Innovation Hub

Project: Indian Scout Pension Files, 1866-1892

Participate in our crowdsourced project

A photo of William Alchesay, probably taken when he was in his 70s. Alchesay is wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a squash blossom necklace, and a dark vest.

A photo of White Mountain Apache Chief William Alchesay (Chuzzin), part of his pension application file.

Indian Scouts were a vital part of the U.S. Army’s campaigns in the post–Civil War West. These scouts contributed military intelligence to the U.S. Army, fought during engagements, and provided diplomatic assistance between the United States and their own tribes.

The National Archives holds an estimated 400 files of Indian Scouts’ pension applications based on service in these campaigns, among our other resources. Pension files are a rich source of information, not only about the soldier who served but also about their families and comrades. These files often include affidavits from the soldier, their spouse, or people they served with. These interview-style documents can be a valuable source of information about the pension applicant, told in the interviewee’s own words. Given how many 19th-century government documents are about rather than by American Indians, getting these files online is a great chance to let voices of 19th-century Native Americans be heard.

These scouts came from at least 10 different tribes of the American South and West, including the Crow, Sioux, Navajo, Cheyenne, Arikara, Seminole, and Apache.

We’re embarking on a project in the Innovation Hub scanning room to make these files more readily available to the public. You can help us digitize the original documents so that they are accessible worldwide and can be used by students, historians, and family members.

All you need to participate in this project is a National Archives research card. For groups of more than two people, please email ahead of time so we can reserve scanning stations for you.

If you can’t make it to our downtown DC location but still want to help others access these records, you can log into our catalog and tag or transcribe files that have already been scanned.


As of February 2020, about 110 of these files have been scanned. You can check them out in our catalog’s Case Files of Indian Wars Pension Applications.