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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

American Indian Studies Library Resources

Guide to the University Library's extensive collection of resources for the study of the Indigenous peoples of North America..

Land Acknowledgement

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign sits on the lands of the Peoria, Kaskaskia, Piankashaw, Wea, Miami, Mascoutin, Odawa, Sauk, Mesquaki, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Chickasaw Nations. These lands were the traditional territory of these Native Nations prior to their forced removal; these lands continue to carry the stories of these Nations and their struggles for survival and identity.

As a land-grant institution, the University of Illinois has a particular responsibility to acknowledge the peoples of these lands, as well as the histories of dispossession that have allowed for the growth of this institution for the past 150 years. We are also obligated to reflect on and actively address these histories and the role that this university has played in shaping them. 

Outdated/problematic terminology

The tools we use to find information rely heavily on metadata (structured data about data). Metadata is created by human beings in historically-specific contexts. It is not and cannot be entirely "neutral" or "objective." 

Controlled vocabulary, an agreed-upon list of terms used to catalog or organize books, is an early form of metadata. Librarians have used controlled vocabulary since long before the 20th-century "information revolution." The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) are an enormous compilation of controlled vocabulary terms used in many research libraries, including ours, to provide access to library collections. The LC system has been in use since 1898. Although its vocabulary is frequently updated, many older terms and concepts remain, some of which may now be considered offensive or inaccurate. Academic libraries are now working to "decolonize" the LCSH, but it will be some time before these changes are widely reflected.

In the meantime, to find materials about Native Americans, you may need to use some or all of these strategies:

  • Search for Native American, Amerindian, Indian, First Peoples or Indigenous as keywords
  • Search by variant names of tribes or cultural groups, including spelling variants (eg, Shoshoni or Shoshone), and current preferred names as well as older names (even if those are inaccurate), eg Chippewa or Ojibwe 
  • Browse the subject heading Indians of North America in the Library Catalog

An even more substantive challenge that faces researchers is the long history of cultural bias in academic research. Until recently, the religions, philosophies, artistic expressions, and scientific discoveries of Indigenous peoples have usually been studied separately from those of dominant cultures. As a result, they are often classified under "ethnography" or even "antiquities" rather than in the mainstream of humanities and scientific disciplines. This is also starting to change, but its impact on the accessibility of information is huge.

For example, if you are researching Native American religions, you may need to use some or all of these strategies:

  • Start with research tools in the field of anthropology and other social science disciplines
  • Search for specific terms, such as Sun dance or Native American Church 
  • Use variant terms such as Mythology or Rites or Ritual or Ceremonies, combined with any or all of the following keywords: Native American, Amerindian, Indian, First Peoples, Indigenous

Learn more about these issues: 

A good overview of changes in terminology over the past 50 years can be found in the recently-published

Relevant library collections

Since the University Library is split into several departmental libraries, and this is an interdisciplinary field of research, relevant materials are held in different places. Use the tabs in this guide for help finding different types of material; if you need further help, please do not hesitate to contact us via email, instant messenger, or in person. 

This page shows a few of the libraries that may have the resources you are looking for. A complete list of the departmental libraries is also available.

History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library

  • 246 Library, (217) 333-1509
  • Primary holdings for religious studies and for Native American history

Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library

  • 100 & 101 Library, (217) 333-2305
  • Strong collections in anthropological and sociological aspects of Native Americans and religion.
  • See especially their guide to Resources in American Indian Studies.

Government Information Services, Access, and Collections

  • Virtual Library
  • Government Documents Library -- Native American Resources is a great starting place for finding resources provided by various levels of government, including treaties, legislation, census information and more general resources. Links are provided to tribal government home pages and organizations. NOTE: Most government documents holdings are kept in the Main Stacks, Government Documents section.

Law Library

  • 142 Law Building, (217) 333-2915
  • Law Reviews, books, and journals relating to United States law and legal issues surrounding indigenous religion and spirituality.

University Archives

Other research guides