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American Indian Records

25 posts

The National Archives continues to digitize and make available online previously microfilmed collections. One of the most recent collections to go live, the Office of Indian Affairs Superintendents' Annual Narrative and Statistical Reports, is a rich resource for researching American Indian history.


Prepared and sent annually to the Office of Indian Affairs Commissioner by superintendents of various jurisdictions (which could be agencies, schools, hospitals, etc.), the files consist of two parts: a narrative report and a statistical report. These reports were filed separately but later consolidated for the microfilm publication, and are organized by jurisdiction and thereunder by year. The years covered vary - there are no statistical reports prior to 1920 because they were considered temporary up until then.


The narrative reports document the operation and accomplishments of each jurisdiction, broken up by topics such as health, industry, law and order, and land. Drawings, photographs, maps, and even news clippings can often be found. Overall, they provide a snapshot of reservation life for that particular year.


Excerpt from Klamath Agency’s 1920 narrative report noting the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

(Source here, image #279)


Excerpt from the Greenville Indian School’s 1919 report, showing a pie eating contest. (Source here, image #887)


The statistical reports are more standardized than the narrative reports, prepared on forms provided to the superintendents. As with any government agency, the forms become increasingly detailed and more statistics requested as the years progress. The information found in these includes general population, school enrollment, health, and agricultural statistics.


List of students showing their tribal affiliation from the 1920 Genoa Indian School statistical report. For off-reservation

boarding schools such as Genoa that closed in the 1920s, often no records directly from the school were saved, so these reports are

all that is left to detail the school’s operations. (Source here, image #117)


So if your research finds you examining the general conditions for a particular reservation, a hospital, or a non-reservation boarding school, feel free to dive in and browse - with 173 microfilm rolls of usually more than 1,000 pages each now digitized and online, there’s still a lot to be discovered!


The microfilmed reports were organized alphabetically by jurisdiction, thereunder by date. Each microfilm roll is now a file unit in our Catalog, so either search for jurisdiction or browse down through the list of results.

Today, we are pleased to announce that the National Archives launched a new web-based finding aid featuring digitized historical photographs from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) records in Record Group 75. For the first time, you can explore digital copies of over 18,000 photographs through an engaging and easy-to-use online experience: the Bureau of Indian Affairs Photographs Finding Aid.


User-Driven, Powered by Citizen Archivists

NARA conducted research of users and stakeholders, followed by user testing, to ensure this finding aid is useful to a broad spectrum of users. Users and stakeholders consulted included archivists and other information science professionals with experience in Native American records, members of Tribal Nations, and representatives of organizations with connections to Tribal communities.


These users and stakeholders also provided feedback on the topics used in the finding aid. Once the final list of topics was selected, we curated the photographs into the Native American Photographs Tagging Mission to recruit the help of citizen archivists in tagging the photographs with these topics. The citizen archivist tags are used to power the presentation of photographs by topic in the finding aid. We appreciate the hard work of our citizen archivists who made this possible!


User-experience and technical development experts, archivists, and subject matter experts from NARA worked together to develop this finding aid. The finding aid uses the National Archives Catalog application programming interface (API) so when new records are digitized and added to the Catalog, they automatically get pulled into the finding aid. Additionally, the finding aid uses the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF)—a standardized framework for cultural institutions to provide access to images online—for an optimal design and user experience in viewing the photographs on all types of devices.


Using the Finding Aid

The landing page to the finding aid allows you to explore the photographs by Tribal Nation, topic, or state. If you don’t know where to start, you can select any of the photographs on the landing page to learn more about that image and to find more photographs by clicking any of the Tribal Nations, topics, or states listed.


We have also provided entry points into the records through interactive maps and data visualizations. By clicking on “States,” you can use the map provided to find photographs located in specific states.



From the landing page, you can scroll down to “Explore Tribal Nations” to expand a data visualization showing the topics available for featured Tribal Nations.


By clicking on Tribal Nation or topics from the landing page, you can browse the photographs from an alphabetical list of the Tribal Nations or topics available.


Additionally, from the bottom of the landing page you can explore photographs of notable Native Americans throughout history.


This project will continue to grow and evolve as NARA digitizes more photographs from the Bureau of Indian Affairs records. Therefore, some Tribal Nations, topics, and geographic areas may not yet be fully represented.

Please visit the Bureau of Indian Affairs Photographs Finding Aid and let us know what you think!

Treaties Explorer

Hundreds of Native American treaties have been scanned and are freely available online, for the first time, through the National Archives Catalog. Also, in partnership with The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC), these treaties and extensive additional historical and contextual information are available through Treaties Explorer.

