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Amanda Zimmerman, Reference Librarian, Rare Book and Special Collections Division
Anastasia Binkowski, Librarian in Residence, Rare Book and Special Collections Division
Note: This guide is adapted and expanded from the original chapter in Many Nations: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Indian and Alaska Native Peoples of the United States (Library of Congress, 1996).
Created: November 2019
Last Updated: March 2020
The Rare Book Division's holdings include over one hundred separate special collections with their own indexes and finding aids. The collections amount to nearly one million books, broadsides, pamphlets, theater playbills, title pages, prints, posters, photographs, and manuscripts.
The following guide to Native American resources in the Rare Book and Special Collection Division is by no means comprehensive, but is rather meant as a starting place for research, pointing to particularly relevant items, collections, and useful search strategies. If you need further guidance, please use the "Ask a Librarian" service, linked to the left, so a librarian will be able to provide more focused assistance.
Although much of the materials held by the Rare Book and Special Collections Division describe Native American peoples from a European and Euro-American point of view, colored by classical or religious influences and cultural and personal biases, they should not be dismissed as mere examples of cultural imperialism. In the absence of written and pictorial records by Indian peoples themselves, these documents often provide the only documentation we have. By looking at them with keen awareness of the probable bias of their authors, a researcher can at the very least understand the motivations of those who recorded the encounters.
Please note that terminology in historical materials and in Library descriptions does not always match the language preferred by members of Native communities, and may include negative stereotypes. Item descriptions often include direct transcriptions of original captions. The Library presents the historic captions because they can be important for understanding the context in which the images were created.