Celebrating Native American Heritage Month with the National Register of Historic Places

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archives Specialist in the Electronics Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.


The month of November is traditionally designated as Native American Indian Heritage Month and the records of the National Register of Historic Places are rich with properties that may be found on the National Register. There are close to 3800 properties concerning Native Americans, including the Minnesota SP Jeffers Petroglyphs Site (National Archives Identifier 93201543) and numerous trails, archaeological sites, and Native American areas around the country. It is worth noting that approximately 600 of the Native American sites found within the National Register are restricted under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Along Picture Rock Pass, visitors can see the ancient Native American petroglyphs drawn on the rocks; like this one that is located near the town of Adel, east of Picture Rock Pass, known as Greaser Boulder, (Oregon). National Archives Identifier 7720853.

To begin your virtual tour, you can visit the Yakima Indian Agency Building (National Archives ID 75613789) in Yakima, Washington, “a two story brick structure designed in a Classical Revival Style and located at the corner of South Elm and Washington Avenue near the commercial center of Toppenish. The building faces southeast and is the most prominent structure on the entryway to the city. The location is “historically significant for its association with the Yakima Indian Nation and the federal bureau responsible for providing the Nation with economic and social services.” The Yakima Indian Agency was “established by the United States Department of the Interior to oversee operations within the Yakima Indian Nation reservation which had been formed by treaty in 1855.” Below you can see Native American women working, the photograph is found in the Yakima Annual Extension Report from 1938 (National Archives ID 298605).

Women working on Cedar Root baskets. Cattle Association Round-up (National Archives ID 298605).

Traveling southeast from Washington, you can stop outside the Fort Lyon Naval Hospital (National Archives ID 84128234) in Las Animas, Colorado. “Although rarely present at the site of Fort Lyon, the presence of Indian peoples in the region of southeast Colorado territory, and its surroundings was the most important reason for the founding of the first Fort Lyon, and for the continuing U.S. Army activity at the second Fort Lyon. Located along the Arkansas River, in a valley containing rich natural resources valued by Indian groups, travelers along the Santa Fe Trail, and early EuroAmerican communities and settlers, the Fort served as both defense and deterrence in relations with Indian peoples . . . The significance of Indian peoples to the history of Fort Lyon cannot be overestimated, as their presence and activity in the region was the core reason for the founding of both this fort and its predecessor. While few incidents are noted for Indian visits to the post, the army’s mandate to protect settlers, commerce and transportation from Indians was its principal function in the territory.”

Looking South at Main Gate, Fort Lyon, Colorado (National Archives ID 135801145).

Many of the Native American Tribes are represented in the NRHP records, including the Navajo Nation, several of these tribe members were prominently involved in World War II, serving as codebreakers. The Navajo National Monument (National Archives ID 75609705) in Kayenta, Arizona, where “the present appearance of the major ruins is close to the original, except for some fallen walls and roofs and some reconstruction and stabilization in the twentieth century. The three principal sites of Betatakin, Keet Seel, and Inscription House are within large shelters in the Navajo Sandstone cliffs and are composed of 135,154, and 77 rooms, respectively . . . The significance of the three major ruins and their immediate surroundings is manifest, as investigations therein have already contributed greatly to our understanding of Kayenta prehistory.”

World War II – Navajo Indians. L to R: Marine Radio messengers, PFC Joe Hosteen Kelwood of Steamboat Canyon, Canado, Arizona; Pvt. Floyd Saupitty of Lawton, Oklahoma (a Comanche Indian) and PFC Alex Williams of Red Lake, Leupp, Arizona. He and Kelwood are Navajos. They were veterans of Peleliu. Taken enroute to Okinawa. Photo by CSP Zerbe (NAVY).” (National Archives Identifier 74251450).

Also featured prominently in the NRHP are about 265 properties concerning Indian Schools, including the Phoenix Indian School (National Archives ID 75610063), in Phoenix, Arizona, of which the Historic District encompasses “a three-acre tract of land located in the central core area of the larger 160-acre original historic school campus. Within the District are the three most significant buildings remaining from the historical period that retain a high degree of historic integrity,” the Dining Hall, the Memorial Hall, and the 1931 Elementary School.

Little Girls Praying Beside Their Beds, Phoenix Indian School, Arizona (National Archives Identifier 518925).

Also found is the property of the Washington SP Tulalip Indian Agency Office (National Archives ID 75613238), the history of which “spans some one hundred years, from 1860 to 1951 . . . It was used as the Tribal Office after 1951, and upon completion of a new Tribal Center in recent years it became a concessionaire’s store . . . The Tulalip Indian Agency Office is significant to the Puget Sound region as the building from which affairs and schools of Tulalip Agency were directed from 1912 to 1951. After 1920 the Agency’s jurisdiction was expanded to include reservations of the Olympic Peninsula.”

Chief “Black Thunder” and Wife, (William Bagley and Wife), Tulalip Reservation, 1936 (National Archives Identifier 5585767).

One can also spend some time in the NRHP records looking for properties specific to Native American Museums, including the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (National Archives ID 77847572) in Santa Fe, New Mexico or visit the Shiloh Indian Mounds Site (National Archives ID 135818662) in Tennessee. Be sure to take some time this month to recognize Native American history and culture through the NRHP records and if your schedule permits take a trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, located on the Mall in Washington, DC, you never know who you might run into.

President George W. Bush Greets Senator Benjamin Nighthorse Campbell During a Ceremony Marking the Opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in the East Room (National Archives ID 148035660).

Click on any of the hyperlinked National Archives ID numbers above to open the fully digitized records in the National Archives Catalog. The digitized files of the NRHP are detailed and include additional documents, photographs, architectural drawings, and maps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *