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Navigating the Archives

how to and faq

How To & FAQ

How to narrow search

What Indigenous nations do you have information on?


We have documents on many nations across Canada and some into the United States. Many of our documents pertain to the Indigenous Nations in the Treaty 7 territory of Alberta and around present day Banff. This includes Îethka (Stoney Nakoda: Wesley, Bearspaw, Chiniki), Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy: Kainai-Blood Tribe, Siksika, Piikani-Peigan and Aamskapi Pikuni), Tsuut’ina (Sarcee, part of the Dene), Nehiyawak (Cree) and Métis Nations. There are several documents in our archives that pertain to nations within the area of present day British Columbia including but not limited to the Ktunaxa (Kootenay), Secwépemc (Shuswap), Haisla and Kwakiutl with mentions of First Nations along the Fraser River as well as Dodge Cove, Alert Bay, and Yale. We house many documents pertaining to Inuit Nations from various locations spanning from Alaska to along Hudson Bay. There is also little but some documentation pertaining to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) as well as Anishinaabe (Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi and Saulteaux) Nations. 

How do you define Indigenous? 

When speaking about Indigenous Peoples, we recognize Indigenous as a blanket term for all people who are descendants of the original occupants and caretakers of the land. This phrase applies to territories all over the world, however, in this case the use of Indigenous will be in regards to the land that is now Canada and the United States of America.


First Nations, Inuit, and Métis are unique groups of Indigenous Peoples, each containing individual nations within them. Inuit can be defined as the groups of people Indigenous to the circumpolar area of the world including northern Canada, Alaska and parts of Greenland and Russia. Métis are those who are members of recognized Métis Nations. These Nations consist of people of mixed Indigenous and settler ancestry that have formed their own communities separate from other Indigenous nations. First Nations can then be seen as every other nation Indigenous to Canada that doesn’t fit into the identity of Inuit or Métis, it is the name Canada has used to replace the outdated term “Indian” in most instances. 

What are archives? 

Archives are a space where historical materials and documents are held and cared for, usually pertaining to a specific place, establishment or group of people. At the Whyte Museum, we focus on the history of the Rocky Mountains and house a variety of items that tell the histories of the people, places and events in and around Banff. For our department, the Whyte Museum Archives and Special Collections, this includes many different kinds of materials such as written records, letters, maps, photographs, photo negatives, newspapers, audio recordings, books, videos and more. 

Historical items such as art pieces, sculptures, tools, clothing, baskets, bags or other cultural objects will not be found within our archives, however, items such as these can be found within the Whyte Museum's Art and Heritage department. These items are also available for viewing through our online database by narrowing down your Collections search to Art and Heritage. 

How do I narrow my search to only Indigenous content?

Our online database holds information on almost everything we have in the archives. To narrow your search down to just content pertaining to Indigenous Peoples, type your topic of research into the search bar. Then click on “Subject” from the list of boxes on the left side of your screen - you will see a list of subjects to choose from. Scroll through the list and click on ALL topics that apply such as “Indigenous Peoples,” “First Nations,” and “Indigenous.” Click "Apply" and the results will give you everything that has to do with Indigenous Peoples and your topic.  

You can specify which geographical region you would like to search in as well by clicking the “Place” box on the left hand side and selecting the area, province or community you are searching for.  

If you want to be more specific in nation, you can type in the nation you are looking for into the search bar. If you’re looking for a nation that we have lots of information on, such as Îethka (Stoney Nakoda), there is an option to select “Stoney Nakoda” or “Stoney” under the “Subject” box as well.

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What if I don't see the topic or information I'm looking for here?

The archives contains thousands of archival items, this page is meant to give a brief glance into what some of those items may look like. There is much more information to look through then what has been listed here so if you don't see a topic you are looking for, don't be discouraged. Try conducting your own research with our online database using the research tips and help that we have provided. 


How do I find information from a specific time period?

You can narrow search results to decades by selecting the box labeled “Decade,” similar to where you find the “Subject” box, then select the decade or decades you are searching for and click apply. If the years you are looking for don’t appear, you may want to adjust your search using different key words or spellings. 

How can I see a document I’ve found on the online database?

Some content is available to view online if it has been digitized. To find out if the item you are looking for has been digitized, click on the “more detail” prompt. If digitized it will show up under “Electronic Resources.” To open the file, you can then click the green “Read PDF” button or download the file by clicking “Download PDF.”

For content that has not been digitized, see how to request any materials in the archives here or email us at to make an appointment. 



For more help on how to use our online database, see our help page found here

Research Tips & Tricks

Here are a few researching tips for using our online database that may help you find the information you're looking for. 

1. It's useful to search for topics that could be related to the Indigenous topic you are searching. For example, if you were looking for information on Indigenous relationships in and around Banff, you may also want to search for documents from Parks Canada or look for information on early guides in Banff, as it is likely they learned much of their information about the area from local Indigenous Nations.


2. Don't be afraid to dive deep into the archives, the titles and descriptions of our items may not always include the word ‘Indigenous’.  Sometimes useful bits of Indigenous content can be hidden within documents and folders that focus on primarily other topics. So it’s always a good idea to look at publications that occurred around the timeframe you are looking at or search for people who likely had frequent contact with Indigenous people because there may be Indigenous content intermixed in other topics. For example, if you were looking for information about the Indigenous presence in Banff around the early 1900s, you may want to look at items related to Norman Luxton or Jim Brewster, prominent figures in the running of Banff Indian Days in the 1900s and business men who often worked with local Indigenous Nations.

