Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
November 20, 1996
Library of Congress Soon To Publish Resource Guide for the Study of Indian and Alaska Native Peoples
Many Nations, a 340-page, generously illustrated resource guide (170 illustrations, of which 50 are in color), will be published by the Library of Congress in December. It is designed to guide researchers through the vast and extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress -- including many materials hitherto overlooked -- that focus on North American Indians and Alaska Natives. The volume is the fourth in a series of guides to major subject categories of collections in the Library of Congress, and it represents a six-year effort by a team of staff members including librarians, reference and curatorial specialists, historians, analysts, attorneys, and editors.
Previously published resource guides are Keys to the Encounter: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of the Age of Discovery (1992); The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture (1993); and The Largest Event: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of World War II (1994).
The focus of this resource guide is on Indians in North America, excluding Canada and Mexico, and the material is presented much as a researcher would approach any large subject at the Library, beginning with the Main Reading Room and continuing through all the specialized collections divisions. Each section includes an overview of materials held and their relevance to researchers, reading room information, directions for access through print and on-line catalogs, guides, bibliographies, and an annotated list of selected collections.
To help researchers trace major topics across the Library's specialized collections and reading rooms, mini-essays called "Gateways" are woven throughout the guide -- on specific topics based on the strengths of the particular collections -- to provide historical context and directives to relevant divisions. Each special collection is followed by a portfolio of color and black-and-white illustrations of its material. A detailed index provides subject, proper name, and geographical access, with particular focus on American Indian individuals and tribes mentioned in the book.
The Library's holdings include not only many thousands of books with information on North American Indians, but also one of the largest and most varied collections of manuscripts relating to American history. Other nonbook holdings include prints, photographs, broadsides, posters, maps, government documents, laws and legal materials, films, videos, television programs, microfilm, and sound recordings.
In addition to maintaining and expanding its own comprehensive collections, the Library acts as a guidepost to other repositories of research materials for the study of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Many collections related to American Indian study throughout the United States and Europe are represented in whole or in part by the Library's rich collections of microfilm.
Inevitably, amid such a wealth of material, certain treasures stand out. The Library holds rare copies of the first American Indian newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, which began in 1828. It was edited and published in New Echota, Ga., by Elias Boudinot, a Cherokee schoolteacher and missionary. Its text was in both English and Cherokee, the latter using the brand-new syllabary devised by Sequoyah.
Visual materials are among the richest and most attractive of the sources documenting Indian customs and history. The earliest description and illustration of American Indians appears in two printed copies of a Christopher Columbus letter -- the illustrated version was published in Basel, Switzerland, in 1494 -- announcing his discovery of the Americas and calling the people there "los Indios." The Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division also holds hundreds of accounts, many illustrated, of early encounters with Indian peoples in North America, as well as first editions of the great Indian portfolios compiled by such artists as Charles Bird King, George Catlin, and Karl Bodmer in the 1830s and 1840s. These pioneering efforts to document tribal leaders and customs in paintings, later to be reproduced as color lithographs, provide visual evidence of proud civilizations that were increasingly being devastated by diseases and warfare.
By the time the great photographer Edward S. Curtis embarked at the turn of the century on his 30-year crusade to photograph all the remaining tribes west of the Mississippi, some of the tribes depicted by the earlier artists were tragically reduced and their lifestyles irrevocably changed. Nonetheless, Curtis managed to make more memorable photographs of American Indians than any other photographer. The Library's Prints and Photographs Division has the largest collection of his first-generation prints in the country. The division also holds other large collections of photographs of American Indians, but its relevant graphic material begins with a 1645 etching by Wenceslaus Hollar of an Algonquian from Virginia; it is considered to be the earliest portrait of a Native American drawn and engraved from life.
Among important Indian-related materials held by the Manuscript Division are records of colonial administrations and of missionary organizations, both in original and microfilm formats. Outstanding among missionary archives are the Records of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in Alaska, which chart its efforts from the 18th century forward to convert and Russify the native populations of the region. The voluminous papers of ethnologist and Indian agent Henry Rowe Schoolcraft represent an early attempt to document the customs and lifestyles of the tribes of the Great Lakes region before displacement by European culture.
Researchers tracing complex legislative histories while building cases involving Indian claims will find that the Law Library of Congress holds extensive compilations of federal, state, tribal, and international laws, as well as related legal resources. These are supported further by the Library's wider collections; for example, the evidence that may lie in presidential, executive, legislative, and judicial papers held by the Manuscript Division and the Indian treaties held by several divisions.
Maps are among the most potentially rich sources and yet they are often overlooked. The map made by Jesuit missionary Father P. J. De Smet, and held by the Geography and Map Division, for example, shows tribal lands in the western United States and may have been made in conjunction with the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851. In addition to the broad collection held by the Geography and Map Division, significant maps also can be found in other Library collections.
For those studying the changing perceptions and images of Native Americans, copies of silent and sound films in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, as well as television programs and documentaries -- some made by American Indians -- are priceless. These collections begin with films of Indians made in the 1890s to be shown in vaudeville theaters on Thomas Alva Edison's kinetoscopic devices and continue through modern media added by copyright deposit.
The Music Division's Dayton C. Miller flute collection contains approximately 120 American Indian flutes. The division's Performing Arts Reading Room also provides access to about 3 million sound recordings and radio broadcasts, which can be searched for Indian material using reference tools for subject searching.
The Library's principal collection of unique American Indian recorded materials, however, is in the American Folklife Center. Established within the Library by an act of Congress in 1976, the center is charged with the preservation and presentation of American folklife and holds more than 1,000 hours of ethnographic sound recordings. The emphasis of these recordings is on oral traditions, both spoken and sung, but they also document dance and ceremonial complexes. One of the initiatives undertaken by the center has been the dissemination of copies of the American Indian material to the communities of origin.
Many Nations can be ordered from the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954, for $33. An order form is attached for your use. Cite Stock Number 030-000- 00274-1 when placing your order. Orders may also be made using Visa or MasterCard by calling (202) 512-1800.
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