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Treasures of the Digital Archives: Indian Census Records

Colville Tribe – Colville Reservation Indian Census of 1891.  Recorded by Hal J. Cole, United States Indian Agent.

Colville Tribe – Colville Reservation Indian Census of 1891. Recorded by Hal J. Cole, United States Indian Agent.

Federal censuses between 1790 and 1840 did not include American Indians; 1860 was the first time they were included in the general population, provided they lived near a military fort. The census act of 1879 authorized the enumerations of all Indians within the United States. However, it wasn’t until the census act of July 4, 1884 that Indian agents/superintendants were required to include all Indians – those living on reservations and those living within the general population – on all censuses taken thereafter.

The Office of the Secretary of State’s Historic Records Project and the State Archives are in the process of making these records available online through indexing and digitizing the Indian Census rolls for Washington between 1884 and 1940. Not all reservations, nor groups, are included in the collection, but there are 29 tribes recorded in all. Three titles are currently available online: The Columbia Tribe (1887-1910), the Colville Tribe (1890-1907 & 1911-1914), and the Couer d’Alene Tribe (1887-1902), all of which are from the Colville Reservation census rolls.