Indians of North America
This overview describes the collections of the Library of Congress relating to the indigenous peoples of North America, principally in the present United States, dating from the pre-Columbian period to the present.
The bulk of North American Indian related material in the general collections exists in classification E. Because North American Indians have contributed to, and have been studied by, the fields of anthropology, archaeology, ethnology, law, religion, language and art, relevant material also exists in classifications G, K, B, P and N. A precise count of this material does not exist, but the E collection alone is estimated at more than 20,000 volumes. Within the general collections also are those of the Microform Reading Room, which contain thousands of items representing printed, manuscript and archival material.
In addition to the extensive book, serial, and microform collections related to the study of North American Indians, the Library has important resources in manuscripts, prints and photographs, and other special formats.
With its concentration on American history, of which Native Americans were an integral part, the Library's Manuscript Division has holdings, in paper and microform, of Indian-related historical material that are probably larger than those of any other institution. Among these holdings are papers of numerous U.S. presidents, government and military officials, explorers and others involved in relations with American Indians.
The Library also has rich collections of graphic and documentary images related to American Indians. Several thousand images relating to Native American Indians are in the Prints and Photographs Division. In addition, there are hundreds of photographs associated with collections such as those of the American Folklife Center and the Manuscript Division. The Prints and Photographs Division also contains originals or reproductions of prints, lithographs, mezzotints, and engravings. The Rare Book and Special Collections Division has early, scarce published volumes of American Indian images such as those of George Catlin, Thomas L. McKenney, and J.O. Lewis, as well as rare volumes of published Native American art and photographic portfolios.
The Library's American Folklife Center is the holder of the largest collection of Indian-related sound recordings, including more than 1000 hours of early speech, songs, and rituals. The Music Division contains sheet music and books of American Indian music and song.
In terms of integrated research necessary for the historical study of American Indians, the Library's maps and cartographic records, both published and unpublished, are more abundant than at most institutions. Maps relating to Indian lands, language groups, military campaigns and colonial territories further enhance the ability of scholars to undertake research on American Indians at the Library of Congress.
The Library's book and serial collections in linguistics, locally and tribally produced materials, and some Canadian materials, are not comprehensive. The Library also lacks locally produced recordings of contemporary Native American ceremonies and contemporary language recordings.