Ratified Indian Treaty showing signatures
Ratified Indian Treaty 37: Eel River, Wyandot, Piankashaw, Kaskaskia, and Kickapoo - Vincennes, Indiana Territory, August 7, 1803. National Archives Identifier 81145643

Thanks to an anonymous donation, the National Archives was able to do needed conservation work, scan and digitize this historically and culturally important collection. These records are accessible for anyone, anywhere, through our National Archives Catalog.

Through the Treaties Explorer, you can view historic maps and the agreements and tribes that relate, as well as the historical and present day tribes involved in the treaties.

Screenshot of the Treaties Explorer website, showing Treaties and Cessions with the Shawnee

Now, many more descendants of the original peoples can examine the names and seals and read the words set down by their ancestors so long ago. But more than that, the treaties are still relevant today as tribal leaders and lawyers continue to use them to assert their rights in court, such as in cases over land and water rights.

Be sure to check the Resources on the Treaties Explorer website, which include classroom ready curriculum and a set of three guides to increase your knowledge of treaties and how to research using the Treaties Explorer.

Volunteer as a Citizen Archivist

Ratified Indian Treaties

Would you like to help make these treaties more searchable online? Help us transcribe handwritten treaties, attested Senate resolutions of ratification, printed copies of treaties, and manuscript copies of Presidential ratifications and confirmations of the treaties. Some treaty files contain copies of messages from the President to Congress, copies of messages or letters of instruction to the treaty commissioners, and journals and correspondence of the commissioners.

Ratified Indian Treaty first page
Ratified Indian treaty showing signature page

Ratified Indian Treaty 316: Sauk [Sac] and Fox of the Missouri and Iowa - Great Nemaha Agency, Nebraska Territory, March 6, 1861. National Archives Identifier 74799192

New to the Citizen Archivist program? Learn how to register and get started.


Be sure to join the Citizen Archivists community here on History Hub!

History Hub
Also be sure to explore the American Indian Records community here on History Hub!  Bring your questions about Native American history and records, or help answer other users' questions!

The Catalog Newsletter

Learn about newly added records and receive tips on using the Catalog's features, functionality, and guides. The National Archives Catalog is the online public portal to our records where you can learn more about our holdings. This email newsletter is delivered on a biweekly basis. Subscribe to the National Archives Catalog Newsletter

Native American Activism on the airwaves with the Seeing Red Radio Archive

by Julie Fiveash


The Archives at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, NM is home to the “Seeing Red Radio Archive,” a collection of 89, 1/4” reel-to-reel audio recordings and 91 digital surrogates of the radio program hosted by Suzan Shown Harjo and Frank Harjo from 1972 to 1977. Recorded at WBAI-New York, Seeing Red “was the first nationally syndicated radio program focused on contemporary Native American issues.” (1) Seeing Red featured news segments, music, lectures, and interviews with Native American artists, activists, and leaders.


This archive is a powerful educational tool, as an in depth look at Native American activism within the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the occupation of Alcatraz through interviews with those participating in those events, this radio program “can supplement existing colonial historical narratives with alternative narratives.”(2)  Teachers and educators looking for materials to give context to these events can look through this archive and find segments such as “Seeing Red - Student Views,” a episode that interviewed Indigenous students attending high school and elementary school and what they thought about their treatment in school and how their education addressed Native American history.  These snapshots of Indigenous life and activism in the 1970s can help facilitate discussions on how these issues are still being dealt with today in Indigenous communities around the world.


The Seeing Red Radio Archive is a part of the Suzan Shown Harjo Papers, donated to the IAIA archives in 2017. Susan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muskogee) is a Native American rights advocate as well as a poet, writer, lecturer, curator, and policy advocate. Harjo has served as the Congressional liaison on Indian Affairs under the Carter Administration and was the President of the National Council of American Indians. She is one of the leading voices in the work to abolish harmful stereotypes of Native Americans within sports mascots and was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.


For more information, contact the Institute of American Indian Arts Archives:




(2) Seeing Red Radio Archive, Suzan Shown Harjo Papers. IAIA Archives, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Early photographs are rare enough for most families, even more so for those living on reservations and allotted tribal lands across the west. This makes the Bureau of Indian Affairs Industrial Surveys, taken nationwide to document family's living and farming conditions, a welcome and rich resource.


Edward Kirkaldie and family, Fort Belknap Reservation (



The original records, organized by BIA agency, were sent to the BIA Commissioner in Washington DC. The surveys were then bound and today are found at our Washington DC branch. These unfortunately have not been digitized but some BIA agencies saved local copies and NARA field units have worked to digitize and make these available online, such as those seen here in this blog post.

