Searching Native American Newspapers in Chronicling America

Robin Pike, Head, Digital Collection Services Section in the Serial and Government Publications Division, conducted the following interviews with Mary Feeney (University of Arizona Libraries) in Tucson, AZ,  Korina Tueller (Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records) in Phoenix, AZ, and Anne Levin (Minnesota Historical Society) in St. Paul, MN.

Chronicling America has grown its collection of newspapers by and for Native American communities under the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) over the past decade through the contributions of state partners. It is important to read these newspapers to better understand Native American perspectives. When discussing the same issues, mainstream newspaper titles generally present them from the perspective of the white editors or the U.S. government. Similarly, newspapers written by missionaries or government agencies will have a different perspective on Native issues. For example, the Cherokee Phoenix and Cherokee Phoenix, and Indians’ Advocate wrote a very different perspective from mainstream newspapers in the 1820s and 1830s during the period when the U.S. government was removing the Cherokee from their historic tribal lands.

The following interviews with partners from Arizona and Minnesota discusses these titles.

Arizona

Can you tell me about the significance of the newspaper titles by Native Americans that Arizona has included in Chronicling America?

These newspapers provide a perspective that often wasn’t included in newspapers from non-Native American publishers. They cover news important to those communities, including information about tribal council elections and decisions, developments on the reservation and in surrounding areas, and issues that affected their communities.

Front page of the April 19, 1961 Navajo Times newspaper.

Navajo Times (Window Rock, AZ), April 19, 1961.

One of those newspapers is the Navajo Times, published in Window Rock, Arizona. We were able to digitize 157 issues for Chronicling America, starting in November 1959 – the first issue – through December 1963. In those early years of the newspaper, the Navajo Times reported on issues and topics like voting rights, community services, public works development, tribal council news, and much more. The newspaper is still being published today.

Other newspapers published by Native Americans in Arizona that we’ve digitized for Chronicling America include The Fort Apache Scout, which started in 1962 as the official newspaper of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and is still being published, and the Apache Drum Beat (1960-1963), published by the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Another is Papago Indian News (1950s-1960s) from Sells, Arizona. The newspaper carried the historical name that European colonizers used for the Tohono O’odham people and covered news of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

What have you have learned about these newspapers through the process of digitization?

One thing we learned, and that’s important to note, is that some newspapers were published within or for indigenous communities, but not necessarily written or published by Native Americans. For example, The Supai Weekly News (1950s), published in Supai, Arizona, where the Havasupai Nation is located, was actually produced by an agent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. So sometimes the newspapers were adjacent to the tribes and reported news about the communities but were not written by them.

Similarly, Adahooniligii, subtitled Navajo Language Monthly, was printed by the Phoenix Indian School, and the editor was someone who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. But what’s significant about this newspaper is that it was written almost entirely in the Navajo language, Diné bizaad, by William Morgan, a Navajo Indian. Morgan was a linguist who, along with Robert Young, published the first Navajo language dictionary in the 1940s. There were tributes to Morgan published in the January 11, 2001 and January 25, 2001 issues of the Navajo Times.

Is there anything else you would like to share about these newspapers or the Arizona newspaper project? Where can readers find you online?

The State Library of Arizona and the University of Arizona Libraries are currently partnering on another National Digital Newspaper Grant to digitize an additional 100,000 pages of historic Arizona newspapers to Chronicling America. The State of Arizona Research Library has digitized other newspapers, newsletters, magazines, and journals from indigenous communities and made them available on the Arizona Memory Project, along with other Arizona historic digitized newspapers. These tribal community publications had over 24,000 page views in 2021 and 2022, to date. Print and microfilm newspaper holdings, as well as other materials from Research Library collections, can be found through our catalog, and questions about access to Arizona newspapers can be submitted by clicking “Ask a Question” on the State Library website.

Minnesota

Can you tell me about the significance of the newspaper titles by Native Americans that Minnesota has included in Chronicling America?

Front page of the Novemer 1, 1850 Dakota Tawaxitku Kin, or, The Dakota Friend newspaper.

Dakota Tawaxitku Kin, or, The Dakota Friend (Saint Paul, MN), November 1, 1850.

The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) has digitized five newspapers related to the Dakota and Ojibwe in Minnesota. Due to the era in which they were published and the nature of the religious missions and reservations, only two of the titles represent viewpoints of members of the reservations, while other publications come from missionary and reservation administration viewpoints. Each newspaper does have news on the people, region, and events that can be a basis for research and exploring issues affecting the Native community.

Dakota Tawaxitku Kin, or, The Dakota Friend was published 1850-1852 at the Dakota Mission by White missionary and editor, Gideon H. Pond. Notable for being published in both Dakota and English languages, it reflects Pond’s editorial and mission voice, building on the written alphabet and dictionary he and his brother, Samuel W. Pond, developed in their time with the Dakota. The newspaper contained Bible passages and moral and religious essays, articles re-telling Dakota history, Dakota language instruction, and news of the Dakota, the Minnesota Territory, and government actions from the missionary perspective.

The Progress and The Tomahawk newspapers were connected through Gus. H. Beaulieu, a publisher for both newspapers, and Theo. H. Beaulieu, his cousin, who served as an editor for The Progress.

