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---- Saturday - December 16, 2017 - 3:27:59 PM - Navajo Nation Time ----

American Indian Research
Speech by Jimmy Parker
November 5, 1977
Utah Genealogical Association Convention




Research Books

Background of the Locality of Tribal Group

Historical Background

Attitudes of the Non-Indian toward the Indian
Columbus to about 1830
Other Periods of Time
The Reservation Period
Allotment Period
Later Period from 1930 on



Sometimes I've been accused of being an American Indian expert. Thatís like being accused of being a research specialist in all of continental Europe. What I'm going to talk about is some general principles, some general trends, general types of records, not specific tribes.

Indian research is not as difficult as it is often made out to be. Many people feel that there are no records of these people. There are lots of records for the American Indians. They are available. It is possible to check American Indian lines back several generations.

There are some unique problems encountered in American Indian research, however, we will touch upon those too. There are some things to do to prepare to do Indian Research. Before you ever start doing the actual research, regardless of area or time period of research.

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Research Books

You must know how to find the tribal group (maybe you already know they were Cherokees, or Senecas, if you didn't know you need to find out how to find out the tribal groups). Nearly every set of records that we can talk about are associated with tribal groupings.

There are three books and a new research paper (coming out soon) to use in determining the tribes.

  1. 8 volumes, Biographical and Historical Index to American Indians and persons involved in Indian Affairs - G. K. Hall publishers, Boston, (cost about $1,000.00) great publishers of Indexes.
  2. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, 2 volumes - edited by Fredrick Webb Hodges, Hodges Handbook, published early 1900's, reprinted 1959 by Pagant Books, New York.
  3. Indian Tribes of North America, pub by Smithsonian Institute press, 1952, (Govt Printing Office) John R. Swanton.

Descriptions of above sources:

  1. Arranged alphabetically - place and tribal name, and by individual Indian name (prominent Indians, those who signed a deed or treaty). This is a document Index to about 1918 to Bureau of Indian Affairs Annual Reports. Also Index to names of agents. Genealogical Dept. compiling a Research paper to list American Indian Tribal groups in each state of U.S. More detailed & complete than Swantons, Future research paper on Indians in Canada.
  2. By Tribal Name (if you know tribal name and Individual Indian name.
  3. Organized by state, what tribes and when. Primarily those who still reside in state - not complete.

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Background of the Locality of Tribal Group

Sometimes people have come into the library and come to talk to me about doing American Indian research, they say, "well my ancestor was Cherokee from Main. Cherokees are not likely to be in Maine. Cherokees are from southeastern part of United States and Oklahoma. There were a few that drifted around and a few that got up into New York City (there are always exception to any rule) but the Cherokee tribe is concentrated in a certain locality, as the Seneca and the Wyandottes in certain areas. As a tribe they may have moved, but they still have a certain area they are associated with. You need to know that background for the tribal group or you need to know what tribes were in a specific geographical locality, before you can ever begin to do actual research on that particular line.

Types of records available for the tribe or the locality or the time period (all of those things affect the kinds of records that area available), not only do you need to know what kinds of records exist, you need to know where they exist.

Attitudes of both Indians & non-Indians and how those attitudes affected records. See National Genealogical Society Quarterly, March 1975, "American Indian Genealogical Research", an explanation of attitudes and the affect on records.

Now that I have convinced you that you must find the tribal name, let me tell you there are some problems with the term "tribe".

We use the term tribe all the time, but the Indians had a little problem with this, with trying to identify what was really meat by "tribe". We just added this as non-Indians and told the Indians, you are of this "tribe" because you all live here together.

Quote from Swanton: "In the eastern United States the term tribe is found to have no uniform application, the Creeks were a federation of a few dominant tribes and a number of subordinate bodies formerly independent.

The name Delaware is commonly said to have covered three tribes or sub-tribes, but while two of these seem never to have been independent of each other, the third, Muncie, is often treated as if it were entirely separate.

The term Powhatan was applied to thirty tribes or sub-tribes which had been brought together by conquest, just a few years before Virginia was settled.

