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Tribal Archives: Untold Histories of Activism and Survival

Many Native American digital exhibits nowadays emanate from large and powerful collecting institutions: the Smithsonian, the American Philosophical Society, Yale University, and others. While these are valuable projects, they don't represent the collections that indigenous people have been maintaining themselves, in their own communities, often with very little material support. These equally precious collections may be found in tribal museums, historians' offices, and Granny's garage. They contain materials often unseen and under-valued outside of tribal communities--letters, petitions, pamphlets, photographs, and newsletters. In these materials, we find tribes telling their own stories of their own activism, their own survival since time immemorial.

The exhibit before you was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities' Office of Preservation and Access between 2014-16. We wanted to learn what kinds of support tribal historians would need to start inventorying and digitizing their own collections. And we wanted to survey three different kinds of collections: an established tribal museum with some inventoried archives already in place; a tribal office that has been receiving mountains of material from tribal members; and (in fact) Grannies' garages. Our findings from our project are detailed in a white paper (forthcoming). 

Here, we invite you to peruse some of these essays, newsletters and other materials. We invite tribal members and historians to consider how they might like to contribute or participate; and we invite ALL visitors to consider the untold histories of Indigenous survival in New England that these writings represent.

Project Partners

Joan Tavares Avant (IRC), Judy Battat (IRC), Linda Coombs (IRC), Eleta Exline (UNH), Joan Lester (IRC), Meredith Ricker (UNH), Siobhan Senier (UNH), Loren Spears (Tomaquag), Donald Soctomah (Passamaquoddy)