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Native American Collections at The Bancroft Library

Highlights of the various Native American materials held at The Bancroft Library

Overview of Collections

The Bancroft Library houses the records and archives of many organizations in the Bay Area, which include those of the Indian Defense Association and the American Indian Community Center.  The Bancroft collections also contain a scattering of newsletters and periodicals produced by various Native American groups, such as the American Indian Historical Society.

Indian Defense Association of Central and Northern California

The Indian Defense Association (IDA) was established in 1923 to investigate and educate the public about Indian living conditions, as well as to promote government policies that, in the words of the IDA, "would permit the Indian to remain spiritually and physically on this earth."  Its founder John Collier was an emerging critic of the federal Indian policies that had taken shape in the wake of the 1887 Dawes General Allotment Act.  Collier and the IDA sought to protect Indian rights to their land as well as their rights to practice their own religions.

Over the course of its existence, the IDA advocated and lobbied for issues relating to all aspects of Indian life in the United States, including land, religion, housing, health, and education. The IDA had its main headquarters in Washington, D.C., where it could be close to the government bodies and agencies that shaped Indian policy. The Indian Defense Association of Central and Northern California (with offices in San Francisco) acted as a West Coast headquarters. The IDA also had branches in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. These California branches not only actively covered issues relating to Indians in the state but also were crucial advocates for Indians throughout the Southwest.

Folder of legislative files

Folder of legislative files
Image citation: Legislative files, Indian Defense Association of Central and Northern California records, BANC MSS C-A 360, Carton 5, Folder 16, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

American Indian Community History Center

The Intertribal Friendship House (located in Oakland, California) was established in 1955 as one of the first urban American Indian community centers in the nation. It was founded by the American Friends Service Committee, the social action arm of the Quakers, to serve the needs of American Indian people relocated from reservations to the San Francisco Bay Area. 

In 1976, the Community History Project (CHP) was established to preserve the histories of American Indians whose lives were greatly impacted by the federal relocation programs that moved them from reservations to the Bay Area with the promise of sustainable employment, better education for their children, and affordable housing.  

The American Indian Community History Center is the non-profit organization created to preserve the materials CHP produced and collected on the history of the San Francisco Bay Area urban American Indian community.  One of the highpoints in this preservation effort included the book project, Urban Voices: The Bay Area American Indian Community (2002).  The Center also documents the work of the Intertribal Friendship House.

Folders of youth activity fliers

Folders of youth activity fliers
Image citation: Youth Activities, American Indian Community History Center Records, BANC MSS 2008/108, Carton 2, Folders 20 & 21, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Key Collections

Indian Defense Association of Central and Northern California records
BANC MSS C-A 360

The records of the Indian Defense Association of Central and Northern California consist of seven series: correspondence, administrative materials, legislative files, publications and publicity, assorted manuscripts, subject files, and clippings scrapbooks.  The correspondence documents all of the major areas of work of the organization and includes some letters from prominent figures such as Mary Austin.  Administrative files include founding documents, scattered meeting minutes, financial records, and other materials.  Legislative files document the involvement of the IDA in legislative work on behalf of Indians in California and throughout the nation.  The publications and publicity series consists of bulletins written by John Collier about developments relating to Indian policy in Washington, D.C. as well as other IDA publications and press releases.  The subject files are a rich source of information on a range of issues relating to Indian life in California and other states during the 1920s and 1930s.
► Collection Finding Aid

American Indian Community History Center records
BANC MSS 2008/108

This collection documents the efforts of the Community History Project, a program of the Intertribal Friendship House, to collect and preserve the history of the San Francisco Bay Area urban American Indian community.  The records offer insight into local activities, community members, events, and organizations, many of which also have national significance. The collection contains Intertribal Friendship House records, oral history materials, writings about Native Americans, newspaper clippings, newsletters, Community History Project records, and files from project coordinator Susan Lobo.
Collection Finding Aid

Susan Lobo papers
BANC MSS 2012/233

This collection contains materials related to Susan Lobo's tenures as coordinator the University of California, Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies and at the Intertribal Friendship House Community History Project in Oakland, California.

Social protest collection
BANC FILM 2757 (microfilm use only, original documents restricted due to fragility)

This collection contains leaflets, flyers, posters, publications and ephemera gathered primarily on Sproul Plaza for the UC undergraduate library between 1969-1982.  A section dedicated to Native American Rights holds material from various Bay Area and student organizations such as the Native American Student Association and the Federated Indians of California.
Collection Finding Aid

Searching Tips

UC Library Search

For organization publications, a place to start is an enhanced subject search in the Advanced Search module on UC Library Search:

► In the Search for: menu at the top, select UC Berkeley special collections and archives
► In the first search filter line, select Subject and use the search term Indians of North America*
► On the right side, select Journals in the Material Type section

Additionally, keyword searching using organization names can be refined by selecting Journals in the Material Type section.

Online Archive of California

Keyword searching by organization name or key individuals may uncover correspondence and publications that have been incorporated into larger collections.  For large archival collections, UC Library Search is only able to give a general overview of their contents, but collection finding aids in OAC can provide an in-depth listing of contents.  Be sure to utilize both search capabilities of The Bancroft Library OAC page and the University Archives OAC page (University Archives is part of The Bancroft collections, but is categorized separately in OAC).