Native American Materials

Title from an early map, with illustrations of two Native American men on either side.
Illustrated title from "A Mappe of Colonel Römers Voyage To ye 5 Indian Nations…"

The New York State Library holds a wealth of first hand descriptions of the Native American experience in New York. These resources span four centuries, beginning with the Dutch colony of New Netherland and continuing to the close of the American frontier in western New York and beyond. Original manuscripts and published accounts provide windows upon Native American life and serve as lenses through which cultural and historical interpretations can be made.

Listed below are publications that have been digitized from items/volumes in the New York State Library’s collection.  As the State Library digitizes other Native American materials, links to the digital copy will be added to this list.

The titles listed below are also available in print or microform copy at the NYSL for use onsite or for loan, depending upon condition, format and location code.  Other materials relating to the Native Americans can be found by searching the NYSL online catalog and the Finding Aids to Special Collections.

For more information, contact the Reference Desk at 518-474-5355 or via email, or see the Digital Collections FAQ.

Agreement for the Purchase of Indian Lands, 1697 October: This is an agreement for the purchase of land at Ramapo, Rockland County (New York) between Blandina Bayard and the following Native Americans: Zerickham, Mettissiena, Eghkenem, Onarkommagh, Kraghkon, Saeuwapigh Kim, and Nanawaron.

Contract of Sale of Land Along the Hudson River From the Mahican Indians to Kiliean Van Rensselaer, 6 August 1630: This is a copy of the land title that established the Colony of Rensselaerwyck within the province of New Netherland. The patroonship plan of colonization under the auspices of the West India Company allowed an investor, called a patroon, to negotiate with natives for a tract of land.  The lands in this contract comprised much of present day Albany and Rensselaer counties.  Peter Minuit, Director General of New Netherland, signed this document along with others on the governing council.

Four Indian Kings: This broadside contains the text of the poem Four Indian Kings. The theme of the poem is the visit of four New York Indian chiefs to England in 1710.

Hearing Before the Joint Committee on Indian Affairs on Thursday, Jan. 4, 1945 at Ten Eyck Hotel, Albany, N.Y., 10 a.m.:  This hearing considers federal legislation concerning the criminal and civil jurisdiction of New York State courts over Indian Reservations in New York State. The legislation was intended to end confusion over the extent of federal and state jurisdiction over offenses committed on Indian property within New York State.

Letter, 1776 April 15: Volkert P. Douw wrote this letter to General Philip Schuyler about the issuance of clothing to deputies who were to meet with the Iroquois Six Nations. Douw explains that the deputies wore out their clothing on public business and requested replacement items. Douw stated that he provided the deputies with shoes, buckles and hats, and asks for Schuyler's permission to provide them with other clothing.  Douw wrote this letter at Albany, N.Y.

Letter to Jasper Parrish, 1829 May 4: This is a digital copy of a letter sent to Jasper Parrish from John Fox stating that he and the other Tuscarora chiefs insist upon an answer to a request they made in March of that year for help with an issue that involved their land.  John Fox wrote this letter at Tuscarora Village.

Letter to Spencer Phips, 1750 December 18: This is a digital copy of a letter that Governor George Clinton wrote to Governor Spencer Phips of Massachusetts proposing that all the colonial governors assemble in Albany for the purpose of meeting with the Six Nations of Indians to attempt to end the influence of the French on the Indians. The letter was written at Fort George in New York City.

Native American Culture Collection:  Many of the items that were microfilmed as part of the Native American Language and Culture Preservation Project have been digitized.  The majority of the items are in English with some texts, grammars and glossaries, in whole or part, in indigenous languages such as Seneca, Mohawk, Onondaga, and Delaware. (Coming soon! An alphabetical list of the digitized titles included in this collection will be added to this webpage.)

Public Hearing had at Salamanca, New York Court Room, City Hall, August 4-5, 1943: This hearing was convened by the Joint Legislative Committee on Indian Affairs to gain information on the issues that arose over attempts by New York State to gain and maintain civil and criminal jurisdiction over the Seneca Nation's Allegany Reservation, which included the city of Salamanca.  The dispute arose over the authority of the Seneca Nation to cancel land leases in Salamanca for non payment. The leases had been authorized by Congress to establish villages within the Allegany Reservation.

Public Hearing had at Thomas Indian School, Cattaraugus Reservation, N.Y., Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1943:  This hearing was convened by the NYS Joint Legislative Committee on Indian Affairs to gain information on the operation of the Thomas Indian School and problems with its operation caused by the conflict between the federal and state governments over what legal authority has jurisdiction on the reservation and ultimate responsibility for regulating affairs of the school.

Receipt, 1825 June 8:  This receipt is an acknowledgement from the Onondaga chiefs that they received $1,000 from Jasper Parrish on behalf "of the people of the State of New York."  The $1,000 is half of several annuities agreed upon in a treaty made by Philip Schuyler, John Cantine, David Brooks, and John Richardson. The receipt is signed by Onondaga Jacob, George Button, Cayuga Smith, Hard Hickory, and George Curly Eye.

A fragment of a 1783 letter which reads: The Six Nations answer to General Schuyler's speech, as translated by the Interpreter -- Niagara 8th Sept. 1783.
The Six Nations' reply to General Philip Schuyler.

Reply to Philip Schuyler, 1783 September 8: This document states that the Iroquois Six Nations, assembled at Niagara, desired peace with the Americans. The Six Nations council stated that they would contact their "younger brethern, the western and southern nations," to see if they too desired peace. The peace agreement was unanimously agreed upon "in the presence of Sir John Johnson" and included provisions for the return of prisoners taken by the Iroquois.

