We thank the Manuscript Division for allowing us to republish this blog post from Unfolding History: Manuscripts at the Library of Congress. To support learning with manuscripts, select questions from the Analyzing Manuscripts teacher’s guide.
This guest post is by Shir Bach, a 2022 Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress.
This November, as we commemorate National Native American Heritage Month, the Manuscript Division is proud to announce the publication of our newest resource guide, “Native American Resources in the Manuscript Division.” This guide features over 180 collections from the Manuscript Division that touch on the history and cultures of Indigenous peoples from the land now known as the United States.Created by 2022 Junior Fellow Shir Bach, the guide builds on the work of previous generations of Library of Congress staff. In particular, many of the collections identified in the guide were described in a publication produced by the Library in 1996 titled Many Nations: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Indian and Alaska Native Peoples of the United States. This new guide adapts that material into an online format and adds even more collections.
The guide is arranged into eleven major subject areas. From presidential correspondence to Native language phrasebooks to mission baptismal records, there’s something in these collections for anyone interested in Native American history. Alongside the subject pages, the Community Name Index will help researchers find material about a particular Native nation, language, or other community group.
The collections described in the guide stretch across centuries. At one end, Henry Fleete’s 1631 expedition journal charts his journey along the rivers and harbors of Maryland and Virginia. At the other, the papers of contemporary multiracial Native poet Ai Ogawa document her work as a writer and an educator. The materials also span the length of the continent, from the newly digitized East Florida Papers to a diary from the Lapland-Yukon Relief Expedition, which aimed to introduce reindeer husbandry to Alaska Native communities.
Most of the materials in the collections were created and/or assembled by non-Native people. Still, the guide highlights several collections from significant Native individuals, like the Osage literacy and library advocate Virginia H. Mathews. Beyond those collections, Native voices can be found in unexpected places. For example, the Pennell-Whistler Collection contains papers from writer Elizabeth Robins Pennell’s uncle, folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland. Within those papers are the field notes of Lewis Mitchell, a Passamaquoddy translator, writer, and member of the Maine Legislature.
Other collection highlights include the papers of Indian agent and ethnologist Henry Schoolcraft, the records of the Indian Rights Association, two albums from the 1899 Harriman expedition to Alaska, and many more treasures. Explore the guide today!