Subject Headings for Native American Treaty Rights

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee

Question/Answer on cataloging issues for August 2015

Question: What are the correct LC Subject Headings for materials that address the treaty rights of indigenous peoples in North America north of Mexico?

Submitted By: Tom Durkin, University of Wisconsin-Madison

As the governments of the United States and Canada expanded and extended their state control of lands in North America, indigenous Native American communities fought to protect their homelands. The conclusion of physical conflicts often resulted in treaties between the central government of each country and representatives from the indigenous communities. Since that time, conflicts have continued, although primarily in the courts. The list of LC Subject Headings below may provide some context and assistance when attempting to explore the historical, social, and legal issues surrounding Native American treaty rights.

Indians. LCSH provides this scope note: “Here are entered works on the aboriginal peoples of the Western Hemisphere, including Eskimos. Works on the inhabitants of India in general are entered under [East Indians.] For convenience, the Western Hemisphere has been divided into five basic geographical regions: North America, Mexico, Central America, West Indies and South America. Works pertaining to Indian groups located within the confines of one of these regions are entered under Indians of the pertinent region, e.g. [Indians of North America; Indians of Mexico.]”

Indians of North America. Most records for works about the indigenous peoples of North America appear to have the LCSH term “Indians of North America” applied. LCSH does not provide a further scope note.

There are a number of significant subdivisions frequently used along with “Indians of North America:”

Indians of North America — Treaties.

Per LCSH, “Treaties” can be used as a “topical subdivision under ethnic groups and individual wars for works about treaties related to those groups or wars.”

Indians of North America — Claims.

LCSH does not provide much guidance for this term, though it comes up frequently: “Use as a topical subdivision under names of countries, cities, etc., ethnic groups, and individual wars.” The use of the subdivision “claims” seems to be focused on the kinds of legal claims that various groups make following the signing of a treaty or other legal agreement ending a conflict.

Geographic subdivisions can also, of course, be used with “Claims” and other similar terms, for example:

Indians of North America — British Columbia — Claims.  

Indians of North America — Government relations.

Per LCSH, this subdivision is to be used along with a heading for an ethnic group to highlight “works on relations between the group as a whole and the government of the place in which they reside.”

Indians of North America — Legal status, laws, etc.

This is a subdivision that appears to be used very frequently when providing subject access to works on Native American treaty rights. LCSH, recommends: “Use as a topical subdivision under classes of persons and ethnic groups.” Older editions of the LC Subject Headings (for example, the 8th edition, circa 1975) provided further explanation: “Here are entered works containing, or treating of legislation enacted by Western colonial powers or national governments, governing the status of, and relations to Indian tribes and individuals in general.”

The further subdivision “cases” can be used following if the work is about specific legal cases.

Indians of North America — Legal status, laws, etc. — Cases.

Indians of North America — Politics and government.

LCSH explains this broad subdivision as “Use as a topical subdivision under names of countries, cities, etc. Also use under ethnic groups for the internal or self-government of the groups and/or the political activity of the group or its individual members.”

There has been a great deal of legal contention regarding Native American treaty rights in the realm of both casinos and fishing and aquatic resources use, because of the overlap with federal casino and fishing industry regulations and also federal environmental regulations. Here are some examples.

Indians of North America — Wisconsin — Fishing — Law and legislation.

Indians of North America — Gambling.

In the case of “Indians of North America — Gambling” no indication is given in the heading that the work is also related to treaty rights. A user would have to understand from other terms that the contentious social issues of casinos and gambling on reservations are related to broader Native American treaty rights and sovereignty.

[Named Ethnic Groups or Tribes] Specific indigenous ethnic groups and Native American tribes each have their own LC Subject Heading. Topical subdivisions can be included along with the heading too. Here are some examples, but there are many variations:

Chickasaw Indians — Treaties.

Navajo Indians — Government relations.

Sovereignty. Works dealing with the intersection between Native American treaty rights and the political concept of “sovereignty” may have this LC Subject Heading applied, frequently without subdivisions. LCSH provides no scope note.

Treaties. LCSH provides no scope note, but groups this term with variants such as “international agreements.” When this term is used to provide access to materials about Native American treaty rights, it appears that further subdivisions are rarely used. However it can be used as a subdivision after other terms (see examples above and below).

United States/Canada — Foreign relations. Some works that discuss Native American treaty rights may approach the topic of treaty making and negotiation more predominantly from the perspective of the US or Canadian government, or from the broader perspective of treaty-making in general, and so we might use the terms below.

United States — Foreign relations — Treaties.

Canada — Foreign relations — Treaties.