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Native Turtle Island (North America)

This guide is intended to help people doing research in the history of Native Turtle Island (excluding the area that is now contemporary Mexico).


This is a course guide prepared for the students in Professor Thomson's Capstone Seminar: Native Peoples and Sovereignty in the Americans (HIST-UA 413), Spring 2024.

What are Primary Sources?

Primary sources are the artifacts left behind by participants or observers, providing firsthand evidence of historical events. These include:

  • written materials, such as archival documents, autobiographies, interviews, newspaper and magazine articles
  • data of the period
  • audio materials, such as oral histories, original recordings of music and speeches, radio broadcasts, and interviews
  • visual materials, such as photographs, art, posters, maps, and films

In contrast, secondary sources, such as scholarly books or journal articles, synthesize and interpret primary materials.  Tertiary sources, on the other hand, such as bibliographies and encyclopedia entries, summarize and synthesize secondary and primary sources and can be incredibly useful when first starting your research.

Whether primary, secondary, or tertiary, it is important to critically analyze your sources.

For more general information related to disciplines or area studies, please see the following research guides:

How to Find Primary Sources

To find primary sources in library catalogs, including NYU Libraries' search portal, use a Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) -- for example, Indians of South America -- along with the following genre words:

  • Anecdotes
  • Caricatures and cartoons
  • Correspondence
  • Description and travel
  • Diaries
  • Exhibitions
  • Interviews
  • Oral History
  • Maps
  • Notebooks, sketchbooks
  • Personal narratives
  • Songs and music
  • Sources (for historical documents)
  • Speeches

Examples of LCSH for primary sources:

Indians of South America -- Wars -- Argentina -- Personal narratives

Indians of North America -- Land tenure -- Maps Early works to 1800

Digital Primary Sources

Databases for Searching for Secondary Sources