Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Indian Claims Commission Decisions

Oklahoma State University has put the entire Indian Claims Commission Decisions online. The ICC was established in 1946 by Congress to investigate the claims of Indian tribes against the United States. Tribes had five years to file claims that their treaty rights had been violated. The ICC would recommend compensation if appropriate, and the whole process would wrap up in ten years.

The actual process proved much more difficult and controversial than anticipated, taking until 1978 to be completed. The government paid out a total of $800 million dollars in 285 cases.

The reports, filled with expert testimony from historians, anthropologists, and native elders are a historical treasure trove. This digization makes the 43 bulky volumes keyword searchable and far easier to use than in the past. Many northwest peoples are represented in the collections, and some fun searches include "Chief Joseph" "Chief Moses" and "Spokane Garry."

The Google-powered search software is sophisticated. A search for Kamiakin brings zero results, but does prompt the message "Did you mean kamaiakun?" since that is the spelling used in the ICC records. On the other hand the optical character recognition leaves much to be desired. For example:

Original Sentence: "Chief Joseph and his followers did, in fact, move onto the Colville Reservation and the members of his band or the descendents thereof continued to reside on the reservation until the present date."

OCR Transcription: "Chief Moses and h i s followers did, in fact, Eove cnto the Colville Reservation 2nd tke meribers of h i s band or the descendmts thereof have c ~ n t ~ u etod r eside on t h a t reservation
- until the Fres at date."

Fortunately the default display is not this OCR text but an easily-legible PDF of the original page. As with other PDFs you can print or save each document.

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