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Tracing Winema

Posted by Cherkea Howery 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). 

An underutilized resource for researchers interested in Native American records is the US Congressional Serial Set.  This government publication contains over 15,000 volumes comprised of Senate and House documents and reports bound by the Session of Congress, starting in 1817 with the 15th Congress.  The 38-volume American State Papers provide additional information from the 1st to the 14th Congresses.


In regards to Indian Affairs, the volumes describe the legal and fiscal relations between the US government and tribes (for example), but they are also a useful reference source for genealogical research.  The largest category of American Indian documents relate to claims prosecuted against the government for losses caused by “Indian depredations” and for service in the Indian wars. 


You can search the digital Serial Set when connected to the National Archives network at any of our facilities.  Some libraries and universities have also purchased access to the site.


Selected parts are available through the Library of Congress.


Also, check out NARA’s Know Your Records video series presentation on the US Congressional Serial Set.