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SCA 360: Nordic Colonialisms and Postcolonial Studies: Researching Treaties


DigiTreaties is an excellent new resource, but can be difficult to use (there are still some bugs to work out). Use the tips on this page to navigate this database, and ask a librarian if you need help.

  • Webinar Tutorial: This YouTube video (41 mins) will walk you through the main search features of DigiTreaties, and touch on some on the limitations of the tool. Much of the same information is covered on this page.
  • The About page explains where the information in DigiTreaties comes from, who maintains and created the search tools, and why some information appears to be missing.

Using the Map

Click "See Places" to get to the map interface. Search by place to find cession boundaries. Uncheck the "States" box in the upper right corner to click on each cession for more information.

Note: some cessions are not accessible on the map because they are "under" other cession boundary shapes. If you run into this problem, use the "How to find a treaty for a particular location" instructions below.

Search Terms in DigiTreaties

To find all the treaties associated with a particular tribe, you will need to figure out what name the database uses and search in the "See Treaties" section. DigiTreaties uses historical names, which are the names on the original treaties, and modern names, which are names of federally recognized nations. Use historical terms in the "Title" field and modern names in the "Tribe" field.

This is not always straightforward, so you might have to do some research or try a few different name options in the "See Tribes" search interface to find what is used in DigiTreaties. Therefore, I recommend starting with the steps below: "How to find a treaty for a particular location."

For example, the Ojibwe or Anishinaabe in Minnesota are historically referred to and federally recognized as Chippewa. However, you will need to know the particular band you are interested in to utilize this information on DigiTreaties because "Chippewa" refers to all Anishinaabe people in federal documents, which encompasses the entire great lakes area. In another Minnesota example, you may know that the Wahpekute band of Dakota will be referred to as Wahpekute Sioux in historical documents and decide to search for "Wahpekute" because you know there are many bands of Sioux across the western US. But you might not know that on the treaties, "Wahpekute" was sometimes transcribed as "Wahpacoota," and that many relevant cessions don't appear under either term because the treaties were with other bands.

How to Find a Treaty for a Particular Location

  1. Use to find a cession number. Write down the cession number you are searching for. (The "See Places" map interface on DigiTreaties is similar, but has some bugs that make it difficult to use when cession boundaries overlap.)
  2. Click on "See Cessions" on DigiTreaties. In this search interface, you can search by tribe name or navigate to a cession number manually by clicking through the pages.
    • If your cession number doesn't come up, you might have to navigate to the number manually. (For example, Cession 416 located south of Mankato is refers to the Ho-Chunk and Menominee, although it is within the Dakota region.) There are 12 cessions per page, so you can skip forward by dividing your cession number by 12, round up, and change the page number in website the URL. For example, Cession 416 is on page 35 (416/12=34.6) at this URL:
  3. Once open your cession, you can click on the names of historic and present-day tribes associated with that cession to find other treaties and cessions where those tribes are named.
    • Note: be aware that some tribes or groups are known under multiple names in this database. For example, Sisseton Dakota are listed as part of "Sioux, Sisseton," "Sioux (Sisseton Bands)," "Sioux (Sisseton, Wahpeton, Medewakanton, and Wahpekute bands)," and "Sioux (Wahpeton and Sisseton Bands)." Use the "See Tribes" section of DigiTreaties to investigate this further.
  4. On the page for your cession, you will see a list of dates (ex: Oct. 21, 1837), and probably some links that say something like: "Royce’s Schedule of Indian Land Cessions" or "Treaty entry in ___." These link to ebooks of cession lists where you can read a record of the treaty terms or land transfer information.

    • You will likely only need to read a specific paragraph on the linked page. Look for your cession number, the tribe name, or the state in question to be sure you are reading the right passage.

    • Remember that this treaty information was written and recorded by the US government. You will need to look elsewhere to find another side of the story.

More Treaty Resources

  • Library of Congress Research Guides: Access archival documents from the Library of Congress by subject. You can also search for keywords on this page to find guides related to your topic.

For this class, scroll down and open the "Primary Documents in American History" box to find documents like the Homestead Act, the Indian Removal Act, and more. Try searching for the name of a treaty.


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