Native-authored works in the HathiTrust Digital Library

Data and contextual information for “Native-authored works in the HathiTrust Digital Library,” a workset curated by Kun Lu, Raina Heaton, and Raymond Orr in collaboration with the HathiTrust Research Center with generous support from the Mellon Foundation.

View the Project on GitHub htrc/scwared-native-american-authored-works

Introduction to Native-Authored Workset

The University of Oklahoma (OU) team was funded by the Mellon Foundation, through the HathiTrust Research Center’s SCWAReD project, to create a workset by Native American authors in the HathiTrust digital library. This document serves as an introduction to the workset, describing the workset building process, the content of the workset, the context of the works, and some example research questions that can be answered using this workset.

Rationale for the Project

Native Americans are a historically under-resourced textual community. No corpus of Native-authored works exists from which to draw insights about this particular community, or to give them the recognition equal to other similar communities of practice (e.g. History of Black Writing[1]), despite an ever-increasing number of Native authors creating works since the 1960s. In collaboration with the HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC) team, we have created a preliminary database of Native-authored works, of which a subset has been identified as being held in the HathiTrust Digital Library. This workset is now available to all researchers with an interest in Native-authored literature, and we hope that it will serve as a basis for more qualitative and quantitative research that speaks to the unique characteristics of this textual community.

Building Process


The team at OU consists of Dr. Raina Heaton and Dr. Raymond Orr (now at Dartmouth College) from the Department of Native American Studies, and Dr. Kun Lu, from the School of Library and Information Studies. The team also supervises a student mentee, Alyssa Vetter, a biology major with a minor in Native American Studies. The OU team works closely with HTRC staff including Ryan Dubnicek, Isabella Magni and PhD student Nikolaus Parulian.


There is a vast amount of extant literature on Native Americans and Native-related topics, the vast majority of which is not authored by Native people. As an illustration, a HathiTrust records search of “American Indian” subject headings from the US, Canada, and Mexico recovered 35,440 records, more than 17x the size of our dataset (see below). There are also many long-standing issues related to establishing both native ethnic and tribal affiliation (Garroutte, 2003), which we had to contend with in assembling this database. Additionally, while there are Native and Indigenous authors all over the world, we limited our search to authors from and publishing in the continental US and Canada. Additionally, since many works (particularly the scholarly works) are co-authored by Native and non-Native people, or are instances where Native writers have published in a compilation or edited volume, we have included those volumes in our database rather than exclude them.

Compiling lists of Native authors and works

There is no mechanism in the metadata from the HathiTrust Digital Library for identifying if an author is Native or non-Native. As such, there is no easy way to collect Native American authored works in the collection. To build the list of Native authors for the workset, the OU team began by compiling lists of Native authors and their works from publicly available datasets, locally accessible resources, and their personal knowledge.

One of the primary sources we used to compile our initial list of authors was the Native American Authors collection provided by the Internet Public Library ( The site contains information on Native North American authors and bibliographies of their published works. Blakesley Lindsay (2003) wrote a review of the IPL’s Native American Authors collection, claiming that the collection covers “a wealth of online resources dealing with Native American writers,” and that the author list includes “an extensive list of Native American writers, including many lesser-known poets and authors,” although the information available on each author varies (p. 41). At the time of the review, the site listed over 1,200 titles. It has grown in the years since, and our collection includes over 2,000 titles from IPL. Dr. Lu wrote a Python script to scrape the IPL’s author information along with work titles and tribal affiliation. This resulted in 631 Native authors and 2017 work titles where four works are listed without author information, and therefore excluded. Additional information about the works, such as publication date and author gender, was collected manually by a student mentee.

Another source of information on Native-authored works came from the The Native American Languages (NAL) collection at the Sam Noble Museum at OU. The NAL collection is an archival repository for materials in and pertaining to Indigenous languages, with a specialization in the Indigenous languages of the central United States. The collection includes audio and video recordings, manuscripts, books, journals, ephemera and teaching curricula from more than 175 Native North American languages. Materials have been donated to the collection from a variety of individuals and groups, including tribal members and families, linguists and anthropologists, community language projects, teachers and students and other archives. As the curator for NAL, Dr. Heaton was able to export a list of published works from the NAL databases, and then manually screen them for Native authorship and other in-scope criteria. The exported lists from NAL resulted in 122 work titles. Dr. Heaton also contributed a list of Native linguists and students maintained by LSA (Linguistic Society of America) special interest group, which includes 34 dissertation titles.

Dr. Orr compiled a list of Native American authors from two decades of Native American Studies literature by looking at Native American Studies journals published since the year 2000. These lists of Native authors and works were then searched in HathiTrust to identify the Native authored workset.

