Top of page

Primary Sources for Native American Heritage Month

Share this post:

Efforts to set aside a time to formally recognize the contributions of Native Americans began early in the 20th century, and in recent years November has been reserved for this purpose.

Hethu’shka Dancer

The Library of Congress has many resources related to the experiences and contributions of Native Americans to our nation. As you examine these images, songs, texts, and recordings, you might consider: How many of the items were created by Native Americans? How many were created about Native Americans?

Check out this list of American Indian History exhibitions and collections to find primary sources. Don’t miss the multimedia items in Omaha Indian Music and Florida Folklife from the WPA Collection, 1937-1942 .

Of course, items related to Native Americans are intertwined throughout many of the Library’s online collections that also focus on other topics.

New-York tribune Article on “The Iroquois Wampum”

For example, search the historic newspaper collections to analyze newspapers published by or dedicated to Indians of North America as well as articles and images published in newspapers serving a broader audience. To get started, search on terms such as Indian agency, Indian bureau, Indian war, or the names of particular groups or tribes, including Ojibwa, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Iroquois.

Native Americans narrate their personal experiences serving in conflicts from World War II to Iraq in audio and video interviews collected by the Library’s Veterans History Project in “Willing to Serve: American Indians.”

Find primary sources and historical context for teachers and students in the presentation Immigration…Native American.

Here are some suggestions for teaching students to view the experiences and contributions of Native American Indians from various perspectives.

  • Ask your students to compare how American Indians are portrayed in two or more items with distinct perspectives. For example, students might look at an article from one of the newspapers published by Native Americans and compare it to an article on the same topic from another news source.
  • Students might also consider how the interviews collected by the Veterans History Project, created by and in the voices of Native Americans, compare to accounts of Native Americans created by non-native people.
  • Both the Omaha Indian Music collection and the Florida Folklife from the WPA document Native American culture and religious practices, but they were created several decades apart. Students can compare, for example, music from each to discuss what is consistent in both collections and what is different. They might speculate on the causes of any variations they observe.

How do you think primary sources might help students view the experiences and contributions of Native American Indians from various perspectives?

Comments (7)

  1. It seems like a good idea to “ask your students to compare how American Indians are portrayed in two or more items with distinct perspectives,” however, doesn’t this create the possibilty of promoting outdated and innaccurate information. What age of students would this suggestion be for? Wouldn’t it be best to provide young learners with tthe most authentic and accurate information possible?

  2. I agree that it is best to provide learners with the ‘most authentic and accurate information available’, but what fills that need depends on what you are teaching. If you are just researching with young children, you might not do an activity like comparing how they are represented in different sources. But, if you are working with a little bit older learners and are demonstrating how perceptions change over time or how to analyze a source for accuracy, bias, point of view, etc. then this would be a great way to do that.

  3. Im part native american.. 🙂

  4. these are not sources

  5. This could be reliable in some cases.

  6. Tell me more

  7. i think that i can think

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.