Collection ID: 2014/001
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Collection context


The Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Collection, 1953-1966, is a unique assemblage of primary and secondary resources pertaining to the Native American occupancy of the region. These items were assembled to support the Great Lakes-Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Project. This U.S. Department of Justice funded research activity was responsible for the preparation of in-depth reports concerning American Indian land use and tenure. These reports were intended to be used in the government's defense against cases involving alleged treaty inequities and which were brought before the Indian Claims Commission, a body and a process authorized by federal legislation signed into law on August 13, 1946.
182 linear feet of documents (1,529 reels of microfilm; 63 card boxes; 309 maps)
Materials are in English
Preferred citation:

[Item] Great Lakes - Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Collection, Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Archives, Indiana University, Bloomington.


Biographical / Historical:

Professor Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin of the Department of History, Indiana University directed the assemblage of the collection, titled the Great Lakes – Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Project over a 13-year period, beginning in 1953. She supervised a full-time staff that varied from 3-5 researchers. On average, researchers spent 2 months of each year examining special collections in various libraries, selecting documents needed, consulting with attorneys in Washington D.C., etc. From these gathered materials, they created the various sets of documents used to construct the ethnohistory reports and evidence for specific court cases. In addition, attorneys, anthropologists, and historians working on what was then current cases, often met with the project's researchers for consultation. Of the research staff - David A. Baerreis, Donald J. Berthrong, Emily J. Blasingham, Harold Hickerson, Reginald Horsman, J. A. Jones, Dorothy Libby, Alton A. Lindsey, Remedios Wycoco-Moore, and David B. Stout each made significant contributions. In addition to the research staff, the project employed 3 secretaries and a half-time cartographer. Personnel support was also provided by part-time graduate student employees from the Anthropology and History Departments.

Scope and Content:

The purpose of the project was to prepare Reports with Exhibits, relating to the use, occupancy and control of stated Indian lands cessions (Royce Areas) from earliest known times to date of treaty cessions. These reports were prepared for the Indians Claims Section of the Land Division of the Department of Justice and were presented, with accompanying sets of Exhibits, at hearings before the Indians Claims Commission. In addition, special studies of the history of a tribe, or historical background of a treaty were requested by the Claims Section.

The geographic area investigated by the Great Lakes – Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Project include in whole or in part the present states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota. Within this broad region the project dealt with specific treaty cessions, which are designated as Royce Areas. The Royce Areas are delimited, with maps, in the 18th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (1899). The Indian tribal groups considered include the Chippewa (Ojibwa), Delaware, Huron (Wyandot), Illinois, Kickapoo, Mascouten, Menomini, Miami (Miami proper, Wea, Piankashaw, Eel River), Ohio Valley Iroquois, Ottawa, Pottawatomi, Sac, Shawnee, Sioux (Santee Dakota), and Winnebago.

Because a project with this scope had never been attempted and if the objectives were to be attained, it was determined early that it would be necessary to assess documentary holdings in the United States and foreign archives and duplicate the relevant resources, whenever possible. These activities were carried on throughout the life of the project. National Archives microfilms were obtained and their contents were systematically surveyed and indexed. A great variety of documents were transcribed or reproduced. Collections containing personal papers having relevance to the history of the Old Northwest Territory were secured from their respective repositories. Of particular importance was the identification of previously unrecorded or unutilized primary documents, e.g. a collection of French documents obtained for the project by the Library of Congress. Additionally, the published secondary sources were reexamined.

Acquisition information:

Wheeler-Voegelin et al. created the bulk of these records in Indiana University's Ernie Pyle Hall. In 1966, once the project was completed and needing to clear out of the space they had used, they looked for a place to house the materials. Initially no one wanted the records; neither the Anthropology nor History departments had room for such a large collection of materials. The university library would not accept them either. Falling towards obscurity, they were stored in a warehouse on the Indiana University campus until 1971 when Harold Kellar, director of the newly opened Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology offered to house them in the new facility.

The collection sat unprocessed in storage boxes until 1976 when David R. Miller, a graduate student in the Anthropology Department, processed the collection. Miller published the collection's original finding aid in 1979. To avoid confusion with the project's administrative records held at the Indiana Universities Archives, the collection was renamed The Ohio Valley - Great Lakes Ethnohistory Archives. Since then, several graduate students (Kellie Hogue, Wayne Huxhold, Meredith Hylton, Jack Kovaleski, Anthony Machiran, Sarah-Margaret Wilson, and Ryan Frick) and others have performed additional tasks to update the collection as new archival technologies developed. In 2013, the title was changed to The Great Lakes – Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Collection to better maintain the historical accuracy of project.

Processing information:

Processed in 1979 by David R. Miller.

Reprocessed in 2010 by Kelly Hogue.

Reprocessed in 2013-2015 by Wayne Huxhold.

Coding and digitization completed in part by Ryan Frick in 2014-2015, Haley Suby in 2015-2016, Lydia Lutz in 2016, Selena McCracken in 2018, Ethan Shepherd in 2019, Mariah Isbell in 2020, and Maya Cázares in 2022-2023. Parts of the collection have been digitized thanks to the support of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and Wyandotte Nation.


Organized into thirteen series: Tribal History Documents, Microfilm, Indian Claims Commission, Reproduced Documents, Transcribed Documents, Moravian Historical Society Materials, Maps, Tribal Indices, Research Notes, Indices to Project Sources, Card Catalog of Project Sources, Correspondence, Newspaper Clippings


This is a static collection.



The collection is open for research. Advanced notice is required.


Digital reproductions of archival materials from the Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Archives are made available for noncommercial educational and research purposes only. The Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Archives respects the intellectual property rights of others and does not claim any copyright interest for non-university records or materials for which we do not hold a Deed of Gift.

It is the researcher's responsibility to seek permission from the copyright owner and any other. Furthermore, responsibility for the determination of the copyright status and securing permission rests with those persons wishing to reuse the materials.

If you are the copyright holder for any of the digitized materials and have questions about its inclusion on our site, please contact the Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Archives.


[Item] Great Lakes - Ohio Valley Ethnohistory Collection, Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Archives, Indiana University, Bloomington.

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