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Researching Indian Treaties
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The two main sources for locating treaties between the U.S. government and a tribe are the United States Statutes at Large and the publication Indian Affairs: Law and Treaties (commonly referred to as “Kappler’s”).
United States Statutes at Large
The Statutes at Large is the official compilation of the public laws of the federal government. Volume 7 of the Statutes at Large contains the texts of Indian treaties entered into between 1778 and 1845, listed chronologically and indexed by tribal name. After 1845, treaties are in a separate section at the end of each volume. Volume 16 has the last substantial number of tribal treaties.
Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties
Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties is a historically significant, seven-volume compilation of U.S. treaties, laws, and executive orders pertaining to American Indians. Volume 2 reprints U.S. Government treaties with American Indians from 1778 to 1883.
Listed below are a handful of publications that are meant to supplement Kappler’s. These publications include some early treaties that Kappler’s omits, as well as provide alternative organizational schemes for the information provided in Kappler’s.
Indigenous Digital Archive Treaties Explorer
This site was created by the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe and the U.S. National Archives Office of Innovation. The site has digitized versions of the original treaties and maps of land sessions organized by date, tribes named in the original document, and present day tribal name.
Kappler Revisited: An Index and Bibliographic Guide to American Indian Treaties
This index seeks to address limitations present in Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, including the frequent absence from treaty titles of the names of participating tribes, the omission of several early treaties, and the failure to use standardized names for tribes and tribal groups. The text provides an extensive bibliographic guide and indexes the 375 Indian treaties recognized by the U.S. Department of State by treaty number and by tribal name. The text also expands Kappler’s signatory lists of the various multilateral treaty titles to identify and include all tribes that participated in each treaty.
Documents of American Indian Diplomacy: Treaties, Agreements and Conventions, 1775-1979
This two-volume set also seeks to supplement Kappler’s by offering a new chronological list of Native American treaties, supplemented by treaties that the editors believe should have full status as ratified treaties. Treaties not included in Kappler’s compilation, including those between Native American tribes and foreign nations, the Confederate States of America, and the Republic of Texas are reproduced in full-text. The text also provides numerous lists of treaties with cross-references to sources. It is available in print in the Law Library and online on campus or remotely with an ASURITE password.
Indian Treaties: A Bibliography
This bibliography by ASU law librarian Beth DiFelice describes sources for research into treaties between the U.S. government and Indian tribes, focusing on primary sources. The sources are preceded by an overview of the treaty process and the termination of the government’s power to enter into treaties with Indian nations.
The resources listed below provide background information on Indian treaties. They do not contain the text of Indian treaties but rather documents such as papers ordered by Congress, presidential communications, and deeds of sale that shed light on the history and interpretation of Indian treaties.
U.S. Congressional Serial Set
The Serial Set contains the House and Senate Documents and the House and Senate Reports, beginning with the 15th Congress in 1817. The reports are usually from Congressional committees dealing with proposed legislation and issues under investigation. The documents also include all other papers ordered printed by the House or Senate, such as presidential communications to Congress, treaty materials, and certain non-governmental publications. In addition to these Congressional documents, the Serial Set includes the annual reports of the War Department and Interior Department during the years that the U.S. government signed treaties with Indian tribes. The materials in the Set provide valuable information on the background of treaty provisions between the government and Indian tribes. The Serial Set is available through ProQuest Congressional (on campus or remotely with ASURITE) and HeinOnline (on campus or remotely with ASURITE).
Guide to American Indian Documents in the Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1899
This Guide, available in print in the Law Library, is a useful research aid for locating potential sources of information and data in the Congressional Serial Set relating to American Indians before 1900. The book sequentially lists 10,649 documents on Indian affairs in the Chronological Section, with each entry containing the document title and date, citation, and description of the contents. The book also contains a Subject Index for locating documents on certain tribes, events, or regions.
Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians
This guide includes historical records from the Continental Congress and Revolutionary War; Bureau of Indian Affairs (subdivided into areas such as law and probate, forestry, health, Alaska, finance, and statistics); Office of the Secretary of the Interior (further divided into areas such as the Indian Division, Lands and Railroads, Finance, Appointments, and Water and Power, with cartographic and audiovisual records); and the military (encompasses holdings within the Office of the Secretary of War, the Army, the Navy, and others). A detailed table of contents and a 55-page index provide guidance to areas of specific interest.
Early American Indian Documents, Treaties & Laws
This is a twenty-volume print set that includes the text of formal treaties between Native Americans and the Anglo-European colonial government, as well an array of documents which shed light on the treaties, including deeds of land sale, conference records, council minutes, and commissioners’ reports. The editors of the text have provided each document with a number and short title, as well as listed their source for the document. The final volume of the series is a master index and chronology. It is available in print in the Law Library.
Documents relating to the Negotiation of Ratified and Unratified Treaties with Various Indian Tribes, 1801-1869
Created from the National Archives microfilm records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, this University of Wisconsin digital collection includes instructions to treaty commissioners, reports, letters, and in some cases, copies of the treaties. Beneath each treaty title are document descriptions relating to the negotiation of ratified and un-ratified treaties with various tribes and a National Archives printed finding aid. Documents may also include the instructions, records of treaty council proceedings, and correspondence for each treaty from the original National Archives record set.
Many treaties between Indian tribes and the United States government were negotiated to establish borders and determine behavior between the two parties. Historical maps, showing land cessation and negotiated boundaries, can be helpful in understanding Indian treaties. The resources below provide access to such historical maps.
Federal Lands and Indian Reservations: Printable Maps
This U.S. Geological Survey web site has printable maps of federal and tribal lands in GIF and PDF formats.
Indian Land Cessions in the United States, 1784-1894
This resource contains a schedule of Indian Land Cessions by date, tribe, and state/territory. It includes Royce Area maps as compiled by Charles C. Royce and an introductory essay by Cyrus Thomas. It is part of the Library of Congress’s Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation project.
ProQuest U.S. Serial Set Maps
This collection of maps is part of the Congressional Serial Set. More than 50 percent of the maps are scanned at high resolution, enabling users to see and download the smallest details on the map. This database is accessible on campus or remotely with an ASURITE password.