Report of the New York State Indian Commission to Investigate the Status of the American Indian Residing in the State of New York:  The findings of the New York State Indian Commission (1919-1922) are described in this report, commonly known as the Everett Report.  The purpose of the Commission was to investigate the status of Indian welfare and land rights in NYS. Assemblyman Edward Everett was chairman of the Commission. The report was presented to the legislature on March 17, 1922, only to be rejected for filing. It wasn't until 1971 that the report was finally released.   Lulu Stillman served as stenographer for Assemblyman Edward Everett and was credited for preserving the only remaining record of the report from which the 1971 transcript was made.  As Everett's stenographer, Stillman retained copies of most of the material produced by or related to the commission. (Many of the original documents are either missing or unavailable.)  The published report released in 1971 and Stillman's annotated draft have both been digitized. 

Report of the New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Indian Affairs: The New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Indian Affairs was established by Senate resolution in 1943 "to make a comprehensive study of the rights and obligations of the several tribes of Indians residing upon Indian reservations within the state; to inquire into all treaties, and the nature and extent of the title to lands granted to Indians; and to inquire into all matters relevant to its investigation." (New York State Legislative Manual, 1943). Reports were made annually to the Legislature from 1944-1964. In addition, a supplemental report was made in 1959. 

Report of the Special Committee to Investigate the Indian Problem of the State of New York: This report is commonly known as the Whipple Report, after the chairman of the Special Committee, J.S. Whipple.  The Committee was charged to investigate and ascertain the following: the social, moral and industrial condition of the tribes; the amount of land cultivated; the tribal organizations and manner in which they allot land among their tribal members; the title to the lands on their reservations; the claims of the Ogden Land Company, and of other companies or individuals; all treaties made between the state and the Indians and all treaties between the United States and the Indians; and such other matters as would aid the Legislature in future action.  The first section is a chronological survey of land deals in New York between the Indians and the whites from the time of discovery.  App. A lists the state laws relating to Indians; App. B reprints the treaties between the Iroquois and the US; App. C reprints relevant land grants; App. D reprints the treaties with the NYS; and App. E has miscellaneous papers including letters to Chairman Whipple, legal opinions on land, the amended constitution of the Seneca Nation (1968), and the copy of the deed of 1808 by which the Senecas gave the Tuscarora the land on which they were already living.

War Office. September 12, 1785: This is a report to Congress from Samuel Kirkland, the Secretary at War. It concerns the appointment of a "confidential person" to serve as a representative from Congress who would act as an intermediary between Congress and the Six Nations Indians.

Maps

Iroquois Cantons, in New York:  This map indicates "sites of Indian Village and Jesuit missions, in the 17th and 18th centuries, in relation to modern towns. Based upon data furnished by Rev. William M. Beauchamp, of Baldwinsville, N.Y."   The digital copy was made from a xerographic copy of a map from volume 51 (1899) of Les relations des Jésuites.

A Map of the Country of the Five Nations Belonging to the Province of New York, and of the Lakes Near Which the Nations of Far Indians Live, With Part of Canada:  The digital copy was made from a reproduction of a map accompanying Cadwallader Colden's History of the Five Nations of Canada, Which are Dependent on the Providence of New-York in America, published in London in 1747.

A map showing Oneida Lake in the upper left-hand corner, with the boundary of the Oneida Reservation, to the south and west of the Lake, outlined in blue.
A map of the Oneida Reservation

A Map of the Oneida Reservation: Including the Lands Leased To Peter Smith: This map was taken from Franklin B. Hough's Notices of Peter Penet and of His Operations Among the Oneida Indians.  It is a copy of an original map published circa 1795.

Map Showing Trails, Portages and Settlements from Albany to Niagara During the Superintendency of the Six Nations by Sir William Johnson: This map shows upstate New York during Sir William Johnson's tenure as "Sole Superintendent of the Affairs of the Six United Nations, their Allies and Dependents."  Johnson held this position from 1755 until his death on July 11, 1774. This hand colored map was prepared by Louis Mitchell in 1913 to accompany the papers of Sir William Johnson published under the auspices of the New York State Historian.  There is an inset which is a sketch showing a trip by water from Oswego to Detroit.

A Mappe of Colonel Römers Voyage To ye 5 Indian Nations…: In 1697, Wolfgang William Romer, a military engineer, accompanied Lord Bellomont, the newly appointed governor, to New York to serve as chief engineer.  In 1700, Romer explored the territories of the Iroquois Confederacy, who were allied with the British, and made a map of his journey among them.  The digital copy is a copy of the photocopy of the original map that was drawn around 1700.

To His Excellency William Tryon Esqr., Captain General & Governor in Chief of the Province of New-York. This Map of the Country of the VI. Nations Proper, With Part of the Adjacent Colonies Is Humbly Inscribed by His Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant, Guy Johnson, 1771: This map was printed in The Documentary History of the New York by E. B. O'Callaghan, volume 4, page 661, and was copied from the original map drawn by Guy Johnson in 1771. Guy Johnson came to American in 1756 and was the Irish-born nephew, son-in-law and protégé of Sir William Johnson. He became a deputy to Sir William Johnson in his uncle's position as British Superintendent of Indian Affairs and succeeded him when William died in 1774.

Last Updated: August 8, 2012