Chipawaw or Ochegwas was used for a multitude of small bands with little claim to any sort of governmental unity. In case of the Iroquois tribe, it was only a part of the governmental unit. The Iroquoi Confederation or "Long House", the Northern Plains Tribe present a certain coherence. But further south and west our difficulties multiply. An early explorer in Texas states, that region, by nation, was to be understood only as a single town or perhaps a few neighboring villages, and in fact the number or tribal names reported from this section seems almost endless, something like 250 to 300 in Texas alone.

In the governmental sense each Pueblo community was a tribe. If we were to attempt a complete list we would have first a large number of existing, or at least recently existing tribes today and a still greater number known only through the early writers or by tradition.

In California, Grober states that there were no tribes in the strict sense of the term except among the "Yokets?" of the San Joaquin Valley and their immediate neighbors. Elsewhere in California in Western Oregon and Washington, as well, tribe and town might seem convertible terms, as the number of them was continually shifting. "It would be impractical to enter them in that capacity at the present time." - Swaton

"North of the International Boundary, Canada, conditions are if possible, worse. Except in the southern most section of Canada where there tribes similar to those of eastern United States - such as Huron, Chippewa, Blackfoot. The north pacific coast however, the condition along western Washington and northern Oregon are continued. We have numerous local groups associated with small major ________ on linguistic grounds alone, still north and east among the Algenkins?, Apashia? And Eskimo we are confronted with a bewildering number of bands and local groups usually confined to one town and taking their name from it or from a certain territory over which its members hunted. Numbers & names are uncertain even at the present time. Nothing remotely resembling scientific accuracy is possible in placing these bands if we aim at chronological uniformity. We must either integrate linguistic groups embracing sometimes almost an entire stock or make an arbitrary selection of bands with the idea of including those which we esteem the most important." - Swaton

I read this only to let you know there are problems with the term "tribe". Now we have lumped Indian groups together and called them tribes, especially the Bureau of Indian Affairs is guilty of this. What we have is really another loose confederations, you know with the Indians every family was a tribe. Every family was independent, every family was a government unit with itself. In speaking of extended families - grandfather, grandmother and their children, cousins etc. They lived pretty much in one village together. They pretty much governed themselves in many tribes. Many of what we call tribes, and as the federal government came along, government couldn't deal with every individual family in this whole area. So we are going to say that everyone of you who lived in southeastern Alabama are called Creeks and you have to decide who is going to represent you when we start making a treaty with you. Who are you going to send as your representative. They forced the Indians to begin to think in terms of tribes and they weren't very successful at it for a long time. There are still Indians out there who don't think in term of tribe. A white mans concept. It is not an Indian way of thinking as they considered their family as the most important unit. They governed themselves by families, they cooperated with other families sometimes, and sometimes they fought with other families. Those families were self-contained units. When we get into talking about tribes thatís on of the problems we have to deal with, because the federal government has imposed that on us, upon the Indians and upon us.

There is one thing, one light in the wilderness, that helps us with all these problems of 100 different bands, that are all connected with on tribe. That is Hodge, in face in Vol 2 of Hodge he lists every variant spelling of every particular tribe he was acquainted with. Now as I recall, it is in very very small print. I can just barely read it without bifocals, printed single line, two columns per page, about 250 pages. Just to list the variant spellings of all the different bands and tribes and shat have you, and refer you to a heading in his books, thatís' the larger heading of the Confederacy, the Tribe or whatever. The Research paper will use Hodges major headings, primarily, as he is the most comprehensive list we have.

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Historical Background

I believe that one of the most critical needs in doing American Indian research is to know the historical background of the tribe or locality of which the ancestor lived.

Let me name a few of the things that you need to become familiar with as sub-heading of historical background. Every tribe has:

