Sequoyah National Research Center: Largest Archive of All?

Mar 8, 2013

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Credit From the Sequoyah National Research Center collections

SUSAN SHANNON, HOST: This week on Indian Times the Sequoyah National Research Center is a unique facility dedicated to the collection, preservation and dissemination of Native American expression in all forms…so what does that mean?  Director Dr. Dan Littlefield says a librarian’s decision to clear out a collection of Native American newspapers inadvertently led to this unique archive in Arkansas.

DR DAN LITTLEFIELD: On a trip to Arizona in 1983 to use the Arizona State Museum collection, which I was familiar with.  I had been out there the year before as a visiting professor in the history department.  We went into the reading room and they were gone.  And so I asked the librarian, “What happened to those Indian newspapers?”  And she said, “ I had to weed them because we needed the space.”  And I said, “Oh no, where are they?”  And she said, “Well I didn't have the heart  to throw them away so they’re in storage upstairs.”  I asked her if she would be willing to let us bring them back to Arkansas so I could use them as resources for my classes, I was teaching some Native studies courses.  She said,”Well, run around to the loading dock.” And so I was driving a pickup truck with a camper on it and they filled that with boxes of newspapers and periodicals.  And that was the seed collection for what became… then we called it the Native American Press Archives.  Now, that collection of newspapers and newsletters, magazines published by Indian people is now the world's largest archival collection.  We have more than 2300 titles in the collection and hundreds of thousands of issues.  Some of those, like the Navajo Times for instance, we have practically every issue they've put out from 1959 to the present.  And we have summer runs of a lot of other titles, and then we have some rare little things you know that came out with one or two issues then died.  So it’s a massive collection.  Then we have an archive and special collections and these are papers and collections that have been put together, personal papers and other collections that have been put together by native intellectuals from whatever field they're in.  So we have collections from artists, attorneys, journalists, poets, novelists,  whatever librarians, whatever field native people, professionals, are in.  We are the...oh and by the way, in that, since you're Osage  you'd be interested to know that we have a major collection from Louis Burns, historian Louis Burns, who gave us a lot of research materials from work he had done on the Osage history and culture.

SHANNON:  Is any of this available online?

LITTLEFIELD: No, uh not...well some of it is, very very little of it.  We went, uh, for almost thirty years, at least 25 years without really processing much of this.  We were just collecting, people could use it.  But you know we didn't have a catalog  for the most part, and so on.  We are just now in the process of getting that done.

SHANNON: Do you have a lot of people that travel that come to visit your facility?

LITTLEFIELD:  Yes we do, we have them come from all over the world…  I think the farthest someone has come is from Australia.


LITTLEFIELD: And we get a lot of people that are working on Ph.D. degrees, established scholars.  We offer a fellowships stipend, a small travel-to-collections kind of thing, for researchers every year.  And this year we are sponsoring four of those, three in history of culture and one in art.  Because we have an art collection that has in it close to 3000 works of art by native people in this country and indigenous people in Canada. And we have a huge archive that has to do with this collection, art collection.  We also have a major library collection related to the art.  We have a general library that has to do with native writing, history, culture. We have archival material from organizations like the Native American Library Association, Native American Journalists Association and other groups.

SHANNON: I noticed also that you have papers pertaining to the prosecution of members of the American Indian Movement for Wounded Knee, the second Wounded Knee.

LITTLEFIELD:  Yes we do have the FBI files on that, and on microfilm but we also have the paper copies of the appeal records of, uh… called the Loud Hawk case, the early early prosecutions in the AIM movement of Moses Loud Hawk, Dennis Banks, Anna Mae Aquash and some of the others.  Those came to us from the attorney who was the appeal attorney Kenneth Stern by way of Paul De Main, the CEO of News From Indian Country Communications.  And Paul is on our advisory board.

SHANNON: That was Dr. Dan Littlefield, Director of the Sequoyah National Research Center.

Upcoming native events:

March 16 will be the OKC Princess Honor Dance at the Heart of Oklahoma Expo Center in Shawnee starting at 1pm, Grand Entry at 7pm.

March 16 is the 2013-2014 Miss and Mr. Indian OU Pageant, 7:00 pm-10:00 pm, in Meacham Auditorium in the OU Oklahoma Memorial Union