Contents and Arrangement

Subseries 3: Correspondence, 1929-1995

21 boxes
Restrictions may apply. See Access Note.

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Series 1: Organizational Files, Subseries 3: Correspondence (1929-1995) consists primarily of typescript letters from or to the AAIA's presidents, executive directors, general counsel, and staff members. While this subseries sheds considerable light on the AAIA's activities, it is especially useful in defining the preoccupations and, at a broader level, the personalities of the principal players in the Association: from its businesslike executive director, William Byler, to its colorful president, Alden Stevens. The consolidation of correspondence under the names of particular individuals, while a bar to ready access by subject, represents a distillation of viewpoints over an extended period, viewpoints which would otherwise lie scattered throughout the collection. Passing from one executive director to another, one encounters a diverse parade of topics: the right of tribes to legal counsel of their own choice (Alexander Lesser, 1951); the state of tension between President Oliver La Farge and onetime Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier (La Verne Madigan, 1955); the AAIA's relationship with the American Civil Liberties Union (Byler, 1975); the rationale behind postage-paid envelopes in fund raising appeals (Steven Unger, 1981); the solicitation of video recording equipment for Project Dream, a Native American rock group committed to the prevention of youth suicide (Idrian Resnick, 1987); the appointment of Robert Reich as Secretary of Labor (Gary Kimble, 1993); and the dearth of financial contributions from tribal casinos (Jerry Flute, 1995). Correspondence with the AAIA's general counsel of over 30 years, Arthur Lazarus, Jr. and Richard Schifter, and their predecessor, Felix Cohen, likewise chronicle a wide array of matters affecting the Association and its constituents. Of particular import were their opinions as to the advisability of filing amicus curiae -- "friend of the court" -- briefs in cases involving such issues as land and water rights.

The general section of this subseries includes incoming and outgoing letters and facsimiles and is arranged chronologically. The facsimiles were maintained as a unit by the AAIA on the basis of their form and, thus, represent a broad spectrum of subjects. The letters, for their part, were segregated by the AAIA because of their generality. Many are inquiries from the public, and, due to their repetitive character and negligible value, only a sample has been preserved. Genealogical questions, which the AAIA was not in a position to answer, and requests for information about Indians were among the most common matters raised in these letters. Numerous letters, distinguished, in many cases, by their untrained penmanship, came from schoolchildren. In the words of one, "If you have any information on Sioux Indians, send me some. But if you don't have any on Sioux Indians, forget it. Please make it all free."

While many of the exchanges in this subseries are comparatively pedestrian, some are highly revealing. For example, the correspondence between La Farge, then based in New York, and Moris Burge and Margaret McKittrick, the AAIA's field representatives, chronicles the difficulty of redefining and energizing the Association in the 1930s, as well as their mutual affection and their devotion to the Indian cause in the face of personal financial hardship. Following La Farge's death in New Mexico in 1963, administrative power was effectively concentrated in New York. This, coupled with a general decline in the involvement of the Association's president and directors in its daily activities, reduced the need for informal internal correspondence. Letter writing was limited primarily to exchanges between the AAIA and the parties it served or influenced, a shift which saw a falling off in the wit, candor, and elegance which had characterized much of the Association's correspondence in times past.


The correspondence in this subseries is arranged alphabetically by last name of the correspondent, with general files at the end of the subseries.

Collection History


No information about appraisal is available for this collection prior to the 2007 addition. Materials related to particular scholarships were separated from the August 2007 addition [ML.2007.027] and returned to the donor as requested.

No materials were separated from subsequent additions in 2008-2015. The exception is the 2014 addition [ML.2014.007]; AAIA newsletters that had already been catalogued by Princeton's Firestone Library were removed.

Approximately 1.5 linear feet consisting of routine financial information, personnel records, and other out-of-scope materials were removed from the October 2016 addition [ML.2016.034].


These records were processed with the generous support of The National Endowment for the Humanities and The John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fund.

Processing Information

These Records were initially arranged and described between December 1995 - June 1997 by John S. Weeren, with the able assistance of many hands and, in particular, Tom Rosko, Mitra Martin, Christina Aragon, and Shawneequa Callier. Additions received from 2005 to 2008 were processed in 2008 by Lynn Durgin. An inventory, the MARC record and the finding aid were updated at this time. Materials from subsequent additions from 2009-2016 were added to the collection as separate series. Box and folder lists for these additionss were created and the MARC record and finding aid were updated. Some materials in the May 2011, September 2012, and 2014 additions were re-housed in archival boxes or folders during accessioning. Digital materials in Series 8 were processed by Elena Colon-Marrero in July 2015.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

All records in Series 1 are open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, any copyright vested in the donor has passed to Princeton University and researchers are free to move forward with use of materials without anything further from Mudd Library. For materials not created by the donor, where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. In these instances, researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

This collection contains materials acquired from an Apple iMac desktop computer and other unknown desktop computers. Researchers are responsible for meeting the technical requirements needed to access these materials, including any and all hardware and software.

Credit this material:

Subseries 3: Correspondence; Association on American Indian Affairs Records, MC147, Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 33-53

Find More

Existence and Location of Copies

Materials in this series have been digitized in their entirety and are available for members of the Princeton University community to view here.

Other Finding Aids

A microfilm edition of Series 2, Subseries 1 and 2 of this collection was produced by Primary Source Microfilm in 2004 as part of its Native America: A Primary Record microfilm collection. The guide to Series 2, Parts 1 and 2 of the microfilm collection (comprising of Series 2, Subseries 1 and Subseries 2 of the AAIA records at Mudd Library) is available here.

Cook Inlet Native Association
Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council
Alaska Federation of Natives
American Indian Community House (New York, N.Y.)
American Indian Defense Association
American Indian Development Corporation
Association of Contract Tribal Schools
Association of Village Council Presidents
United States. American Indian Policy Review Commission
United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs
United States., Department of the Intérior
Tanana Chiefs Conference, Inc.
Inter Tribal Council of Arizona
Inuit Circumpolar Conference
John Hay Whitney Foundation
National congress of American Indians
National Indian Education Association
Organization for Social and Technical Innovation
Burge, Moris S.
Byler, William
Cohen, Felix S., 1907-1953
Collier, John, 1884-1968
Debo, Angie, 1890-1988
Emerson, Haven, 1874-1957
Ernst, Roger C., 1914-
Flute, Jerry, 1939-
Forbes, Henry Stone, 1882-
Forbes, Hildegarde B.
Hanley, Joy J., 1940-
Kimble, Gary Niles
La Farge, Oliver, 1901-1963
Lazarus, Arthur
Lesser, Alexander, 1902-1982
Madigan, La Verne
McKittrick, Margaret
Órtiz, Alfonso, 1939-1997
Resnick, Idrian N.
Schifter, Richard
Smith, Corinna Lindon, 1876-1965
Stevens, Alden
Unger, Steven, 1946-