Blackbull, a 52-year-old Blackfeet, along with his granddaughter. (


For a deeper dive into the genesis of the surveys and how to research, read more here;

And for inquires into the overall collection, reach out to;

87 years ago this month President Roosevelt issued an executive order kicking off the then just passed Emergency Conservation Work Act. The rest, as they say, is history as research into ECW and CCC programs, projects, and enrollees continues today by researchers and genealogists alike.


Less well known was similar legislation passed creating the parallel Indian Emergency Conservation Work (IECW) program, later known as the Civilian Conservation Corps Indian Division (CCC-ID). Similar in function yet with several notable differences, the CCC-ID helped make a difference on reservations nationwide and often led to Native Americans obtaining regular employment with the BIA. Learn more about the history, records, and how to research them in this Prologue essay;



(Image source:

The National Archives has embarked on a project to digitize microfilm series and get them into our online Catalog, where researchers can browse, bounce around, or zero in on particular sections throughout hundreds of microfilm rolls in the comfort of their own home. Or coffee shop. Or bar. Or wherever now! As the National Archives Subject Matter Expert for Native American Related Records I’m very excited to start sharing with the researching public those Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) seres going live. And with that, let’s start with the crown jewel, the 962-roll collection “Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1881." A staple of historical monograph bibliographies for years, this entire series is now in the Catalog.


Chronicling some of the most contentious eras in American Indian and Federal Government relations, this series spans the removal, treaty, and beginning of the assimilation eras. Each roll has gone into the Catalog as a file unit and is organized by Superintendency or Agency, then organized by date. Superintendencies, discontinued in the later part of the 19th century only to be revived as area offices in the 1940’s, had jurisdiction over a geographic area while agencies, continually in use, were immediately responsible for a particular tribal nation or nations.


What sort of records are in this collection? Correspondence and reports from superintendents and agents of the Office of Indian Affairs but also at times letters from private citizens, American Indians themselves, presidents, congressmen, Department of Treasury officials, General Land Office officials, War Department officials, all serving to show how intertwined the Office of Indian Affairs business with the government at large. Topics covered run the gamut, including education, health, medical care, finances, general administrative issues, agriculture, land, emigration, finances, claims, complaints, instructions, request, and decisions.


If you’re not looking to browse, and have a very specific date or person in mind, you might wish to first consult the “Registers of Letters Received, 1824-1880,” on microfilm series M18 but now also in the Catalog. The 126 rolls of M18 act as an index of sorts for M234 and list the letters received, noting the name of writer and date it was written. Later information included was date it was received, location of writer, summary, and assigned heading. These too have been digitized and can be browsed via our Catalog as well.


Please note, many of these records are in cursive!


“Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1881” (M234)


“Registers of Letters Received, 1824-1880” (M18)


Here is an 1880 letter, a somewhat banal example discussing stationary from the Los Pinos Agency in Colorado. This is a good example to highlight some of the filing issues; at times agency letters were grouped under the overall superintendency, in this case the Colorado Superintendency, so one should note that when researching a specific agency.

Researching Native History Webinar from the New Mexico Humanities Council


Scheduled for Nov 8, 2018, 7pm EST on YouTube


Join Vina Begay, librarian at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, to learn about how to approach doing NHD resesarch on Native history materials, including identifying newspapers, libraries, and archives.


The National Archives has digitized thousands of documents, images, and movies related to Native American history and culture.  This is the fifth in a series of blogs highlighting the records available online through the National Archives catalog.  Interested in photos of Indian Reservations?  Check out this blog for more information.


NAID 50926110.pngMap of the Eastern Boundary of the Ute Indian Reservation, NAID 50926110




Federal Indian Reservations are officially defined as “an area of land reserved for a tribe or tribes under treaty or other agreement with the United States, executive order, or federal statute or administrative action as permanent tribal homelands, and where the federal government holds title to the land in trust on behalf of the tribe” by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Currently there are 326 federal Indian Reservations, which cover 56 million acres in 25 US states.


Central Map File, 1800 – 1960

40 digitized maps of tribal lands and reservations.


The modern federal Indian Reservation system began with the passage of the Indian Appropriations Act in 1851.  The act authorized the setting aside of tracts of land for removed Native American tribes, ostensibly in order to protect them from further encroachment by white settlers.  These reservations came to be managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which was created in 1824 to manage relations between Native Americans and the US Government. The BIA enacted a program of religious and cultural assimilation among reservation inhabitants, including the creation of Indian Schools to erase traditional knowledge and practices from Native American children.


