.A1 J63 ) to locate such documents.  Note : The MSU Main Library is replacing it's serial set volumes with the online Proquest Congressional listed next.

Proquest CongressionalProvides users with efficient, targeted access to the most comprehensive collection of historic and current  congressional information available anywhere online. This collection includes the full text of  congressional publications (including hearings, reports, and documents), finding aids, a bill tracking service, and the full text of public laws and other research materials to enable both novice and experienced researchers to complete many types of research projects using a single, user-friendly interface. Since Congress is interested in all public policy, social, and economic issues, the database is an effective source for general research in many academic disciplines, in addition to research related to specific legislative proposals and laws. Try typing in the name of a tribe like Chippewa, Odawa, Patawatomi, Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, or events like Wounded Knee.  Note: not everything identified is available full-text; however with the citation we can track down the items for you.

ERIC pulls together numerous resources - including government documents, but primarily journal articles and other resources -- related to Native Americans.  Facets allow one to narrow down the results by date of publication, by subject, by source, by author, by publication type, by educational level, and audience type.  Individual libraries may have links to customized versions of ERIC via EBSCO, Proquest, etc.  Try the following customized searches.

ERIC American Indian Culture Collection.

ERIC American Indian History Collection

ERIC American Indian Language Collection

ERIC Amerian Indian Literature Collection.

ERIC American Indian Studies Collection.

ERIC American Indians Collection.

ERIC Federal Indian Relationship.

ERIC Tribes Collection.

Cumulative Subject Index to the Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications, 1895-1899.  Washington, Carrollton Press, 1973-1975.  Reference (1 East) Z1223 .A181 v.1 (1973)- v.15 (1975) : Coverage of Federal publications, including congressional, presidential, agency, and judicial materials.

Cumulative Title Index to United States Public Documents, 1789-1976 / compiled by Daniel W. Lester, Sandra K. Faull, and Lorraine E. LesterArlington, Va. : United States Historical Documents Institute, 1979-   16 vols.  Reference (1 East)  Z1223 .A131  :  Coverage of Federal publications, including congressional, presidential, agency, and judicial materials.

Annotated Bibliography of Native American History from United States Federal Documents: Print and Online Resources / Brandon Burnette. Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Godort Occasional Papers, Number 7, June 2012. An excellent tool for identifying U.S. government documents about Native Americans, printed both as U.S. documents or reprinted by commercial firms.  Covers both print and online materials.

Many nations : a Library of Congress resource guide for the study of Indian and Alaska Native Peoples of the United States / edited by Patrick Frazier and the Publishing Office.  Washington : Library of Congress, 1996.  334pp.  Government Documents, U.S. Documents Collection (3 West) LC 1.6/4:N 21 : Describes the many different collections related to Native Americans at the Library of Congress.    Also available online.

Portrait index of North American Indians in published collections / compiled by Patrick Frazier.  Washington, DC : Library of Congress, 1996.  2nd edition, 200pp. Government Documents, U.S. Documents Collection (3 West)   LC 1.2:P 83/3/996 : Indexes selected portraits of individual Native Americans from 75 pictorial works available at the Library of Congress and through interlibrary loan from other libraries around the country.   Also available online via Hathitrust.

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Erik Ponder
African Studies Librarian
MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Dr. (E 224B)
East Lansing, MI 48824

Ask a Librarian