November is Native American Heritage Month – an opportunity to pay tribute to the traditions and ancestry of the tribes and people groups who originally occupied this continent. It is an opportunity to learn and to foster dialogue.
Library resources are among the most vetted and authoritative available. One of the best databases is American Indian History Online, which features primary sources, maps, documentary videos, and other media. It is searchable by region, tribe, person, event, or topic. Of special note are sections on influential court cases and legislative history. Another database is Early Encounters in North America, which covers material from the 1500s to the 1800s that document the relationships among the inhabitants of what are now the United States, Mexico, and Canada. It too features primary source material, this time focusing on letters, diaries, and memoirs, among numerous other types of media.
Another excellent source is American Indian Newspapers – a newspaper archive covering 200 years of indigenous journalism, including current periodicals in English and in native languages. For information on issues facing Native peoples, the voices of Navajo, Hopi, Comanche, Sioux, and other journalists are irreplaceable. All Tribal Councils reflected by the newspapers in the archive helped with and approved the development of the database, adding to its authority.
For book sources, the library offers titles like Sharing Knowledge and Cultural Heritage: First Nations of the Americas by Laura Van Broekhoven, Native American Voices by Susan Lobo, Native American Spirituality: A Critical Reader by Lee Irwin, Tapestry: The History and Consequences of America’s Complex Culture by Jerry Carrier, Native American Issues: A Reference Handbook by William Thompson, and Sovereign Stories and Blood Memories: Native American Women’s Autobiography by Annette Angela Portillo.
Normally only available in print, the meticulous and influential Handbook of the North American Indians, edited by William C. Sturtevant, is currently available online via the Hathi Trust (click on the Hathi Trust logo, and log in with ‘Indiana University’ as your partner organization). Produced by the Smithsonian Institution (one of the sponsors of Native American Heritage Month), the handbook is a thorough encyclopedia summarizing knowledge about all Native peoples north of Mesoamerica, including culture, history, religion, political organization, art, technology, and more for each tribe. Most volumes are broken down by region, with chapters on each tribe, but there are volumes focused on tribal languages, contemporary issues, and the history of Native and European relations, as well. Volume 15: Northeast includes the land that became Indiana – the Miami and Shawnee were the major tribes native to the area, although the Potawatomi and Illini (and eventually the Delaware as they were forced westward) also inhabited the region.
The AVON database adds streaming videos to the library’s holdings, including material like documentaries, newsreels, interviews, and more. Titles include films like The First People; The Last Word by Torsten Jansen, Spirits For Sale, or The Peyote Road: Ancient Religion in Contemporary Crisis by Phil Cousineau; as well as History Channel programming like Roanoke: The Lost Colony. AVON includes searchable transcripts of their videos, which let you link right to the parts you want to see (or exhibit in class).
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