"Long-hair" letter from Commissioner of Indian Affairs to Superintendent, Round Valley, California.

1902 letter instructing the Superintendent to discourage men from wearing long hair and both genders from painting their faces.


1888: File 5179

Correspondence about the use of brass tags as identification among the Tonto, San Carlos, Coyotero, Yuma and Mojave tribes. Included in the file are photos of five sample brass tags to be worn by male members of the tribes.


Letter from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Superintendent of the Consolidated Ute Agency

1926 letter instructing the Superintendent to oppose the use of peyote in religious ceremonies.


The 1930s saw a period of reform of the federal government’s policy towards Native Americans.  The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (colloquially referred to as the “Indian New Deal” was intended to reverse the BIA’s policy of Native American assimilation and federal control of reservations.  The act put reservation assets under tribal control and encouraged sustainable self-rule for the inhabitants of reservations.  The rise of the American Indian Movement in the 1960s and 1970s brought further calls for Native American rights and self-determination in the reservation system.


An Act of June 18, 1934, Public Law 73-383, 48 STAT 984, to Conserve and Develop Indian Lands and Resources; To Extend to Indians the Right to Form Business and other Organizations; To Establish a Credit System for Indians; To Grant Certain Rights of Home Rule to Indians; To Provide for Vocational Education for Indians; and for Other Purposes


(Annual) Narrative Report of the Superintendent, Sacramento Indian Agency, California for the Fiscal Years 1936 and 1937, by Roy Nash, ca. 10/1/1937

Includes on- and off-reservation Native American population statistics, California reservation lands, industrial development, and social conditions.


Special Action Files of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs for the 93rd Congress

Investigation of the American Indian Movement’s occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.


Bradley Patterson's Native American Programs Files, 1974 – 1976

Correspondence between Native American representatives and the Nixon and Ford Administrations about the issues facing specific tribes and reservations


NAID 5964876 Collage.jpgBrass Identification Tags, NAID 5964876


Of course, this blog post is far from comprehensive- for any researcher, a thorough perusal of the National Archives catalog is an absolute must.  For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.  Researchers interested in records described in the catalog that haven’t been digitized should get in touch with the appropriate National Archives reference unit using the contact information at the bottom of the page.

Tracing Winema

Posted by cherkea Expert Aug 15, 2017

After reading the Prologue article about Winema Riddell, a Modoc woman who acted as a mediator for the US government, I used the Innovation Hub to make her pension available on the National Archives Catalog.

While we don’t know how many pensions were awarded by a congressional act, the number provided to women for their service is fairly low, especially Native American women!  That being said, here is another case from 1844 concerning a Creek woman, Milly Francis.  You can find the House and Senate reports for Winema Riddell’s case on Proquest.


Another interesting tidbit is that the image of Winema in our collection was photographed by Eadweard Muybridge, who held the patent for photographing moving objects.  You can check out other stereographs taken by him while visiting the Still Picture Research Room at Archives II in College Park, Maryland and by searching the Catalog.  

Further records of interest about Winema and the Modoc War that are available online, include: Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General (Main Series), 1871–1880 (M666) and the Indian Census Rolls, 1885–1940 (M595).  You can read about the government’s concerns with regard to the Modocs in the former and view Winema’s listing on the Klamath Rolls until her death in 1920 in the latter.

Finally, more information about the Modoc War exists in the holdings at Archives I in Washington, DC in the Records of the U.S. Army Continental Commands (RG 393), which contain letters received from Indian Agents leading up to the war (Entry A1-1 718). 

The National Archives has digitized thousands of documents, images, and movies related to Native American history and culture.  This is the fourth in a series of blogs highlighting the records available online through the National Archives catalog.



NAID 298645.png

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




Federal agencies, especially the Bureau of Indian Affairs, documented the Native American residents of reservations as well as their living and working conditions.  The photos in the entries document daily life, work (especially farming), construction projects, houses, reservation schools, and traditional crafts.


Rosebud Sioux Tribe (South Dakota)

Photographs, 1900-1960: 852 photographs mostly focusing on agriculture, land, and Civilian Conservation Corps-Indian Division projects created by the Rosebud Agency.


Three Affiliated Tribes (Arikara, Hidatsa and Mandan) (North Dakota)

Photographs, 1900-1960: 866 photographs, including photos of areas of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation that were flooded by the Construction of the Garrison Dam in 1946.


Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe (Wyoming)

Photographs, 1898-1953: 16 photos of reservation activities created by the Wind River Agency.


Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe (North Dakota)

Photographs, ca. 1914 - ca. 1936: 300 photos recording daily life of Native Americans at the Fort Totten Agency in North Dakota.


Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (North Dakota)

Photographs, ca. 1930-ca. 1949: 5277 photographs documenting projects, including Civilian Conservation Corps-Indian Division projects, from the Standing Rock Agency.


Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate (South Dakota)

Photographs, 1920-1965: 735 photographs documenting residences and projects, including Civilian Conservation Corps-Indian Division projects, on the Lake Travers Indian Reservation in North Dakota and South Dakota (Sisseton Agency).


Oglala Sioux (South Dakota)

Pine Ridge Agency: Miscellaneous Photographs, 1923 – 1955: Over 2,000 black and white photos from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  Includes photos of building projects, farming and industry on the reservation, cultural events, and individuals.


Main Decimal Files, 1900 – 1965: 26 photos documenting life on the Pine Ridge Reservation.


Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (Minneconjou, SiHaSapa, Oohenumpa, and Itazipco bands of the Lakota or Great Sioux Nation) (South Dakota)

Cheyenne River Agency: Photographs, 1900 – 1960: 87 photos from the Aberdeen Area Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


Salish and Kootenai Tribes (Montana)

Glass Negatives and Photographs, 1911-1939: 65 images documenting the Flathead Irrigation Project in Montana.


Southern Ute Tribe (Colorado)

Industrial Survey for the Southern Ute Agency, Colorado (Decimal Files, 1879-1952): 19 photographs documenting "homes, farms, and general life of a band of Southern Utes"


Colorado River Reservation (Arizona and California)

Central Photographic File of the War Relocation Authority, 1942 – 1945: Several photographs of residents of the Colorado Indian Reservation, which housed a War Relocation Authority center for Japanese internees in WWII.


Lac du Flambaeau Agency (Wisconsin)

Surveys of Indian Industry, 1922: 132 photos of Chippewa and Potawatomi Native Americans posed with their houses. Each photo includes a list of all the members of the households, their occupations, and observations about their work habits and personalities.


Tsimshian Indian Community (Alaska and British Columbia)

Photographs of the Inhabitants of Metlakatla, British Columbia and Metlakatla, Alaska, ca. 1856 – 1936: During this period, Tsimshian lived both on federally recognized reservations and independent villages.


Multiple Reservations

Minneapolis Area Office: Photographs, 1920 – 1971: 13 photos of from rural Minnesota, the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota, and Talihina, Oklahoma.


Classified Files of the Extension and Credit Office, 1931 – 1946: 46 photographs documenting the agricultural activities of the Office of Indian Affairs Division of Extension and Industry based in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Desk Files of the Tribal Operations Branch, 1934 – 1951: 32 photos from the records of Gerorge P. LaVatta, a BIA field agent. Photos document Native Americans working on the Hoover and Boulder Dams, Indian schools, and events at the Fort Hall reservation.


DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 – 1977: This series includes several photos featuring Native Americans at work both on and off reservations.  These photos are mixed in with photos of many other subjects.


Henry Peabody Collection, 1890 – 1935: 10 photos of Hopi and Wichita Native Americans.


Central Classified Files, 1927 – 1952: About 20 photos documenting forestry activities on reservations supervised by the BIA Phoenix Area Office, including Hopi and Navajo projects.



Of course, this blog post is far from comprehensive- for any researcher, a thorough perusal of the National Archives catalog is an absolute must.  For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.  Researchers interested in records described in the catalog that haven’t been digitized should get in touch with the appropriate National Archives reference unit using the contact information at the bottom of the page.


NAID 282294.png

We gi ma wa ji wong (Joe Shadame, Sr.)

Definitions of Indian and Indian Tribe


Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 allowed people of Indian descent who were not members of federally recognized tribes to apply for recognition as an Indian.  The IRA also allowed tribes to set up their own governments with the rules for determining membership. This Act defined a person as Indian based on three criteria, tribal membership, ancestral descent, or blood quantum.  The applications the federal government used  had five factors to certify individuals who claimed to be more than half-blood Indian: tribal rolls, testimony of the applicant, affidavits from people familiar with the applicant, findings of an anthropologist, and testimony of the applicant that he has retained "a considerable measure of Indian culture and habits of living." We have records in RG 75, Entry 616.


Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975

Gave tribes better self control over their own affairs, allowing them to apply directly for federal grants and programs.


The 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act uses a two-part definition that defines an Indian as a person who belongs to an Indian Tribe, which in turn is a group that "is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians."


Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990

In the Act, Indian was described as "any individual who is a member of an Indian tribe; or for the purpose of this section is certified as an Indian artisan by an Indian tribe." An Indian tribe was defined more broadly than just to tribes with federal recognition, but also to "any Indian group that has been formally recognized as an Indian tribe by a State legislature or by a State commission or similar organization legislatively vested with State tribal recognition authority."


The 1994 Federal Legislation amendments to American Indian Religious Freedom Act gives another common definition, defining an Indian as one who belongs to an Indian Tribe, which is a group that "is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians."


Supreme  Court Carciere decision- 2010

Defines a tribe eligible to have land put into trust as one that was recognized by the Federal Government under the IRA in 1934.


Ruling by Interior Department allowing the Cowlitz to acquire land and set up a casino, established another precedent…that the landless tribe should be “on an equal footing” with other tribes that already have reservations when being first recognized since 1934 and having the right to get a reservation established for them, which would then be eligible for gaming



25 CFR 151.2 - Definitions.

(b)Tribe means any Indian tribe, band, nation, pueblo, community, rancheria, colony, or other group of Indians, including the Metlakatla Indian Community of the Annette Island Reserve, which is recognized by the Secretary as eligible for the special programs and services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. For purposes of acquisitions made under the authority of 25 U.S.C.488 and 489, or other statutory authority which specifically authorizes trust acquisitions for such corporations, “Tribe” also means a corporation chartered under section 17 of the Act of June 18, 1934 ( 48 Stat. 988; 25 U.S.C. 477) or section 3 of the Act of June 26, 1936 ( 49 Stat. 1967; 25 U.S.C. 503).

(c)Individual Indian means:

(1) Any person who is an enrolled member of a tribe;

(2) Any person who is a descendent of such a member and said descendant was, on June 1, 1934, physically residing on a federally recognized Indian reservation;

(3) Any other person possessing a total of one-half or more degree Indian blood of a tribe;

(4) For purposes of acquisitions outside of the State of Alaska, Individual Indian also means a person who meets the qualifications of paragraph (c)(1), (2), or (3) of this section where “Tribe” includes any Alaska Native Village or Alaska Native Group which is recognized by the Secretary as eligible for the special programs and services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


45 CFR 1336.10 - Definitions.

Alaskan Native means a person who is an Alaskan Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut, or any combination thereof. The term also includes any person who is regarded as an Alaskan Native by the Alaskan Native Village or group of which he or she claims to be a member and whose father or mother is (or, if deceased, was) regarded as an Alaskan Native by an Alaskan Native Village or group. The term includes any Alaskan Native as so defined, either or both of whose adoptive parents are not Alaskan Natives.

American Indian or Indian means any individual who is a member or a descendant of a member of a North American tribe, band, Pueblo or other organized group of native people who are indigenous to the Continental United States, or who otherwise have a special relationship with the United States or a State through treaty, agreement, or some other form of recognition. This includes any individual who claims to be an Indian and who is regarded as such by the Indian tribe, group, band, or community of which he or she claims to be a member.

The Federal Decennial Census for 2010 presented choices and an individual’s response to the race question was based upon self identification.

A generation ago the BIA used to tell people to get in touch with the National Archives and give them the name and tribe and birthdate of an individual and we would look the name up on the Indian Census Rolls. We don’t do that anymore; we don’t do genealogy for people anymore, because now it is online and you can do it yourself.


There is no database of names of everybody who was Indian. The BIA only kept records of tribes that were under their supervision (that is what “federally recognized” means).  For many years the BIA did not keep a list of names of everybody in a tribe either, or take censuses, unless there was a matter of removal, moving people around.  In 1885, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs sent out a circular to all the agents telling them for now on, they needed to compile an actual census of everybody under their supervision. So from about 1885, to about 1940, there are census rolls that give the names and sex and ages and family relationships and even blood quantum for all those who were living with tribes that were under the supervision of the BIA.


If you think you had an ancestor who might be on those rolls, you can look them up yourself. The Indian census rolls are on both and You pay a small fee but it is worth it. In the past, you had to know ahead of time what tribe somebody was in because there were 692 reels of microfilm to look through and you had to start somewhere. Now that they are digitized you can simply put in a name. If you come to one of our facilities you can use our computers to do this for free.


To search the Indian Census Rolls:


Go to
Select All Titles, and choose Indian Census rolls. These are the censuses of all the tribes except the Five Civilized Tribes, from about 1885 to 1940. They do not include everyone who was an Indian, only those living on the reservations.  You have a choice of putting a name, or you can click on Browse, choose the tribe and search individual rolls yourself. You can check out all their possibilities for the names, and see if any seem to be your relatives. Finding someone on the Indian Census Rolls does not entitle you to membership in an Indian tribe. You have to get in touch with the tribe and find out what the membership rules are and what documentation they want from you.


