American Indian Records
William D. Welge, CA, Director of the American Indian Cultural Preservation Office
The American Indian Archives consists of federal Indian records placed in the society's custody in 1934 by act of Congress. Containing over 3.5 million documents and some 6,000 plus volumes, it represents 66 of the 67 tribes that either were relocated to Oklahoma by forced removal, or who are native to the state.
Most principal of the collection will be the records of the Five Civilized Tribes. These records of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole date from circa 1856 to 1906. The national records of these tribes contain primary documentation of the executive, legislative and judicial branches as well as district and county records. Extensive information about agriculture, census, citizenship, education, Indian-white relations, law enforcement and a variety of aspects of life in Indian Territory can be found in these documents.
A significant portion of the American Indian Archives are federal records of the various Indian agencies established to administer reservation activities among the tribes relocated to the territory during the nineteenth century. These records span the period from the 1860s to 1933. Agencies and tribes included in this group are: Cheyenne and Arapaho; Kiowa (Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, Wichita, Waco, Tawkoni, Caddo, Kichai and Delaware); Pawnee (Pawnee, Ponca, Nez Perce, Ottawa, Confederated Peoria, Quapaw, Seneca, Eastern Shawnee and Wyandot); Sac and Fox-Shawnee (Ioway, Mexican Kickapoo, Citizen Band Potawatomi, Sac, Fox, and Absentee Shawnee).
Also included are records of the Indian schools established in Indian Territory such as Chilocco and Mekusukey Academy. These valuable collections of agency files provide important data as to the day to day operation of agency affairs. Files will include Indian culture, census and annuity, per capita, leases especially cattle grazing and pasture, field matrons, farmers, ceremonies, allotments and customs just to name a few.
Of special note will be the records of the Dawes Commission, whose primary function was to administer the enrollment of the citizens and Freedmen (former African-American slaves), of the Five Civilized Tribes in preparation for allotment of land prior to statehood.
Much of the primary records of the Five Civilized Tribes is utilized by individuals researching for ancestors who may have been enrolled by the Dawes Commission. The records allow the researcher to determine if they can qualify for tribal enrollment today. Since the mid-1970s new importance has been placed upon the records of the Five Civilized Tribes. These records provide the only source for determining tribal membership with a tribal entity today.
Using a combination of enrollment records produced by the Dawes Commission, supplemental documentation can be ascertained by searching voluminous records of the Five Civilized Tribes for possible linkages from the ancestor to the researcher.