Searching Native authors and works in HathiTrust

The OU team converted the above lists of Native authors and works into a searching format that is preferred by HTRC staff. The HTRC staff then used the HathiTrust index to search the authors and works in HathiTrust by algorithm en masse. The search process relied on a tool built specifically for identifying volumes available in the HT digital library based on a provided list of titles/authors. The tool first executes a pre-processing step to clean and normalize the title and author list, and then it searches the published HathiFiles (an up-to-date listing of the entire HT holdings which includes title and author information) for matches for each title/author combination from the list provided. The searching is done via a fuzzy-matching algorithm to allow slight variations in spelling of both the titles and author names. While, in general, the fuzzy-matching process returns the correct matches, there are situations where false positive matches are identified, especially for works with very short titles (e.g., one-word titles) and common author names. These false positives were identified and removed by HTRC staff and the researchers at OU during the results review.

OU researchers then manually searched the list of titles/authors that were not matched to HathiFiles in the HT digital library Web interface to identify additional matches that were missed by automated searches due to variations in author names or titles, and/or missing information. For the NAL collection, 37 out of 122 titles were found in HathiTrust, accounting for a 30.33% coverage. For the IPL dataset, 900 titles out of 2013 were found, accounting for a 44.71% coverage. Table 1 summarizes the coverage of Native-authored works in HathiTrust. The following content will focus on the IPL and NAL datasets since they represent the majority of the matches in HathiTrust.

Table 1: Coverage of Native authored works in HathiTrust

Dataset # of titles searched # of titles found in HT Coverage
IPL 2013 900 44.71%
NAL 122 37 30.33%
LSA dissertations 34 0 0%

Content of the Workset

IPL workset

The IPL workset has 900 titles in HathiTrust by Native authors. This corresponds to 1,061 HathiTrust records, since one title may match multiple records, in instances of different editions or multi-volume works. And one record may also correspond to multiple duplicate volumes in HathiTrust. This results in 1,304 unique items in HathiTrust. The publication dates of these items range from 1826 to 2009. These works are contributed by 358 distinct Native authors. Figure 1 shows the distribution of works over years.

Number of works over years in the IPL workset
Figure 1. Number of works over years in the IPL workset.

NAL workset

The NAL workset includes 37 titles in HathiTrust by Native authors. One of the titles is “Handbook of North American Indians”, a series which we excluded in the subsequent analysis. The remaining 36 titles correspond to 45 HathiTrust records and 56 HathiTrust items. The publication dates range from 1900 to 2006. These works are contributed by 15 Native authors.

Native-authored workset summary

The following table summarizes the basic statistics of the worksets.

Table 2: A summary of statistics in the Native-authored worksets.

  # of titles # of Hathi records # of Hathi items Publication date range # of Native authors
IPL 900 1061 1304 1826 to 2009 358
NAL 36 45 56 1900 to 2006 15
Total (after removing overlap) 919 1083 1322 1826 to 2009 369

There is overlap between the NAL and IPL worksets: Out of the 36 matched titles, 45 matched records, and 56 matched items in NAL, 17 titles, 23 records and 27 items are also matched in the IPL workset, respectively. Four of the 15 NAL authors are also included in the IPL workset. The total number of matches after removing overlap is listed in the last row of Table 2.

Gap Analysis

This section compares what is included in HathiTrust and what is not among the titles that have been searched in this project.

IPL dataset

Publication dates

Out of 2,013 titles in the IPL dataset that were searched in HathiTrust, 900 titles were found and 1,113 titles were not. The distribution of works by year of publication is shown below, excluding 33 titles for which we do not have publication dates:

Comparison of publication dates on IPL dataset.
Figure 2. Comparison of publication dates on IPL dataset.

The date range of the missing works is wider than that of the included works, ranging from 1768 to 2013, but the distributions for included and missing works look similar. Some older (before 1826) or newer (after 2009) are not found in HathiTrust. Both sets show a gradual increase in the number of works beginning in the mid-1960s, reaching a peak from 1990 to 2000, and gradually declining after 2000. This trend could be due to the coverage of the IPL dataset rather than that of the HathiTrust. However, the number of titles covered in HathiTrust after 2000 is much smaller than that not covered in HathiTrust (66 v.s. 211). This suggests that HathiTrust may have a lower coverage of some more recent Native-authored works in IPL.

It is important to add that there has been a continual increase in publications by Native people since the early 2000s. Given that it is now 2022, the fact that our data sources do not include many more contemporary works is a limiting factor for analyses seeking to use this dataset.

Tribal representation

Comparable levels of tribal representation are observed in the included and missing works in HathiTrust: 135 tribes are represented in works included in HathiTrust and 149 tribes represented in works not included. There are 112 tribes represented in both sets, 23 tribes in works only included in HathiTrust, and 37 tribes represented only in works missing from HathiTrust.

Author gender representation

For those authors for whom we have gender information, the works included in HathiTrust are authored by 153 female authors and 198 male authors, while the works not included are authored by 184 female authors and 275 male authors. The percentage of female authors is 43.6% for works included in HathiTrust and 40.1% for works not in HathiTrust.

NAL dataset

For the NAL dataset, 103 titles were searched and 36 were found in HathiTrust. The coverage in HathiTrust of Native languages and related topics by Native authors is lower than that for IPL, which is a more general literature list. The following analysis compares the NAL works that are included in HathiTrust with those that are not. It should be noted that the NAL collection size is much smaller than that of the IPL.

Publication dates

The publication dates of the 36 titles found in HathiTrust range from 1900 to 2003, compared with 1928 to 2015 for those titles not included in HathiTrust. No clear trend is observed from this dataset due to the small sample size. However, in terms of coverage of more recent works, only two titles after 2000 are included in HathiTrust compared with 23 titles not included from the same period of time. The coverage of some more recent titles is lower in HathiTrust, which is consistent with what is observed in the IPL dataset. Interestingly, HathiTrust includes some old titles that were published before 1928.

Comparison of publication dates on NAL dataset.
Figure 3. Comparison of publication dates on NAL dataset.

Tribal representation

For the authors for whom we know their tribal affiliations, we analyzed the tribal representation of the NAL works covered by HathiTrust versus not covered by HathiTrust. Eleven tribes are represented in works found in HathiTrust, compared with 25 tribes for works not found in HathiTrust. There are two tribes only represented by the works in HathiTrust: Kiowa and Gwich’in, and 16 tribes represented only by the works not in HathiTrust. It appears that the tribal representation is not as wide in HathiTrust for Native-authored works on and about Native languages.

Author gender representation

For the authors for whom we have gender information, we compared the gender representation of works in HathiTrust versus works not in HathiTrust for the NAL dataset. For the works in HathiTrust, there are six female authors and eight male authors, compared with 34 female authors and 21 male authors of works not in HathiTrust. The percentage of female authors is 42.86% for works covered in HathiTrust and 61.82% for works not in HathiTrust. This result may not be conclusive due to the small sample size of the NAL collection.

Example Research Questions

Following is a list of potential research questions that might be explored using the Native-Authored Workset described above.

  1. What role do we see nature playing in Native-authored works, and in what forms? Terms: nature, mountain, water (type of water), and maybe proximity to terms of respect or belonging.

  2. What about the use of the collective versus individualistic terms outlined by work by Greenfield, 2013 found as the 20th century progressed, there are more “I”s than “we”s in the literature, as well as a greater use of terms denoting entitlement as compared to obligation)? Can we test the assumption that authors might use more collective rather than individual descriptions?

  3. What types of works do we see?

  4. What words for power or authority might be used? Sovereignty is a major topic in the field, but how is it used in the published written record? When talking about non-Natives, what is the context? In the 1970s-1980s when one saw the term “white man,” what was the surrounding text? How about settler or colonist or invader?

  5. One common assumption is that Native-authored literature might deal with or address loss and trauma. Do we see terms that might indicate this in these works?

  6. When an author of X tribe writes, does he/she talk about other tribes? How tribally specific or focused are authors? How often do they mention a specific tribe as opposed to “Native American,” “American Indian,” or more general terms?

  7. What major places or events are discussed, and how? E.g., Wounded Knee, Alcatraz, Sand Creek. Same for major figures such as Sitting Bull, Dennis Banks, Pocahontas – but also non-Native peoples.

  8. What groups are more/less represented as authors? As topics? Is any region more represented than another?

  9. Is there an asymmetry in male vs. female Native authors?

  10. Graph the (presumed) increase in production of scholarship by Native authors over time.

  11. What Native languages are more/less represented as language of composition? As a topic?

  12. To what extent are Native languages (or words) used in primarily English-language works? In what contexts?

  13. Are there any examples of Native people publishing on Native languages that aren’t theirs?

  14. Investigating discussions around “community”

  15. Appearance of terms like “extinct”, “endangered”, “loss”, “obsolescence” vs. “dormant”, “awakening”, “revitalization”, “preservation”, “resilience”

  16. Comparative lexical frequency analysis between our workset and the control. If we can do just general, that’s an option, or we can come up with relevant terms. Just trying to catch some things we may not have thought of.


Blakesley Lindsay, E. (2003). Native American Authors. *Reference Reviews, 17*(5), 41-42.
Garroutte, Eva. (2003). *Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America*. Berkeley, CA: The University of California Press.
Greenfield, Patricia, M. (2013). The Changing Psychology of Culture From 1800 Through 2000. *Psychological Science*, DOI: [10.1177/0956797613479387](