How Do I Find Indian Treaties?

There are multiple sources for locating a treaty between the U.S. government and a tribe.  This guide lists sources available through the Ross-Blakley Law Library as well as sources freely available on the internet.

 

Main Sources

The two main sources for locating treaties between the U.S. government and a tribe are the United States Statutes at Large and the publication Indian Affairs: Law and Treaties (commonly referred to as “Kappler’s”).

 

United States Statutes at Large

The Statutes at Large is the official compilation of the public laws of the federal government. Volume 7 of the Statutes at Large contains the texts of Indian treaties entered into between 1778 and 1845, listed chronologically and indexed by tribal name. After 1845, treaties are in a separate section at the end of each Statutes volume. Volume 16 has the last substantial number of tribal treaties.

Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties (Charles J. Kappler ed., US Government Printing Office 1904)
Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties is a historically significant, seven-volume compilation of U.S. treaties, laws, and executive orders pertaining to American Indians.  Volumes 1 and 3-7 contain U.S. laws and executive orders concerning Native Americans from 1871-1970, while Volume 2 reprints U.S. Government treaties with American Indians from 1778 to 1883. 

Listed below are a handful of publications that are meant to supplement Kappler’s; these publications include some early treaties that Kappler’s omits as well as provide alternative organizational schemes for the information provided in Kappler’s.

Kappler Revisited: An Index and Bibliographic Guide to American Indian Treaties (Charles D. Bernholz, Epoch Books 2003)

Kappler Revisited seeks to address limitations present in Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, including the frequent absence from treaty titles of the names of participating tribes, the omission of several early treaties, and the failure to use standardized names for tribes and tribal groups.  The text provides an extensive bibliographic guide and indexes the 375 Indian treaties recognized by the U.S. Department of State by treaty number and by tribal name.  The text also expands Kappler’s signatory lists of the various multilateral treaty titles to identify and include all tribes that participated in each treaty.

Documents of American Indian Diplomacy: Treaties, Agreements and Conventions, 1775-1979 (Vine Deloria and Raymond J. DeMallie ed., University of Oklahoma Press 1999)

This two-volume set also seeks to supplement Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties by offering a new chronological list of Native American treaties from the State Department list, supplemented by treaties that the editors believe should have full status as ratified treaties. Treaties not included in Kappler’s compilation, including those between Native American tribes and foreign nations, the Confederate States of America, and the republic of Texas are reproduced in full-text.  The text also provides numerous lists of treaties with cross-references to sources.

Treaty Background Information

The resources listed below provide sources of background information on Indian treaties.  They do not contain the text of Indian treaties but rather documents such as papers ordered by Congress, presidential communications, and deeds of sale that shed light on the history and interpretation of Indian treaties.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set
The Serial Set contains the House and Senate Documents and the House and Senate Reports, beginning with the 15th Congress in 1817. The reports are usually from congressional committees dealing with proposed legislation and issues under investigation. The documents also include all other papers ordered printed by the House or Senate, such as presidential communications to Congress, treaty materials, and certain non-governmental publications.  In addition to these Congressional documents, the Serial Set includes the annual reports of the War Department and Interior Department during the years that the U.S. government signed treaties with Indian tribes.  The materials in the Set provide valuable information on the background of treaty provisions between the government and Indian tribes. 

Guide to American Indian Documents in the Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1899 (Steven L. Johnson, Clearwater Publishing Co. 1977)
This Guide is a useful research aid for locating potential sources of information and data in the Congressional Serial set relating to American Indians before 1900.  The book sequentially lists 10,649 documents on Indian affairs in the Chronological Section, with each entry containing the document title and date, citation, and description of the contents.  The book also contains a Subject Index for locating documents on certain tribes, events, or regions.

Early American Indian Documents, Treaties & Laws (Alden T. Vaughan gen. ed., University Publications of America 1979)
Early American Indian Documents, Treaties & Laws is a twenty-volume set that includes the text of formal treaties between Native Americans and the Anglo-European colonial government, as well an array of documents which shed light on the treaties, including deeds of land sale, conference records, council minutes, and commissioners’ reports.  The editors of the text have provided each document with a number and short title, as well as listed their source for the document. The final volume of the series is a master index and chronology.

Online Resources

Yale Law School Avalon Project, Treaties Between the United States and Native Americans
The Goldman Law Library at Yale University has made the full text of treaties between the U.S. and Native American tribes from 1778 to 1868 available on its Avalon Project website.  The treaties are organized by date and each entry includes a list of treaty signatories. 

Early Recognized Treaties with American Indian Nations
The University of Nebraska has digitized nine treaties created between 1722 and 1805 that are not published in the Statutes at Large or in Kappler’s Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties.

 

Updated 1/2014


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