One benefit of my job at the Library of Congress is that I get to learn some history and read critical analysis while also locating resources and finding ways to support teachers in the classroom. One topic that I continue to learn more about is the history of the ways in which the lives of Native Americans in the United States have been documented.
Native American cultures are alive and well today, thriving and evolving within cities, rural communities, tribes, and nations across the United States. The online collections of the Library of Congress contain a variety of primary sources that document daily life and creative works in diverse Native American communities from the late twentieth century to the present day.
One of the most powerful effects of primary sources is their ability to complicate common understandings of history. As the raw materials of history, original documents are able to bring to light little-known details or neglected episodes that add complexity to oversimplified accounts.
The Teaching with the Library of Congress blog has published a number of posts highlighting primary sources related to the rich traditions of Native Americans.
Photographs offer a snapshot of a particular time and place, telling a careful viewer as much about the photographer as about the subjects of the pictures. That’s often particularly true when the photographer isn’t a member of the group being photographed. One example from the Library of Congress’s collections is Edward S. Curtis, who dedicated most of his career to photographing Native American cultures and traditions to publish in a multi-volume book titled The North American Indian.
The Library of Congress American Folklife Center has worked to preserve the culture of America’s people. Through on-site recordings and unposed images we are able to experience the language, the songs, the stories and the performances of Native Americans in their communities or here at the Library of Congress.
The Library of Congress has many resources related to the experiences and contributions of Native Americans to our nation.