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Media: 136 reels of 35mm microfilm
Format:Indian Rights Association Papers, 1864-1973. A Guide to the Microfilm Edition, edited by Jack T. Ericson. Free with collection.
Coverage Dates: 1864-1973

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In 1882, the Indian Rights Association (IRA) was formed in Philadelphia to influence public sentiment and Congressional action concerning the civil rights and education of Native Americans. Now, more than 125 years later, both the historical and modern treatment of this minority remains a controversial issue.

The archives in this microfilm collection provide researchers of Native American and social history with the relevant, authoritative source documents required for any complete study of this topic. Students can trace and measure the progress of the IRA as it prompted Congressional legislation, conducted field studies to gather factual information on Indian affairs, and supported federal and state court cases in its efforts to secure basic rights for Native Americans. Specific events concerning American Indian history include:


  • the Indian Rights Association's founding by white reformers and churchmen
  • the IRA's gradual shift in position from outright assimilation of Indians to support for Indian independence
  • the 1887 passage of the Dawes Land-In-Severalty Act, which set government Indian policy until the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act
  • the 1924 IRA-sponsored bill which granted U.S. citizenship to American Indians

This important Native American collection was assembled from the holdings of the Indian Rights Association located at the Historical Society in Philadelphia, and it includes the Herbert Welsh Papers, 1877-1934, relating to Welsh's work with the IRA, as well as the Council on Indian Affairs Papers, 1943-68, bringing together valuable materials otherwise limited in accessibility. The collection is conveniently divided into the following Individual Subject Series to facilitate research within and across subject categories:

  • Series I--Correspondence, 1864-1968
  • Series II--Organizational Records, 1882-1973
  • Series III--Printed Matter, 1830-1969
  • Series IV--Herbert Welsh Papers, 18771934
  • Series V--Photographs
  • Series VI--Council on Indian Affairs, 1943-68

Of special interest are the petitions, press releases, circular letters, memoranda, speeches, and pamphlets which provide an excellent historical perspective on changes in public sentiment toward American Indians.

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