The Pala Reservation Baseball team. They made a splendid record the past season. ca. 1925
In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, we would like to share just some of the remarkable pieces of Native American history of tribes in southern California and Arizona. All of these records come from our holdings of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (RG 75).
Major General Winfield Scott’s Order No. 25 Regarding the Removal of Cherokee Indians to the West, 05/17/1838
Following the Indian Removal Act and the controversial New Echota Treaty, the Cherokee Nation agreed to exchange their lands in the southeast for lands in Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) in a move to be completed within 2 years.
Many Cherokees ignored the treaty and refused to move or begin making preparations for removal. As a result, Major General Winfield Scott was ordered to ensure compliance with the treaty and given a large force of regulars and additional state militia and volunteers to force removal if necessary. Nine days after his arrival at the Cherokee Agency in Tennessee, Scott issued General Order 25 on May 17, 1838. In it, he named the members of his staff, established three military districts to expedite “collection” of the Indians, and urged his troops to treat the Indians in a humane fashion.
Received by the U.S. House of Representatives on February 15, 1830 this petition from the Cherokee Nation, which was written in both Cherokee and English, asserted the tribe’s status as a sovereign nation in response to a bill which had been introduced to remove them from their land. Despite the petition, the legislation passed three months later, setting the stage for the eviction of the tribe in 1838 and the hardships they endured on the “Trail of Tears.”
Memorial of the Cherokees, HR 21A-H11, 2/15/1830, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (ARC 306680)
The United States has a numbered series of treaties with other nations, but also aseries of treaties with many different Native American tribes which are called Ratified Indian Treaties. This detail image shows signatures on two folios from RG 11, Ratified Indian Treaty 89, signed in July 1817 and ratified five months later. It bears the signatures of then President James Monroe and future Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Adams wrote much of the text on the last page. The Great Seal is embossed on the die cut paper which covers a red wafer seal. The treaty recently received extensive conservation treatment in the Archives I laboratory.
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce
Following the Battle of Bear Paw, ”non-treaty” groups of the Nez Perce surrendered to the United States Army on October 5, 1877, ending the Nez Perce War. While not the sole leader of the Nez Perce, Joseph emerged as one of the more outspoken and compelling figures in the conflict and during the Nez Perce’s later struggles following their removal from their ancestral lands in the Pacific Northwest.
A Hopi (Moqui) petition signed by all the Chiefs and headmen of the tribe asking the Federal Government to give them title to their lands instead of individually allotting each tribal member. 03/27/1894 - 04/10/1894
The Hopi people of the Moqui Villages in the Arizona Territory sent this petition to “the Washington Chiefs in March, 1894. Signed by representatives of the tribe, with a symbol for every family, the document asked the federal government to give the Hopi title to their lands instead of individually allotting each tribal member a plot, as had been prescribed by the Dawes Act of 1887. The Moqui worried about losing their matriarchal way of life and cooperative management of resources that helped them adapt to their environment. Referring to surveyors, the petition said: “During the last two years, strangers have looked over our land with spy-glasses and made marks upon it.…None of us were asked that it should be measured into separate lots, and given to individuals for this would cause confusion.”
The document is written in the hand of Thomas Keam, who first came west with the military to move the Navajo people from Arizona to New Mexico, but later established a trading post and worked with Hopi and Navajo leaders to maintain peace between them, new settlers, and American authorities.
Only selected pages are shown here; the full petition is available via DocsTeach »
“driven from their homes by the disloyal Indians …”
Native Americans were caught between the Union and the Confederacy, and the loyalties of several tribes were split. In this letter, U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, William P. Dole described the plight of a group of Creek Indians. Loyal to the Union, they were driven from their lands by Confederate forces and other Creeks sympathetic to the Confederacy. The refugees eventually fought their way to Kansas, where they faced starvation and harsh winter conditions.
Letter from William P. Dole to the Secretary of the Interior, 03/13/1862
In this secret message of January 18, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson asked Congress for $2,500 to explore the West—all the way to the Pacific Ocean. At the time, the territory did not belong to the United States. Congress agreed to fund the expedition that would be led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
Letter Relating to Peace Prospects at Wounded Knee, ca. 12/1890
This letter from William “Buffalo Bill” Cody contains a note of guarded optimism amid the increasing tensions between U.S. Cavalry and groups of Lakota Sioux camped near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. Cody’s hopes for peace were dashed when the situation ultimately culminated in a massacre of over 150 Lakota men, women and children on December 29, 1890.
It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation. Two important tribes have accepted the provision made for their removal at the last session of Congress, and it is believed that their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages.
President Andrew Jackson’s Message to Congress ”On Indian Removal”, 12/06/1830
On December 6, 1830, in a message to Congress, President Andrew Jackson called for the relocation of eastern Native American tribes to land west of the Mississippi River, in order to open new land for settlement by citizens of the United States.
Read more at Our Documents
All this month, the National Archives joined with the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Gallery of Art, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to pay tribute to the traditions of Native Americans during Native American Heritage Month. The National Archives has hundreds of digitized records relating to Native Americans in our online catalog. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we hope you’ll help us tag these interesting records!
Our catalog includes digitized records from Record Group 75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA, in conjunction with tribal governments, Native American organizations, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and other interested groups, was responsible for the development and implementation of economic, social, educational, and other programs for the benefit and advancement of Indian and Alaska native peoples. Also included in our online holdings, are records from Record Group 435, Records of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB). The IACB serves as a clearinghouse for development of Native American (American Indian and Alaska Native) arts and crafts.
Interested in BIA records? Start tagging here!
If arts and crafts are more your style, tag those images here!