  1. naming customs
  2. Kingship Systems - a certain way of speaking about their relatives
  3. Migration
    I don't know of any tribe of Indians in the U.S. that didn't migrate some, sometimes by force from Federal Government, sometimes because they were just following another tribe that they wanted to associate with. Sometimes because they were going from poor land to good land, poor hunting grounds to better hunting ground. Every tribe moves some, you need to know where, when, The migrations of tribes are important.
  4. Federal agencies involved - Bureau of Indian Affairs agencies, Indian posts in this country.
    In many tribes they could have lived in the same place, on the same reservation for 80 years and could have been in as many as half dozen different agencies. It's just like the old problem of U.S. research, living in one place and having counties spring up around you and new counties cut off and all of a sudden you find yourself having been in records of 5 or 6 counties. Agencies were moved about, and at different time periods, different agencies had control of a particular reservation, and you need to know something about that.
  5. What churches were involved with a particular tribe or locality in question.
    For instance during a certain time frame 1800's the B.I.A. decided the best way to handle American Indians was to have a particular church be kind of the administering officer over a given reservation. The Churches would apply for permission to be kind of an over-seer over that tribe. The B.I.A. would say - "yes, Presbyterian, you take care of Nez Perce tribe, Episcopalians you take that tribe," and they were the official religion on the reservation. They were more than that, usually for a short period of time, they were the agents for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, on that reservation. You need to know what the church was. That is part of the historical background.
  6. Any other history that would be helpful - treaties signed with tribes, how that affected where they lived. Any movements that might have come about because of the treaties, other history etc.

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Attitudes of Non-Indians Toward the Indian

Columbus to About 1830

The Non-Indian, then they first arrived on this continent felt like the important thing was to get all of those Indians converted to Christianity. Get them all in the European way of life.

The whole idea was to intermingle them among the white culture. Sometimes this called the "conversion policy". Christopher Columbus, is an interesting person to quote, let me read what he said in a letter to the King and Queen of Spain -

"So attractable (attractive), so peaceable are these people (speaking of the Indians) that I swear to your majesties, there is not in this world a better nation. They love their neighbors as themselves and their discourse is very sweet and gentle and accompanied with a smile, but we must make these people to sow, work and do all that is necessary to adopt our ways".

The whole idea was to get them to adopt our ways, as a result of this intermingling. Our conversion policy, there were some kinds of records kept and these are the primary ones that we will find in the Colonial period up to the Revolution and even up to about 1830.

There is some overlap in these periods. The 2 major kinds of records are (1) Church records - obviously in trying to convert them the church must have some active proselytizing among the Indians, and (2) Land Records.

  1. When the churches went in and proselytized among a particular Indian tribe and were successful, as the Dutch reformed church was with the Mohawks.
    When they went up and finally got some of those Indians converted to the church, It would have been nice if they had just recorded whatever name the Indians were using. They didn't do that, at least the Presbyterians didn't, they assigned them a Christian name. In some cases, you could have the same Indian appearing in church records and in other types of records, and you'd never know it was the same person. The church record used the Christian name and all the rest of the records used his Indian name.
    Example - Nez Perce Indians, northern Idaho, were actively proselytized very early by the Presbyterian church (1830's) and when they converted Nez Perce Indians, they gave him a name like Luke, or Matthew or something like that. I've worked on the Luke line so I can talk to you about that. Fortunately on the Luke line he maintained the Luke name when he started appearing in B.I.A. records. He used that as his English name and he still kept his Indian name, and he used both on many of the documents and that ties them together. That doesn't happen too often
  2. Land records - Why there were land records.
    The Indians had an interesting philosophy. Their philosophy was that all of the land everywhere belonged to the great white father. It was for everybody's use and when the non-Indian came there and tried to convert them to intermingle in their society, probably the biggest problem they had was to convince the Indian that he out to own land, or that someone ought to own land. This land ownership was a completely foreign policy to the thinking of the American Indian. They couldn't conceive of this. So when the non-Indian moved into a town, lets say in New England, and they said we want you to deed your property to us. We'll pay you for it or we'll give you a certain annuity for a certain length of time, or we'll take care of you, or whatever they said to get that land, the Indians were thinking, "what are these idiots doing", because it's for everybody. They can use it as well as we can, why should we have to deed it over to them. They couldnít conceive of why they needed to do this, but they usually were prevailed upon to sign a document.; It was nothing to use the land. It's for everybody's use anyway. So a lot of the Indians did go about signing deeds or documents. They were explained to them but they didn't understand what the explanation was.
    But a least there were some land records created and some Indians got their names on those documents. The important thing is that at least a few of the Indians that lived in that area were probably family heads and got their names down on paper. That is one of the earliest records we'll find in the U.S. having to do with Indian individuals and names.

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Other periods of time.

