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2020

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!