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Indigenous Studies

A guide intended to help researchers discover CHM's published material, prints and photographs, and archival collections by and/or about Indigenous peoples. This research guide will be updated in accordance with CHM’s ongoing critical cataloging work.

The material in CHM collections may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record. The Chicago History Museum has an institution-wide initiative to critically consider the language used to describe people and materials, and we invite you to read more about our related projects.

Land Acknowledgment

The Chicago History Museum is situated on ancestral homelands of the Potawatomi people, who cared for the land until forced out by non-Native settlers. The Ojibwe, Odawa, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Miami, Mascouten, Sac and Fox, Kickapoo, Ho-Chunk, Menomonee, and tribes whose names have been lost as a result of genocide also lived, gathered, and traded in this region. Today, Chicago is home to the largest urban Indigenous population in the Midwest, and they continue to honor this land and its waterways, practice traditions, and celebrate their heritage.  

The Chicago History Museum acknowledges the contributions of Indigenous communities and commits to an ongoing collaboration to share a complex and inclusive history. 

Ga dnezéthêk shodë kik - the ones who lived here on this land  

Bodéwadmikik shode ėthë ték i “Chicago History Museum.” Bodéwadmik shodë gi dnezwêk mine wgi kowabdanawa odë kė. Winwa gézhé gi Wthebawék, Wdawék, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Wémamithêk, Mshkodeniyêk, Zagiyêk, Mskwakiyêk, Winbyégoyêk, Mnomniyêk, Gigaboyêk, minė gé Gété Neshnabék shodë gi byé mawt heshnowêk minė gi dnezwêk. Mégwa shë manék neshnabék dnezwêk shode Zhegagoynak, minė mégwa shna neshnabé bmadzëwêk. Ngëkénmamen Neshnabék ėshtthëgéwat shode Chicago History Museum, mine gé nwi withmiktthéwimdëmen ėwi débwéyathmoyak.

Land acknowledgement translated by Bmejwen / Kyle Malott, Pokagon Band Potawatomi  

Library of Congress Subject Headings & CHM Local Headings

In ARCHIE, researchers can search by "Subject” or by “Keyword in Subject headings.” Like many research libraries and archives in the United States, CHM relies on subject headings authorized by the Library of Congress to organize its catalog records. CHM recognizes the limitations of these subject headings, noting that many are inaccurate or insufficiently descriptive. Names and other terms used in these headings may be outdated, spelled incorrectly, or misleading. Furthermore, some headings may simplify, distort, or erase Indigenous history. 

In an effort to mitigate harmful language, CHM librarians have begun to replace some authorized LCSHs with alternate and local headings. For example, most LCSHs with the noun “Indians” (e.g. Indians of North America) have been replaced with “Indigenous peoples” (e.g. Indigenous peoples -- North America). Additionally, most LCSHs with the modifier “Indian” (e.g. Indian silverwork) have been changed to Indigenous (e.g. Indigenous silverwork). These changes were based on recommendations made by the Manitoba Archival Information Network’s LCSH Working Group.  

Some general subject headings found in ARCHIE include:

Indigenous peoples--North America
Indigenous land transfers
Indigenous peoples--Illinois--Chicago
Indigenous peoples--North America--Government relations
Indigenous peoples--North America--Pictorial works
Indigenous trails--Illinois
Indigenous women

In an effort to better reflect Indigenous self-identities and traditional knowledge, CHM librarians have begun replacing LCSHs with local headings that highlight tribal endonyms. An endonym, also known as an autonym, is a name used by a group of people to refer to themselves or their language. For Indigenous endonyms, the name often translates to some variation of “the people.”  Examples include:

Library of Congress Subject Headings       CHM Local Headings            
Potawatomi Indians  Bodéwadmi (Potawatomi)
Iroquois Indians  Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)
Illinois Indians  Inoka (Illinois)
Ojibwa Indians  Anishinaabe (Ojibwe)
Siouan Indians  Oceti Ŝakowiŋ (Sioux)
Cherokee Indians  Aniyvwiya (Cherokee)
Miami Indians  Myaamia (Miami)
Fox Indians  Meskwaki (Fox)

* These local headings are based on information sourced from official tribal nation websites, documents and language dictionaries authored by Native peoples, and work from GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) organizations. In almost every heading, we’ve retained the exonym or anglicized spelling in parentheses. This is both for discoverability reasons and in recognition that these are names by which nations are still federally and/or locally recognized. We understand no community is monolith and these headings do not reflect every preferred name or spelling. Furthermore, this working document is neither exhaustive nor definitive, and it will be continually expanded and revised as needed. For more information and the full list, please see here: CHM Local Headings - Indigenous Endonyms.

Authorized Library of Congress headings for specific Indigenous figures include*:

Black Hawk, Sauk chief, 1767-1838.
Brant, Joseph, 1742-1807
Deloria, Vine
Eastman, Charles A., 1858-1939
Joseph (Nez Percé Chief), 1840-1904.
Keokuk, Sauk chief, 1780?-1848
Little Turtle, 1747?-1812
Montezuma, Carlos, 1866-1923
Sitting Bull, 1831-1890
Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief, 1768-1813

*CHM recognizes that many of the authorized headings for Indigenous figures may not reflect the person's preferred name and/or spelling. As a future project, CHM librarians intend to review these names and add local headings when appropriate. For example, Chief Joseph's Nimipuutímt name was Hinmatóoyalahtq’it (see

Note:  These lists are not comprehensive, but meant instead as suggested starting points. 

