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U.S. Federal Documents

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

Use the indexes to locate relevant entries in any of the following ebooks:

Historic Government Information

Background Information

Wilkins, David. "The "Peculiar" Relationship of Indigenous Peoples to the U.S. Government." American Indian Histories and Cultures. 2013. Accessed August 16, 2018. 

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

Federal Laws, Treaties & Regulations

Indigenous Digital Archive (IDA) Digital Treaties Explorer
The US National Archives holds 374 treaties enacted between Indigenous peoples and the United States, where they are known as the Ratified Indian Treaties. They can now be viewed online for the first time, along with key historic works that provide context to the agreements made and the histories of our shared lands.

Kappler, Charles Joseph. ed.  Indian Affairs: Laws & Treaties.  Government Printing Office, 7 volumes, 2nd edition (print format).  Also available online.

Supplement to Kappler's Indian affairs, laws and treaties: compiled federal regulations relating to Indians. U.S. Dept of Interior, 1975. Available online.

American State Papers, Class II. Indian affairs. 2 volumes.  1st Cong.-19th Cong., May 25, 1789-Mar. 1, 1827.

Provides access to a vast collection of legal research materials including the "American Indian Law Collection / Indigenous Peoples of the Americas: History, Culture & Law," an archive of treaties, federal statutes and regulations, federal case law, tribal codes, constitutions, and jurisprudence. It also features rare compilations edited by Felix S. Cohen that have never before been accessible online.

Federal Agency Reports

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)

Native American Language & Culture

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.

Digital Collections & Repositories

Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative 2021 -

Tribal Law Resources

There are 574 Federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States, all with their own unique governments and laws.