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U.S. Federal Documents: Native American & US Federal Government Relations

Northwestern University Libraries have been a U.S. Federal Depository Library since 1876. Our collection includes materials in paper, microfiche, CD-ROM, DVD formats and online formats. This guide is based on a similar guide by Kelly Smith at UCSD.

Current Policy & Practice

Native American Tribes are sovereign nations and have formal relationships with the U.S. Federal Government.  At the same time there are federal agencies which provide services to Native American people and Tribal governments.  This page provides pointers to federal agencies which provide services to, or partner with, Native American tribes in the pursuit of their mission.

Dept of Agriculture

  • U.S. Forest Service, Tribal Relations
    The Forest Service pursues partnerships with American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal governments and communities for mutually beneficial outcomes for land management.

Dept of Health & Human Services

Dept of the Interior

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Bureau of Indian Education
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management
    • Tribal Consultations
    • Cultural Heritage & Paleontology
      The Bureau sustains the diversity, health, and productivity of America's public lands for the benefit of present and future generations through a mandate of multiple-use and sustained-yield."  This includes surface and subsurface resources (grazing lands, timber harvesting, recreation, subsurface mineral and energy resources) as well as cultural and historical resources.

Search the U.S.Government Manual which provides names and contact information for agencies and staff, organizational charts, and descriptions of responsibilities.

Indian Land Claims

Context for Indian Land Claims

The Constitution and native American tribes. (2013). In R. A. Rossum, & G. Tarr, American constitutional law. (9th ed.). New York, NY: Westview Press.  See in particular the section on "Tribal Authority Over Disposition of Lands". 

Y. W. Dennis, A. Hirschfelder, & S. R. Flynn, Native American almanac: more than 50,000 years of the cultures and histories of indigenous peoples. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press, 2016.  Includes several articles on land claims in various regions including:

Historic Government Information

The Bureau of Indian Affairs was established in the War Department in 1824 and transferred to the Dept of the Interior in 1849.

NU Libraries has been a depository for publications of the US government since 1876 and have historic publications from some agencies, particularly their annual reports.

U.S. Commisssioner on Indian Affairs.  Annual Reports, 1824-1968.  18 reels of microfilm
GOV  I 20.1: year (GOV microfiche cabinets)

U.S. Commissioner on Indian Affairs.  Annual Report
GOV I 20.1: year (print copies 1855-1879)

Board of Indian Commissioners. Annual Report.
GOV I 20.5:year (print copies 1890-1932)

Report of the Superintendent of Indian Schools.
GOV I 20.7: year (print copies 1887-1906)

Contributions to North American Ethnology. U.S. Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region, J.W. Powell in charge. 1877-1893.  Print volumes available at GOV I 17.5:
Electronic edition available via HathiTrust for all volumes.

  • volume 1: Tribes of the Extreme Northwest, by W.H.Dall;  Tribes of Western Washington and Eastern Oregon, by Geo. Gibbs, 1877.
  • volume 2, parts 1&2: The Klamath Indians of Southwestern Oregon, by Albert Samuel Gatschet, 1890 (includes Klamath-English and English-Klamath dictionaries, as well as transcriptions and translations of myths and stories).
  • volume 3: Tribes of California by Stephen Powers, 1877.
  • volume 4: Houses and House-Life of the American Aborigines, by Lewis H. Morgan. 1881.
  • volume 5: Observations on Cup-Shaped and other Lapidary Sculptures in the Old World and in America, by Charles Rau, 1882.
  • volume 6: The Cegiha Language [the speech of the Omaha and Ponka tribes of the Siouan linguistic family of North American Indians], by James Owen Dorsey, 1890. (transcriptions and translations of myths and stories)
  • volume 7: A Dakota-English Dictionary, by Stephen Return Riggs, 1890.
  • volume 9: Dakota Grammar, Texts, and Ethnography, by Stephen Return Riggs. 1893.

ProQuest Congressional    (see also Readex Government Documents)
Congressional hearings on legislation and treaties provide insight into policy.  Annual reports of federal agencies were submitted to Congress and published as part of the Serial Set (1817-1994), included in this database.  Debates in Congress are recorded in the Congressional Record, and its predecessors.