Other search terms

In addition to Library of Congress subject headings and local headings, searching ARCHIE through the general keyword or the advanced search function is useful when seeking to narrow a search.  Because a common descriptor for Indigenous peoples has historically been “Indian,” researchers may find it useful to search names or terms in conjunction with the term “Indian" or "Indians."  CHM continues to review record descriptions so that the historical realities of Indigenous politics, geography, culture, etc. are more accurately reflected within the catalog. 

Featured CHM Collections

Note: This is by no means an exhaustive list. Indigenous history is indelibly part of Chicago's history, so, in addition to these resources, know that books and collections about general Chicago history should also contain information about Indigenous peoples, since they were here far before the earliest white residents. Unfortunately, Indigenous peoples (and other marginalized communities) are often misrepresented or unfairly excluded from the discussion, a concept known as archival silence. 


Billy Caldwell papers [manuscript], 1816-1933.

Call Number: MSS Alpha Caldwell

Items by and about Billy Caldwell, including: Certification by Caldwell that Chamblee was a faithful companion during the late war, that he joined the celebrated warrior Tecumseh in 1807, have also witnessed his fidelity and courage on many occasions (1816 August 1, ALS, 1p.); Letter written from Chicago to Mr. Francis Caldwell, Malden, Upper Canada, favored by Mr. R.A. Kinzie - regret for family discord, return of prodigal son Alex, attitude towards reports on part in plan for removal of Indians from Chicago, about powers of attorney, illness of daughter (1834 March 17, ALS, 3p.); Letters from Ernest Edward East with information on Billy Caldwell and local historical events in Peoria (1933, TLS, 3 p.).

Carlos Montezuma papers 1878-1913 and undated [manuscript]

Call Number: MSS Alpha Montezuma

Biographical data on Dr. Carlos Montezuma: letters by G.W. Ingalls of the American Baptist Home Mission Society (1878 October 16) and by William Lightfoot Visscher (1913 May 9, Typed letter signed), plus Montezuma's autobiographical data sheet prepared for the National Cyclopedia of American Biography; Article on the past and future of the American Indian, first page missing (undated, Autograph manuscript signed, 17 pages).

Hendrick Aupaumut letter [manuscript] 1785 April 11

Call Number: MSS Alpha Aupaumut

Letter, from Stockbridge, to George Clinton, New York. Indians protest loss of land rights; requests return of land deed given by the Oneidas; requests a justice commission for Jehoiakim Naunohptauq(?).

Indian Fellowship League records 1920-1923 [manuscript] 

Call Number: MSS Alpha Indian Fellowship League

Minutes, membership lists, correspondence, programs, and other organizational documents related to the Indian Fellowship League, active in Chicago, Illinois. Includes correspondence from Caroline McIlvaine regarding use of Chicago Historical Society resources for League activities. 

List of Potawatomi chiefs [manuscript], 1827 July 18.

Call Number: MSS Alpha: Wolcott

List of chiefs of the Potawatomi Indians to whom annuities were paid by Alexander Wolcott, Jr., Indian agent, Chicago, Ill. 

Proclamation regarding the Kaskaskia Indians [manuscript], 1793 May 7-1817 July 7.

Call Number: MSS Alpha Washington, Geo.

Proclamation for the protection of the Kaskaskia in central Illinois, May 7, 1793, signed by George Washington, president, and Thomas Jefferson.

Simon Pokagon items [manuscript], 1896 Dec. 29-1899. 

Call Number: MSS Alpha Pokagon, Simon

Letter by Simon Pokagon, a Potawatomi from Hartford, Michigan (A.L.S.; 2 p.; 20 1/2 x 13 cm.), to the secretary of the Chicago Historical Society. Says he is sending his book, "Red man's greeting"; comments on the World's Columbian Exposition and on the traditional story of the Ft. Dearborn massacre. Enclosures are 2 birch bark books and a leaflet about them. Folder also includes 2 letters from Chief Pokagon's son in 1899.


American Indian Center, Nora Lloyd, et al. Chicago's 50 years of Powwows. Charleston, SC : Arcadia, c2004.

Call Number: E78.I3 C55 2004

Blansett, Kent, Cathleen D. Cahill, and Andrew Needham. Indian cities: Histories of Indigenous Urbanization. Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, 2022.

Call Number: E98.U72 I53 2022

Indian Rights Association. The Annual Report of the Executive Committee of the Indian Rights Association. Philadelphia, Pa.: Office of the Indian Rights Association, 1884-1916.

Call Number: E93 .I39

Low, John. Imprints: the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and the City of Chicago. East Lansing, Michigan : Michigan State University Press, 2016.

Call Number: E99.P8 L68 2016

Mays, Kyle T. An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States. Boston, Massachusetts : Beacon Press, 2021.

Call Number E98.R28 M39 2021

Straus, Terry, and NAES College. Indians of the Chicago Area. 2nd edition. Chicago: NAES College, 1990. 

Call Number: E78.I3 I48 1990 REFERENCE.


American Indian portraits [graphic].
Call Number: 1986.0217 PPL

98 photographic prints : card photographs.

George Catlin American Indian views [graphic].

Call Number: X.1669.1991 PSPC (Advance Request Required)

A collection of prints of maps, landscapes, and portraits of various North American Indians. Depicts customs and dress of tribes studied by George Catlin.

A series of topical files featuring Indigenous peoples

Search "People--Indigenous People."

Note: This is by no means an exhaustive list. Indigenous history is indelibly part of Chicago's history, so, in addition to these resources, know that books and collections about general Chicago history should also contain information about Indigenous peoples, since they were here far before the earliest white residents. Unfortunately, Indigenous peoples (and other marginalized communities) are often misrepresented or unfairly excluded from the discussion, a concept known as archival silence.