The 2nd general attitude was in the period of time from about the 1830's to mid 1850's (some overlap). This time period was called the removal or concentration period. It was developing much earlier than this. Even as early as Thomas Jefferson - he was talking about removing the Indians out to Oklahoma Territory west of the Mississippi and out where no white man in his right mind would ever want to go to settle. Get them west of the Mississippi. They'll never bother anybody. We'll stay east of the Mississippi and well get along just find. This was the idea in the concentration period.

There were some records that were generated from that way of thing. First of all, if they were going to remove all the Indians and get them out of the eastern part of the U.S., what do you suppose they would have to do first? Make lists of which of the Indians were living east of the Mississippi so they'd know who they had to remove. So there were some Census Rolls, early census rolls like Parson's & Abbots 1832 Census of the Creeks, 1835 Cherokees. Many of those take with the purpose in mind of trying to identify all of the Indians out there in the east that they wanted to get removed out west of the Mississippi. So Census Rolls were taken. After they got the list of who they needed to remove, what other kind of record might have been generated as they actual moved those Indians out west? As they started to move those Indians, they made Muster Lists. Lists of Indians they were actually moving by company, out to west of the Mississippi. By comparing the two lists you should be able to figure out who stayed in the East- "a good theory".

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The Reservation Period

The reservation period started about 1850 and went through 1857.

In the beginning they though - we'll just remove them out west of the Mississippi, we'll let them run where they want, they couldn't possibly hurt anything because we'll stay east of the Mississippi.

In 1850 some events took place that changed this idea, the discovery of Gold, the Mormon movement for one thing. The plains began to open up for farming and it became very apparent that the plains were very rich farmland. Minerals discovered in Colorado, Oregon and Washington began to open up. You see there are lots of places west of the Mississippi that began to look very good to those east of the Mississippi.

In order to handle the Indians who were roaming all around anywhere they wanted to go west of the Mississippi, they had to do something when they saw good land out there, some way to get the Indians out of the way.

The reservation period, the idea behind that was lets take these Indians and instead of having them roam around out there we'll confine them to a specific parcel of land and say "here is your reservation". Every tribe was given an individual reservation and told to stay there or the U.S. Government would send their armies in to force them back onto that reservation. Again this was entirely foreign to the thinkg of the American Indian because they were used to roaming and they were not farmers, in most cases. In some tribes there is exception to that. Generally they were hunters and used to roam wherever the game is anymore, you got to stay on that dry, arid, piece of land that couldn't possibly have anything good in it. Except the Federal Government got burned this time. Oklahoma, that's where all the oil has been found. The American Government didn't know that.

Reservations were in Oklahoma and all over the west. The idea was to confine them to these specific parcels of land. This was done by Treaty. The Federal Government came in "we've got a deal you can't refuse", we want to give you an annuity, pay your expenses, we'll give you blankets and horses etc., and you go live on that land and you can have a government dole. The treaty actually said "for a specified number or years - maybe 20 or 25 years" (which they did not tell the Indians). We'll send you farm implements and try to get you going with that sort of thing. Theoretically in 25 years you'll be completely independent on this land, that nobody else wants. As a result of the treaty and these annuities or payments of blankets, horses etc., there were a set or records formed called the Annuity Rolls.

Annuity Rolls were nothing more or less than a lists of people to whom the Fed. Govt. paid the annuity. The early period of the reservation period the annuity rolls or annuities were paid mostly to the heads of families only, sometimes only to the 'Chiefs'. (We have the same problem with term Chief as we have with tribes, because that's a shite term, not an Indian term.)

The annuities were paid to someone and so we have lists of who it was paid too. Quite often it was heads of families. They will list maybe a sub-chief that was given a certain payment and then it will list the heads of families underneath that sub-chiefs names and it will even tell in many cases how many members of families, but won't name each of them.

A few of these records are filmed and here in Salt Lake. We'll be having more shortly. They are mostly still at the National Archives.

School Census records were begun during this reservation period and other school records as well because during this time period the Federal Government decided that the Indian ought to be educated. They began setting up boarding schools, which again was against the whole nature of the Indian. These boarding schools reached down into the family and took the kids out and set them to a boarding school somewhere far away from their families. They were required to stay there and the Indians fought it as I would if I had been them, and would now if somebody tried to tell me that my kids had to go 100 miles away and stay.