3. Remember that any time a book’s main topic involves Canada’s history in some way, there will most likely be a section where they address Indigenous Peoples’ presence and role before shifting into settler-colonial society. For example, a book we have in our collections Winter sports in the west, goes over the history and presence of winter sports within western Canada and while the title doesn’t explicitly imply there will be mention of Indigenous presence in sports, there is section included that discusses Indigenous creation of games and sports as well as people’s participation throughout history. 

4. Try typing in different spelling variations or common spelling errors when looking up names. We try our best, however, sometimes spelling errors and variations get missed through the entries. An example of this can be seen when looking for the last name Twoyoungmen, it is also listed under Two young men, Twoyoungman, and Two young man. If you're not finding the information you are looking for, try this out. 

5. Be aware that you may stumble across unsettling content and perspectives from sources that may not seem this way from their title or descriptions. Books and publications, from the past in particular, can contain harmful views on Indigenous people and children and it is something to be aware of when pulling older content.


6. In relation, many of the materials we hold are very old and still contain outdated and offensive naming and language – we have been working to fix these entries but many still exist and may be missed if you type in the correct terms. Some documents that should say Indigenous will say Indian and some that should say Inuit will say Eskimo or Esquimo. Materials pertaining to Inuit may also be listed under First Nations despite being an Indigenous identity separate from First Nations, so keep these in mind during your search. 

7. Previous nation names have also been used frequently within the records and books within our collections so it would be beneficial to search any alternate or past names that have been used to refer to the nation you are searching for. In the Ktunaxa Nation for example, many of our records will have information on this nation listed under the names of Ktunaxa, Kootenay, Kuntenai or Kootenae.

Research tips
search terms

Common Search Terms

Here is a short list of search terms that may come in handy while using our online database


AND - add between two or more words or phrases to search to combine multiple phrases in a search 

eg. horses AND tipi

Will show materials about both horses and tipis together.

NOT - used to exclude a word or phrase from search results

eg. Indigenous NOT Banff Indian Days 

Will show results for Indigenous materials that are not listed as being from or about Banff Indian Days

OR - add between words or phrases to find materials involving either one

eg. Tsuut'ina OR Sarcee

Will show results where either the word Tsuut'ina or Sarcee was used. Useful especially when searching specific nations or individuals with multiple names, previous names or spelling variations. 

"" - used for searching the exact words or a specific phrase 

eg. "North Saskatchewan River" 

Will show results where North Saskatchewan River is specifically written somewhere like the title or description.  

( ) - Used for grouping other search terms to be used in a single search

eg. (Banff Indian Days AND First Nations) NOT image

Will show materials about Banff Indian Days and First Nations in our collections that are not images. 


*Make sure to type search phrases in capitals as shown* 


More of these search options and other search tips for our database can be found on our help page here

Fonds and collections

Understanding Fonds & Collections

In the Archives, collections of documents gathered from the same source, like a certain person, business or organization, are grouped together into what’s called a fonds and then given a specific reference code. These reference codes are important information, there are individual reference codes designated to each item, file or collection we hold in the Archives and the codes are then used to locate archival materials.


Some archival material may start with a letter followed by a number. These letters represent what kind of materials are held in that particular fonds, V would be for visual materials like photos, M for manuscripts or textual materials, and S for audio and sound recordings. The number that follows is specific to the fonds it belongs to. For example, V804 is the Eliza Hunter fonds, so whenever you see V804 at the beginning of a reference code, you will know two things. That it comes from Eliza Hunter’s collection and that it will be visual materials such as photographs or negatives because it starts with V.


Books in our library have reference codes that start with a number followed by a series of letters. These numbers reference which topic the book has been organized by. For example, if a book starts with 07.2, it will be a book about Indigenous Peoples because the number 07.2 has been assigned to books on Indigenous people and culture.


Below are examples of some of the fonds we hold from Indigenous individuals and nations with their reference codes.  


Click on the name of each fonds to see their descriptions and what materials are held in these collections. 

Eliza Hunter fonds - V804

Frank Kaquitts fonds - M46 / S4

George McLean fonds - M42 / V422

Joe Kootenay fonds - V332

Rosalie Twoyoungmen fonds - V632

Stoney Nakoda Band fonds - M344


Non-Indigenous fonds to look through include: 

Banff Indian Days Committee fonds - M62

Byron Harmon fonds - V263

Dan and Mary McCowan fonds - M55 / V408

Luxton Family fonds - LUX

Mary Schaffer fonds - M79 / V527

Moore Family fonds - M307 / V439

Peter and Catharine Whyte fonds - M36 / S37 / V683

and many more

Keep in mind these fonds contain hundreds of documents so make sure to narrow your search when looking through these collections on our online database. To see only documents pertaining to Indigenous Peoples, go to How To & FAQ for a guide to how to narrow down your search results to Indigenous content and then apply it to any of the pages above. 

Get in touch

If you have any suggestions, corrections or further information to add to the materials and information we've shown, please feel free to send us a message.

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