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‘A gold mine’ of Native documents

This 1914 annual report of the now-Santa Fe Indian School is one of the documents currently available at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture’s Indigenous Digital Archive. All of the archive’s records will be up by March. (Courtesy of Indigenous Digital Archives)

SANTA FE, N.M. — As it slowly rolls out its Indigenous Digital Archive, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is now searching for fellows to conduct research using the stored data.

The archive, which started to come together last year with the help of national grants, is taking in records from around the country, with a focus on New Mexico’s Indian boarding schools, and water and land claims from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries.

The archive already has some documents online and is expected be fully operational by the time selected fellows begin their research in March, according to project director Anna Naruta-Moya. Naruta-Moya was recruited by MIAC director Della Warrior and is a former archivist with the U.S. National Archives and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution Library and Archives.

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“The idea of the fellows is to help start using the archives to inspire and energize others,” she said. “We really think there’s something really important about the collaborative nature of knowledge production.”

The Indigenous Digital Archive, or IDA, will start off with publishing 150 linear feet of government records from microfilm scans, Naruta-Moya said, representing about 270,000 pages from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and U.S. National Archives. The state’s Tribal Libraries program is also a project partner.

Though it’s currently focused on general records from the Santa Fe Indian School and other former Native boarding schools, as well as land and water rights documents, Naruta-Moya said there’s interest in also including government records on voting rights, Native veterans, official treaties and sport teams within the schools.

“You couldn’t get your hands on (the documents before) unless you bought it yourself,” she said of the documents that will be on the site.

The IDA leaders will select three fellows of any age or level of research experience, as long as they are a member of a tribe in New Mexico or the Hopi tribe in Arizona. They will receive $2,000 and reimbursement for travel for three visits to MIAC over the year of their fellowship to consult with the IDA’s advisory board.

In applications due Saturday, potential fellows are asked to describe a research project they would conduct with the materials. These can range from personal family research to topics with a broader audience within the New Mexico’s Native community. The goal is to publish the findings after a year of research, said Naruta-Moya.

“Some family history projects are welcome and there’s also some interest in doing projects that help amplify the information in the indigenous documents,” she said.

Several years ago, when Warrior first became director of MIAC, she met with about 100 representatives of different tribal communities around the state to see how the museum could better serve them. She said there was a consensus in favor of easier access to historical resources, which led to the IDA. She said someone mentioned to her that they were trying to research ancestors who went to the Santa Fe Indian School, but couldn’t do so without traveling to Denver’s National Archive facility.

The fellows will be serving two roles, said Warrior. In addition to their own research, they will teach the IDA leaders how the database can be best used and help spread the word about the newly accessible documents.

“It’s going to be like a gold mine,” said Warrior.

To apply, go to miaclab.org/indigenous-digital-archive.


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