Press/Journalists

Native American Treaties Now Online for the First Time
Press Release · Monday, October 12, 2020

Washington, DC

Hundreds of Native American treaties have been scanned and are freely available online, for the first time, through the National Archives Catalog. Also, in partnership with The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC), these treaties and extensive additional historical and contextual information are available through Treaties Explorer (or DigiTreaties).

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero explained the importance of this project:

I grew up in Massachusetts, a state with lots of Indian heritage, and used to walk the edge of a local lake collecting arrowheads. So it was from childhood on that I had an interest in those that were here first. Of all the things we have custody of and are responsible for—even the Charters of Freedom—I believe the Indian treaties are the most valuable documents in terms of reading the original language and the government promises, and realizing what was never delivered. I have had opportunities, as members of tribal elders or tribal lawyers have come to visit, to join them in the vault as they experience the same things.

Thanks to our anonymous donor, we were able to do needed conservation work, scan and digitize this historically and culturally important collection, and these records are accessible for anyone, anywhere, through our National Archives Catalog. Now, many more descendants of the original peoples can examine the names and seals and read the words set down by their ancestors so long ago. But more than that, the treaties are still relevant today as tribal leaders and lawyers continue to use them to assert their rights in court, such as in cases over land and water rights. With such increased access to these records, we plan to continue and increase our educational outreach to Native American communities, and to raise and increase awareness of Native American history. 

This project was made possible by the National Archives Foundation, a nonprofit partner of the National Archives, with additional support from a generous anonymous donor.

More information online:

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is a premier repository of Native art and material culture and tells the stories of the people of the Southwest from pre-history through contemporary art. The museum serves a diverse, multicultural audience through changing exhibitions, public lectures, field trips, artist residencies, and other educational programs. More online.

The National Archives is an independent federal agency that serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, so people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. 

From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. Our holdings include vast resources on Native Americans from as early as 1774 through the mid 1990s, including records from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in addition to the hundreds of original treaties between the U.S. and Native American tribal nations, now freely available online through the National Archives Catalog. 

The National Archives Foundation is an independent nonprofit that increases public awareness of the National Archives, inspires a deeper appreciation of our country’s heritage, and encourages citizen engagement in our democracy. The Foundation generates financial and creative support for National Archives exhibitions, public programs and educational initiatives, introducing America’s records to people around the U.S. and the world. Learn more online.  

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For press information contact the National Archives Public and Media Communications Staff at 202-357-5300.

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This page was last reviewed on October 23, 2020.
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