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The Hulbert Taft, Jr. Library

U.S. History: White Paper Project: Primary Sources



Sources created by those who lived it


Any document, image, or artifact created at the time of the topic being researched is a primary source. Examples include: eyewitness accounts, autobiographies and memoirs, diaries, letters, speeches, reports, newspapers, household and day-to-day objects, clothing, works of art, architecture, and photographs.

Please note: primary source documents are a reflection of the time and culture in which they were created and may contain language or images that are considered offensive today.

NoodleTools Tips for Citing Primary Sources


Primary Sources in Databases

NOTE: Citations from each database below can be exported to NoodleTools.


When searching for primary sources in newspaper / periodical databases:

  • Always limit your search to the date range relevant to your topic.
  • Try searching terms, phrases, etc. that were commonly used at the time in relation to your topic.
  • Look at other limiters on the advanced search page that might improve your results, such as article, commentary, editorial, front page / cover story, letter to the editor, etc.

Contains Primary Sources means this source contains Primary Sources.

Resource Allows NoodleTools Export means you can export the citation for this source to NoodleTools.

Primary Sources on the Internet

The American West (from Spartacus Educational; scroll down to Native American Tribes to select your tribe. Each tribal article is followed by several primary sources)

Digital History: Native Voices (primary sources ranging from first contacts to the present)

DocsTeach: American Indians: Primary Sources and Ready-to-Use Teaching Activities (from the U.S. National Archives)

Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian (click on portfolios for images; from Northwestern University Digital Library Collections)

Indian Peoples of the Northern Great Plains Digital Collection (includes photographs, paintings, ledger drawings, documents, serigraphs, and stereographs from 1874 through the 1940s; from Montana State University) 

Indigenous Digital Archive (documents the history of U.S. government Indian boarding schools in the 19th and 20th centuries; from the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, New Mexico)

Native American Documents Project (Includes annual reports of the commissioner for Indian affairs from the 1870s and other documents; from California State University, San Marcos)

Native American Newspapers (23 digitized newspapers from the Library of Congress Chronicling America project)

Treaties between the United States and Native Americans (Avalon Project, Yale University Law School)


Books on the website Internet Archive:

A Century of Dishonor: a Sketch of the Government's Dealings with Some of the Indian Tribes by Helen Hunt Jackson and others, published in 1881.

The Indian Question by Francis Amasa Walker, "late U.S. commissioner of Indian Affairs", published in 1874.

Life Among the Apache by John Cremony -  Cremony’s first encounter with the Indians of the Southwest occurred in the early 1850s, when he accompanied John R. Bartlett’s boundary commission surveying the United States–Mexican border.... Cremony was the first white man to become fluent in the Apache language, and he published the first dictionary of their language as a tool for the US Army.

Cremony’s account of his experiences, published in 1868, quickly became, and remains today, an indispensable source on Apache beliefs, tribal life, and fighting tactics. Although its original purpose was to induce more effective military suppression of the Apaches, it has all the fast-paced action and excitement of a novel and the authenticity of an ethnographic and historical document. Life Among the Apaches is unrivaled in its attention to detail, and Cremony’s firsthand accounts of the intricacies of daily life for the Apaches make it both an essential text on Native American culture and a truly important anthropological work.



Primary Sources in Books and eBooks

Print books on Reserve may be signed out for USE IN THE LIBRARY ONLY for the duration of the assignment.
Click here for a list of PrImary Sources in Books on Reserve


Primary Sources in eBooks

Defining Documents in American History: Native Americans (1451-2017) /  ed. by Michael Shally-Jensen. (also a print book: E77 .N38 2017) ISBN: 1682175871

The Native American experience. 1998 (an online ebook) ISBN: 9781578031405

Voices of the American Indian experience / ed. by James E. Seelye Jr. and Steven A. Littleton.  (also a print book: E77 .V65 2013 2 vols)  ISBN: 9780313381164

TIP: Scanning Using Your Smartphone is Easier than Photocopying!


5 of the Best Free Scanner Apps for iPhone and Android
By Christianna Silva, January

Primary Sources in Reference Books / eBooks

REMEMBER: Print Reference books are for use IN THE LIBRARY ONLY.

If you have any questions, see
Mr. Padgett, Ms. Taylor, or Mr. Previti
OR email us at
We're here to help!

NoodleTools Citation Tips

To cite a Primary Source, first choose the option that best describes where you found it: 

  • Database = a document found in a Taft Subscription Database such as Gale eBooks or American History Online.
  • Website = a document found on a website found through a search engine such as Google.
  • Print or In Hand = a document found in a book in the library. For example: in a reference book or a secondary source.

Next determine what kind of primary source you are citing: 

  • Look at the list of options in NoodleTools. Is it a newspaper article, a speech, a letter, or another item listed? If so, choose it. 
  • If you're not sure, you can use "Anthology / Collection" which enables you to cite a source found within another source.