Published and managed by members of the Reservation, The Progress had a strong, independent voice and was “devoted to the interest of the White Earth Reservation and general Northwestern News.” The Progress led with its first issue on March 25, 1886. Controversy followed as local Indian agent Timothy Sheehan seized the press. A U.S. District Court decision eventually allowed The Progress to continue without “survellance [sic] and restrictions,” and publication resumed on October 8, 1887.

Detail of newspaper article with the headline: Arrogant Suppression of the Press!

“Arrogant Suppression of the Press!” The Progress (White Earth, MN), October 8, 1887.

Gus. H. Beaulieu began publishing The Tomahawk on April 9, 1903. While it was many years since The Progress last published, The Tomahawk carried forward a Native voice, continuing goals of The Progress, ensuring publication and management by members of the Reservation. Under Beaulieu, the paper had a strong political focus for the White Earth Reservation and U.S. government policies. The newspaper included local news and advertising, as well as general state and national news.

Photograph of two men working at a newspaper press.

Press room of the Tomahawk, White Earth (1903). Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

The Chippeway Herald was published as the official monthly newspaper of the White Earth Boarding School from 1902-1909 “by Indian pupils,” though it has the voice of the boarding school administration. The Chippeway Herald provides news of students, families, and the local communities, as well as news of the White Earth Boarding School and other boarding schools.

Detail of the newspaper article, no headline.

The Chippeway Herald (White Earth, MN), January 1, 1902.

The Red Lake News was an English-language newspaper distributed by the Red Lake Reservation and Red Lake Indian School located in northern Minnesota. It represented the Chippewa (Ojibwe) of the Red Lake Reservation from 1912-1921, but is published with an editorial voice of the reservation administration, and contained Agency news and instructional content. It also contained news of students and families from the reservation and region, news of events, and local advertising.

What have you have learned about these newspapers through the process of digitization?

These newspapers reflect many complexities and challenges over time for Native Ojibwe and Dakota in Minnesota and the region. While digitized newspapers are a place to explore history first hand, there is still the need to look critically at the viewpoints and omissions of the times. More contemporary research brings forward Native voices and publications exposing the damages of the boarding schools, missions, and reservations. There are also opportunities for deeper examinations of the newspapers and goals of newspaper publishers, including Gus H. Beaulieu and his own interests. Author Alex Klein details this conflict in his 2017 article.

Is there anything else you would like to share about these newspapers or the Minnesota newspaper project? Where can readers find you online?

MNHS builds on its experience digitizing newspapers for the NDNP and Chronicling America by continuing to digitize Minnesota newspapers and developing the Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub. MNHS is looking forward to digitizing more contemporary Native newspapers, making them searchable and accessible online in the Hub. Two important organizations in that effort are the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC) in Minneapolis and the American Indian Learning Resource Center (AILRC) at the University of Minnesota in Duluth, Minnesota. Both of these organizations collected Native newspapers from the 1970s-2000s – newspapers by Native publishers and journalists for Native communities.

As MNHS continues to digitize Minnesota newspapers for the NDNP in its current cycle, we are developing programs to connect researchers and communities to newspapers of interest. One aspect of this outreach will be connecting Minnesota Native communities with newspapers digitized for the NDNP and with ongoing digitization in the Minnesota Digital Newspaper Hub.

The MNHS website has many resources to explore, including the Our Home, Native Minnesota exhibit with links to many additional resources. Complementing the digitized newspapers is the rest of the MNHS newspaper collection on microfilm, with newspaper titles and holdings in MNHS’s Library and Archives catalog. Other resources to learn about Minnesota history, people, and events include the Minnesota History Magazine with its extensive index to articles, and the MnOpedia.

Search Strategies

There are multiple ways to find Native American newspapers in Chronicling America. Catalogers encode newspaper records with subject headings that relate to topics found within the newspaper or the people who created the materials. Go to the “All Digitized Newspapers 1777-1963” tab and select “Indians of North America” in the “Ethnicity” dropdown. This list of 26 newspaper titles from 6 states is populated using the subject headings.

Screenshot of a search in Chronicling America.

Screenshot of a search in Chronicling America.

Another way of searching for newspapers containing Native American languages is to go to the “All Digitized Newspapers 1777-1963” tab and select the language from the “Language” drop-down menu. While there are only six newspaper titles in four languages featured in this drop-down, Chronicling American contains additional newspapers in other Indigenous languages. The language encoding tags embedded in the markup text creates this list. If a language is not detectable by optical character recognition (OCR) processors or hand-encoded if there is no automated processor, it will not be included in this list. De Queen Bee from Arkansas is a mainstream newspaper primarily in English that contained a short-lived column published from October 8-November 5, 1897 in Choctaw and English. It is included in this language list but is not included in the “Ethnicity” list because the main audience is not the Choctaw Nation.

In the future, a third way of searching for titles will be through the Exploring Chronicling America Newspapers interactive map. We are currently working on adding filters using the ethnicity and language drop-down menus. This will facilitate a geographic search for titles in specific regions.

Some of these newspapers were printed solely in an Indigenous language while others were printed in English or a combination of the two languages, depending on the intended audience of the newspaper. Most newspapers do not use the diacritic markings commonly used above or below letters because printers used the character sets readily available for printing presses in the era when they were printed. The lack of diacritics and different historical spellings may cause problems if searching using diacritics or modern spellings. We recommend that a researcher first browses the newspaper title to learn how the newspaper was printed and common words of the period when it was printed before they conduct a more thorough search of their topic.

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