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Shir Bach, 2022 Junior Fellow, Manuscript Division
Loretta Deaver, Reference Librarian, Manuscript Division
Created: May 31, 2022
Last Updated: April 24, 2023
As part of its mandate to collect materials related to American history, the Manuscript Division is home to thousands of collections. Over a hundred of these touch significantly on the histories and cultures of Native Americans. For the purposes of this guide, "Native Americans" refers to Indigenous peoples from the lands of the contemporary United States. The U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada split many Native communities in two, and some collections feature Native peoples who moved, maintained relationships and trade, and shared culture and tribal authority across these borders.
The division's collections cover topics like Native languages, Indian wars, settler colonial education, sovereign nation diplomacy, and U.S. presidential and governmental agency Indian policies. They include material relating to Native communities from Florida to Alaska and the regions in between. Larger Native nations such as the Cherokee and Lakota are particularly well-represented, but over 150 Native groups are listed in the community name index in this guide.
The materials in these collections come almost exclusively from Euro-American men, though materials created by Native people are highlighted throughout this guide. Materials created or collected by non-Native people can be very valuable to researchers interested in how Euro-Americans interacted with Native individuals and communities. Other materials reflect Native voices, Native visual art, and Native participation in the collection of linguistic and folkloric documentation. Researchers are encouraged to think critically about the acquisition and content of the Library's collections.
The collections described in this guide are historical, but Native Americans are not just a part of the past. They have been living in the lands now defined as the United States since time immemorial. And despite centuries of war, displacement, and violence, Native American cultural expression, traditions, and practices have flourished.
The Library of Congress has long treasured and preserved Native American collections in a variety of formats. We acknowledge that some of these collections were acquired without the full consent of their communities of origin. Today, the Library is dedicated to building vibrant partnerships with Native American communities; providing respectful, consultative, and appropriate access to historic Native American materials; promoting innovative scholarship on Native American collections; collecting contemporary Native American works; and cultivating and celebrating distinguished achievements by Native American scholars and creators.
Located near the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, the Library of Congress is built on land that is part of the homelands of the Nacotchtank (Anacostan), Piscataway Conoy, Pamunkey, and Manahoac people. Indigenous peoples, including members of these nations, still live and practice their teachings and cultures here today. The Library honors these stewards of the land, and all of the Indigenous peoples of the United States, who are the first peoples, including those in the region where the Library now provides its services. The Library works to interact with these groups in a responsible and respectful way.
This guide is separated into pages and subpages, which you can navigate using the sidebar on the left.
The Manuscript Collections page introduces the collections as a whole. Under this page are eleven topical subpages. Each topical subpage includes a brief overview of the topic and links to a number of relevant collections.
The Community Name Index organizes all the collections described on this guide by community groups: this includes tribes, confederations, languages, and other groupings.
The Search Tips page offers guidance on using the Library's catalog and other tools to search for relevant material, and the Using the Library of Congress page includes general information on conducting research at the Library.
The Additional Resources page links to other helpful sources from inside and outside of the Library of Congress related to Native American history and culture.