New Native American digital collection reveals historic treaties

Community Reports

New online tool aimed at connected Indigenous communities with their past

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – For the first time ever, people can now access the digital versions of 374 ratified treaties between Indigenous peoples and the United States.

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC), in collaboration with the National Archives and Records Administration, the New Mexico State Library, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the New Mexico History Museum has released the Indigenous Digital Archive Treaties Explorer which has treaties dating back to 1722.

Anna Naruta-Moya is the director of this project, as well as the MIAC research associate and research associate professor at the University of New Mexico. She hopes people use this tool to connect with the documents and help create context for those interested in learning more about the topic.

“We were surprised when we first started doing this project at just how hard it was to piece together the information to know what the treaties are, where they relate to, who they relate to… We wanted to make a tool that could lift some of that burden and let people start at a much closer point.”

– Anna Naruta-Moya

In 2016, Naruta-Moya contacted the National Archives to let them know the museum would be starting a project using records from the National Archives. 

National Archives and Records Administration later received a large, anonymous donation which allowed them to do conservation work and scan the treaties for the first time. As part of that project, the National Archives wanted to focus on connecting Native communities with the treaties and chose to work with the MIAC after the museum proposed the DigiTreaties project.

Della Warrior, the director of the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, is also the museum’s first Indigenous director. She said this project is a significant one for the community. “From a native perspective, these treaties are spiritual. You’re aware of the treaties but you never saw them unless you went all the way to the Smithsonian archives and did some research. So it’s almost like a religious experience in the connection with your past,” said Warrior.

Warrior said these treaties could give insight into what the Native people at that time thought of, and if they actually understood what was happening. During this period, they would put an “x” on the treaties because they couldn’t read or write.

“It means so much and now with this project, we can make it available to everyone, particularly native communities,” Warrior said. “Hopefully these treaties will shed some light on the Native experience back then and begin to help change some of the negative stereotypes that students encounter in the public school systems.”

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