Native American Heritage

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Tips and Tools for Undergraduate, Graduate, and Postgraduate Researchers

Researching for your paper, prospectus, thesis, or dissertation? Records related to the history of American Indians and Alaska Natives are organized at the National Archives (NARA) by the Federal agency that created them, and may be housed at one or more NARA facilities across the U.S.

To identify the records you wish to research:

  • Browse the Guide to Federal Records for information on administrative history.
  • Keep in mind that agencies and administrative units changed names and jurisdictions over time. They may or may not reflect modern day names of nations, tribes, and communities.
  • Know the geography (region, state) of a topic, person, or community. For example, see a list of Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools arranged by state.
  • Search the National Archives Catalog to view digital images, record descriptions, publications, web sites, and more from the holdings of NARA locations nationwide.
  • Relevant records may include letters and correspondence; reports and administrative files; photographs, maps, and drawings; school, health, employment, and military records; legal documents and witness testimony from tribal rolls, criminal court cases; and more.

Before you visit a National Archives location:

  • Plan Your Research Visit.
  • Always call or email the National Archives facility at least two weeks before you arrive.
  • Work with an archivist by phone or email to narrow the scope of your research, or identify additional records to consider.
  • Supply a list of the specific record series you are interested in using. Ask about pertinent finding aids, such as folder lists, item lists, or indexes.
  • Be aware that some records may be housed off-site, requiring time to retrieve them for your use. Other records may be subject to privacy restrictions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Exemption (b)(6) and may have to be screened by National Archives staff before being used. Ask about privacy restrictions if your research includes modern records that may contain personal information.

Citing and Requesting Copies of Records

Need Further Assistance?

Locating specific media types