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American Indians and the American West, 1809-1971 consists of a variety of collections from the U.S. National Archives and the Chicago History Museum, as well as other selected first-hand accounts on Indian Wars and westward migration.
One of the highlights is its focus on American Indians in the first half of the twentieth century, a period that has not been studied in as much detail as has the calamitous nineteenth century. The two major collections on the twentieth century are Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and records from the Major Council Meetings of American Indian Tribes.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs files document the relationship between the federal Government and American Indian tribes, agencies, and reservations. One group of files covers meetings between Indian delegations and the Office of Indian Affairs in Washington. Other groups cover Indian customs and social relations, education and schools on the reservations, alcohol use by Indians, and health conditions on the reservations.
Spanning 1914 to 1971, the records of the Major Council Meetings of American Indian Tribes cover claims, mineral rights, the role of Indian government, water supply and irrigation, federal legislation, hunting and fishing rights, health and education, employment, and cultural activities and religion.
In addition, American Indians and the American West, 1809-1971 features collections on American Indians in the nineteenth century, with a focus on interactions among white settlers, the federal government, and Indian tribes. Records of the Indian Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior highlights the tensions caused by the westward expansion of the post-Civil War years as well as events like the Modoc War that was fought in southern Oregon and northern California in 1872 and 1873.
Closely related to this collection are several series of records on U.S. Army actions in the West from the 1850s into the 1880s. These include records of the Departments of New Mexico, Oregon, Northwest, and Columbia, as well as a series on the U.S. Army Department of Arizona's 1886 campaign to track down and capture the Apache leader, Geronimo.
A series of records on Indian Removal to the West, 1832-1840 from the Office of Commissary General of Subsistence, which oversaw the removal process, consists of letters and reports about the removal process by Indian agents and other government employees as well as Indians and other individuals.
American Indians and the American West, 1809-1971 also includes correspondences of U.S. marshals, U.S. attorneys, state or territorial officials, and individuals who moved and settled in the West between 1809 and 1884. These files come from early records of U.S. Attorney General as the federal government attempted to impose some form of law and order in the West. These files include documentation on notable people such as Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, Jesse James and Frank James, and records on Tombstone, Arizona.
Overall, American Indians and the American West, 1809-1971 offers researchers a wide selection of records on the interaction between American Indians and the U.S. government and settlers in the for the period from 1809 to 1971.
Updated October 2021