Toward the end of this period, the Federal Government decided they needed to have an accurate count of every Indian that lived on the reservation. So they passed a law on 4 July 1884 requiring all agents on all the reservations to keep an annual accounting of every Indian living on that reservation. A good theory but you see, there were a few problems in the counting on some reservations. Lets take the Navajo. Can you imagine a poor Navajo agent getting this letter saying, "we want you to take an accurate count of all 80,000 Navajos in half of Arizona some in New Mexico, some in Colorado, some in Utah. Every year you have to go out and visit every family and make a list of all the children that lived in that family". The agents complied in 1885, but then for the next 30 years he argued with the Commission of the B.I.A. annually. The correspondence if you want to read it is really fun to read, it's at the Los Angeles Federal Records Center. They wrote back and forth to the B.I.A. arguing - "I can't possibly go out and visit all the Indian families", he didn't get an accurate count in 1885, and to go every year and try to do that - ridiculous. The B.I.A. was sitting back in Washington thinking "that is a good idea - sure glad we though of that" and the agent was out there trying to deal with all the problems that were involved. Other reservations didn't keep an accurate count either, but most of them did. These Indian Census Rolls are at the Genealogical Society - 692 rolls of microfilm.

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Allotment Period

The allotment period started about 1887 (the passage of the general allotment act) to about 1930.

The thinking was to a lot a parcel of land to each individual Indian. Now we are clear back to full circle. Clear back to the beginning when they tried to teach the Indian that they ought to own land. They were successful than and no successful now either. But finally there are some Indians that have gotten this because it has been forced upon them. They did allot a parcel of land to each individual Indian. The idea was that it would be held in trust by the U.S. Govt. until the Indian proved he was capable of handling his own affairs at which time a patent would be issued to that Indian and he could sell it or do whatever he wanted with it. You can imagine what happened. They gave allotments to individual Indians and it was held in trust, but he never did probe capable of handling his own affairs so most of the allotments are still being held in trust by the Federal Government and have they got a mess now. When an Indian died who has been allotted, what happened is that parcel of land - if its an 80 acre piece, and he had 4 children, they didn't divide it and give 20 acres to each child. They give each child one quarter interest in all 80 acres. Now you follow that down about four generations, you can see what happens. You have one person that was allotted. He has four children. One died without any issue, so when this happens the rest of the land is that has quarter is divided by one third to each of them. Now each of them, the other three, now have one quarter, plus each child has when this person dies, one sixth of one quarter plus one thirds of the allotted reservations now and read allotments and you have things like 1/256 part of a piece of land. How do they sell this land? All 256 owners have to agree before it can be sold. We have cases on Ute Indian Reservation in Eastern Utah where we have as many as 56 different owners and 55 agreed to sell and one didn't - and they couldn't sell it.

As a result of this allotment period, there are Allotment Registers, Heirship Records (which have to do with tracing or determining how much and interest they had in a parcel of land). Registers of families built up because they had to know who was related to who and how this needed to be dived out. so there are all kinds of fun little things that came about after about 1887 and the Allotment Act. There were some other records that I haven't mentioned.

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Later Period from 1930 on.

The present policy of the B.I.A. is that each individual tribe ought to have their own tribal government. In 1934 there was an act passed called the "Indian Reorganization Act" which gave every tribe the authority to set up their own tribal government and to establish their own Tribal Council and Tribal Chiefs and whatever. From that time forward they have begun functional almost as independent nations, within the nation. In some tribes, some tribes, aren't organized yet, but they try to encourage that kind of thing. That is the present thinking of the B.I.A.

Incidentally this is a very simplified view of all these policy periods, because there were lots of interesting little things that happened in particular tribal groups.

Some other records that were created - Vital Records, Records called "Sanitary Records" of sick injured, birth, deaths etc. Plains Records, you will get an idea of those from reading the article in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly March 1975.

The major depository of Indian Records in the U.S. is the National Archives and it's branches. There are eleven regional branches of the National Archives scattered through the country. Our Region here is in Denver. The northwest is in Seattle. Northern Nevada and Northern California is in San Brino?. We are presently microfilming, or will be microfilming in the next 2 months, in every Regional archive (Federal Records Center) in the country, these Indian records. We're concentrating only on Indian records, and also at the National Archives.

There are some military records, which are generally inter-filed with non-Indian records.

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