Non-Military Photographs of Native Americans Within the Records of the Chief Signal Officer

Photographs of Native Americans can be found throughout the holdings of the National Archives in many record groups and series. Most of the records pertaining to Native Americans can be found in record group 75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793-1999. An interested researcher should certainly not overlook these records when conducting a search. However, a diligent search over multiple record groups and series will return greater rewards. In this blog post I will highlight some of the late 19th and early 20th century photographs that are located in the series 111-SC, Photographs of American Military Activities, ca. 1918-1981 from record group 111, Records of the Chief Signal Officer, 1918-1981. Although this series consists primarily of photographs of a military nature, and the early part of the series deals with World War I in particular, other subjects appear in many of the images found within. If one is searching for photographs of important historical events from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the discussions surrounding the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, they can certainly be found in series 111-SC:

43-0524a
111-SC-95986: General William T. Sherman and Commissioners in Council with Sioux Chiefs at Fort Laramie, Wyoming

 

Perhaps a bit more unexpectedly, an interested researcher will also find photographs of a more personal or familial nature:

 

43-0670a
111-SC-87304 Two Apache babies on cradleboards. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/530904

series 111-SC also contains photographs of wonderful hand-drawn images of Native Americans like these:

So when you are conducting your future research on Native Americans from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, consider searching the photographs in series 111-SC, Photographs of American Military Activities, ca. 1918-1981 whether your research involves military activities or not.

4 thoughts on “Non-Military Photographs of Native Americans Within the Records of the Chief Signal Officer

  1. Thank you, nice posting! Although shouldn’t the first image in the post (Gen. Sherman at treaty signing) be local identifier 111-SM-95986, instead of 111-SM-531079? (531079 is the NARA ID number, as listed in the online catalog.)

    Also, the Signal Corps may have misidentified the tribes in the photo in their caption transferred to NARA. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian has a copy of the image, dated 1868, and entitled, “Indian Peace Commissioners in council with the Northern Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho” (NMAI number P15390, https://sova.si.edu/details/NMAI.AC.077#ref102).

    1. Thank you! Yes, your are correct – the Local Identifier is 111-SC-95986. The post as been updated. As for the tribes, that is the official caption the U.S. Army Signal Corps. has, but we will certainly look into it. Thanks again!

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