Or you can go to and put in a name to search their copies of various Native American rolls

Find US Indian census rolls. You can put in a name and see the results.

You can also search the regular census records on Ancestry.


Finding an ancestor on one of the rolls may help you figure out what tribe your ancestor came from. But you must get in touch with the tribe for membership. They are the ones who determine if you meet their requirements for eligibility and they are the ones who will decide about membership, and issue you a card if they accept you. The government has nothing to do with this, and does not issue any cards.


If you do not find your ancestor on one of these rolls, there probably are not any federal records of them as an Indian. People who left their tribes and lived in the general public were just like other citizens. The best way to research them may be to start with the regular census records, and other local records. Sometimes the federal decennial census may list someone as IN, for Indian, but they do not identify the tribe. There are a few federal decennial censuses that do list some tribal members, and a good place to find out about that would be our pages about Indians in the census


and for other information on researching Indian ancestors, check our page


People who have an Indian heritage are not eligible for any benefits from the government. All benefits come through membership in a federally recognized tribe.

The National Archives has digitized thousands of documents, images, and movies related to Native American history and culture.  This is the third in a series of blogs highlighting the records available online through the National Archives catalog.


Movie Blog Header Image.jpg

(Clockwise from top left) Screenshots from The Rodman Wanamaker Expedition of Citizenship, An Approach to Indian Offender Rehabilitation, Corn Dancers, and Rebuilding Indian Country


Motion pictures featuring Native Americans were produced and collected by the federal government for a variety of reasons- documenting events or government functions, advertising, and public education.


Many films of the films available in the National Archives catalog were created in order to promote tourism.  Native Americans were incorporated into many national and state parks as tourist attractions and as a result their culture was advertised alongside the natural features of the parks.


A Visit to Mesa Verde (1936)- Navajo dances

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (1937)- Blackfeet dances

Native of Glacier (1934)- Blackfeet dances

Grand Canyon National Park (1934)- Hopi women weaving and spinning

Arizona and Its Natural Resources (1939)- Apache herding cattle, Hopi making pottery and religious dolls; and Navajo herding sheep, making jewelry, weaving, and cooking


In addition to advertising, documentary films produced or collected by the federal government in the 1910s through the 1930s reflected a desire to document Native American life based on a fear that Native Americans were “disappearing” and being assimilated into the wider mainstream American culture.


The Romance of a Vanishing Race

Indians of North America: Conduct of Life (1913)- Traditions and dress of several tribes, including Hopi, Blackfoot, Crow, and Pueblo

Indians of North America: War Dance (1913?)- Plains Indian war dances

Winter Farm Life on a Crow Reservation: French General Foch Become Honorary Crow (1919)

Navajo Indians (1936)- Navajo crafts, work, and culture


An interesting series of films documents the ceremonies surrounding the National Indian Memorial, both at the memorial’s planned location and across the country.  The ground-breaking ceremony in New York coordinated with ceremonies where Native Americans pledged their loyalty to the United States were held at reservations. (Despite the pomp and circumstance, funding for the memorial never materialized and the planned site remains unused to this day.)


Inaugurating the National Indian Memorial (1913)- "Events of February 22, 1913, inauguration of National American Indian Memorial in Fort Wadsworth, New York. Shows U.S. government officials addressing Indians and ground breaking ceremony with Pres. William Howard Taft and Indian leaders."


Rodman Wanamaker Expedition of Citizenship to the North American Indian, The: Carrying the Flag and a Message of Hope to a Vanishing Race (1913)

Focus on Ogala Sioux, their declaration of allegiance to the US, and flag raising ceremony at Pine Ridge Reservation.

Footage of flag raising and allegiance ceremonies at Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota and Otoe Reservation, Oklahoma.

Flag raising and allegiance ceremonies at Sioux Reservations in Montana and South Dakota,; Fort Peck Reservation, Montana; Standing Rock Reservation, North and South Dakota; and Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota.

"Lower Yankton Sioux; Brule; Yankton Sioux; Tuscarora; Tonawanda; Senaca; Cattaraugus; Cayuga; Onandaga; Alleghany; Oneida; Mohawk; Iroguois; Lepan; Mescalero; Geronimo Apache; Isleta Pueblo." [sic]


In later decades of the 20th century more films began to focus on contemporary economic and social issues facing Native Americans.


