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Stealing Tvlse Summer Tour | Kansas City
Verified News Network (VNN) Director and Lead Journalist Brittany Harlow here. As we gear up for the next stop on our Stealing Tvlse Summer Tour with Lucinda Hickory Research Institute (LHRI), it’s important to take time to reflect on what we learned (and didn’t) during the first leg of our tour at the National Archives in Kansas City.
First, the research facility learning curve.
In their own words, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation's record keeper. Their website states out of all the documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States federal government, only 1 - 3 percent are so important for legal or historical reasons that they keep them forever.
This includes A LOT of American Indian history. But despite public accessibility, conducting research at the NARA can be tricky. First, you need to contact the NARA and tell them exactly what you want to look at during your visit. Which can be hard when you are researching a general topic and don’t know exactly what you are looking for.
Make sure you give the facility plenty of time to locate and transport the records if necessary. For instance, a lot of the records we wanted to view in Kansas City were kept in a local cave, and they only do cave runs certain days of the week. You also need to complete an application and orientation before you are approved to inspect records at NARA.
You can look up records ahead of time on the NARA website. You can also contact the facility you are traveling to and ask them if they have any lists pertaining to your research area to point you in the right direction.
Names are an important part of the process. This is why researching your topic ahead of contacting the NARA for their records is very beneficial. Much of the historical documents I looked at during our Kansas City trip might as well have been a foreign language to me.
Though it did make the names that jumped out at me that much more special.
Like finding guardianship records that listed Sam Davis, a frequent occurrence in the Stealing Tvlse series. Not to mention the main character of a recently published historical fiction book by J.D. Colbert.
I also came across documents relating to Lizzie Fields and Tom Fields, who are part of our Agency Cemetery coverage. And the will of Sugar George, who led us to embark on our coverage of Agency Cemetery.
I even uncovered some family history. The pages of guardians leasing their wards’ land to oil and gas companies seemed endless, and my partner and VNN CEO and President Kelly Tidwell’s Muscogee Creek family names were among them.
All this to say, if you are researching your own family history or researching any specific people, then doing some genealogy and other relative legwork ahead of your visit to the NARA will do you a world of good.
LHRI Founder Tatianna Duncan, armed with extensive knowledge of her own family tree, experienced a wealth of discoveries during our Kansas City trip. Many were tied to Haskell Boarding School, like letters written about and by her uncle, Jess Sunday.
“Jesse is a very bad boy. He ran away from school last year, in fact I think twice and again a few weeks ago… Possibly the boys are not much to blame because their father is not any better.”
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And if you don’t have any names but still want to research American Indian history, fear not. Sorting through three carts of historical documents, I still came across some very enlightening documents. A book titled “Progress of Varied School Projects” provided a clear and frankly infuriating picture of how American Indian students were viewed by the education component of the assimilation process.
In regard to reading:
“It may be urged that this habit should have been acquired earlier in life and that we are not responsible for this defect.”
And regarding learning in general:
The Indians are naturally very sensitive, so rather than face this ordeal they invariably say they do not know the answer to the question, when at the same time they do know it, but lack an adequate vocabulary to clothe their thoughts and express themselves orally. They are timid because they do not possess confidence in themselves. To overcome these failings they must have constant oral drill.”
Unfortunately, much American Indian history still remains hidden away. Shortly before we left on our trip, we were notified a key collection we were looking forward to accessing could not be made available due to fire damage.
23 boxes of Creek fraud cases.
Following VNN’s last request as to when those documents would be preserved and digitized, we were told “I do not yet have an update on these records. Planning and execution for these types of projects can take a significant period of time.”
Rest assured; we will be following up.
Our next stop of the tour is Fort Worth, Texas, on August 7.
This investigation was supported with funding from the Data-Driven Reporting Project. The Data-Driven Reporting Project is funded by the Google News Initiative in partnership with Northwestern University | Medill.