["North Star II" Resupply of Alaskan Villages]- Native American coastal villages and industries in Alaska

An Approach to Indian Offender Rehabilitation- Native American cultural awareness program at Federal Reformatory at El Reno, Oklahoma

We belong to the land- Promotes Forest Service and natural resource careers by emphasizing the relationship between Native Americans and the land*

Tahtonka- Plains tribes and their connection to buffalo, Ghost Dance, and Wounded Knee*

The American Indian: After the White Man Came (1972)- History of Native Americans, with a focus on problems faced by Native Americans in the 20th century*

Modern Indian Medicine Men- U.S. Indian Service physician on Pima reservation southwestern U.S

A New Frontier- Agricultural issues facing southwest Native Americans

Rebuilding Indian Country (1933)- Native American life and industry in the 1930s.  Vignettes feature Chippewa, Pima, and Navaho tribes.


There are also a number of films available that showcase Native American art and material culture.


Corn Dancers: United Pueblo Agency and Indian Irrigation Service (1941)- Southwestern Pueblo culture and education

Santa Fe Indian School in New Mexico- Shows the school and students in class and learning Native American crafts

Tempera Painting by Quincy Tahoma, a Navajo Indian []- Art instructional film

Ford News (1934)- Vignette of Navajo and Pueblo making sand paintings and carving

Mexico: Reeds and Palms (1941)- Mexican Indians' cultivation and use of palms and reeds

Mexico: Maguey (1941)- Uses of the maguey plant


New York, Pennsylvania, Gettysburg, Chickamauga and Moundsville, Alabama State Parks (1936)- Archaeology in Moundsville, Alabama

Temples and Peace [] (1937)- Artifacts from Moundsville, Alabama

Dolores Project archaeology ; Archaeological excavation, McPhee Reservoir area (1978)- Archaeological excavations of Anasazi sites


Of course, this blog post is far from comprehensive- for any researcher, a thorough perusal of the National Archives catalog is an absolute must.  For more tips on searching for digitized records in the catalog, check out this post on Expanding Your Digital Toolkit.  Researchers interested in records described in the catalog that haven’t been digitized should get in touch with the appropriate National Archives reference unit using the contact information at the bottom of the page.


*Two minute previews are available in the catalog for these films.  Researchers interested in the complete films can visit the National Archives office listed in the catalog description or purchase a copy from Amazon (purchase link in the catalog description).

California Enrollments  -  background


In 1928 Congress permitted California Indians to bring suit against the US for lands taken from them. They were defined as Indians residing in the State of California on June 1, 1852, and their descendants. The 1928 roll was approved May 16, 1933, and included 23,571 names. The 1928 roll is part of RG 75, Entry 904. The applications are in Entry 576. The funds were not distributed right away, and in 1933 they had to amend the roll to eliminate the deceased and add those born after. We also have it on Microfilm M1853, which is where Ancestry got it from.


In 1944 there was a Court of Claims Award to California Indians. This happened again, with the 1944 funds. The roll had to be updated again in 1948.


There was another amendment in 1950 which allowed some of those who had lived outside California to be eligible. A new roll was approved in 1955. That roll of California Indians was prepared pursuant to the Act of May 24, 1950 (64 Stat. 189), and was completed in 1955 (see records in RG 75, Entry 964A).


There was also an award made in 1964, from the Indian Claims Commission, see Dockets 31 and 37, RG 279. Later, Dockets 186, 215, and 333 were merged with these, and later still, Dockets 80 and 80-D. The merging occurred as different suits brought by various bands were consolidated to represent the Indians of California (but still did not include splinter groups).


The Act of  September 21, 1968 (82 Stat. 860) again provided for the preparation of a roll of persons of California Indian descent and the distribution of certain judgment funds. The new 1968 Act had different standards of eligibility so it had to be an entirely new roll. The deadline for filing an application was December 31, 1969. The completion of the roll was complicated by the existence of numerous “splinter groups” or cases in which a person’s ancestry was derived from groups claiming lands in and outside of California. Some of those groups had already filed claims for lands in California, as well as in adjoining states, and therefore were excluded from sharing in the funds. The 1968 Act provided for the new distribution to include funds residual to the earlier awards.


Entry 576  California Applications.  One file, 10645, was a huge application with many names.  It is filed as Central Classified Files #36818-1945-312 Mission.  It has 416 pages, of which 96 are this application.


The 1972 California Judgement Roll resulted from the 1968 Act. I do not know where the 1968 – 1972 records are, but suspect they may be in our California regional branches. Our California branches can give information on this judgment roll.