During his appraisal of this Kiowa toy baby cradle, Tribal Arts expert Bruce Shackleford was surprised to discover the name of the artist scribbled on the back of the toy. "It's very unusual to have a name associated with the piece," Shackleford explained.
Shackleford was unable to make out the name in its entirety, but he told Janet, the toy's owner, that if she wanted to pursue it further, "[she] could take that name and run it down in the Indian Rolls and find out who this woman was."
But what exactly are the Indian Rolls and what might Janet discover there?
The Indian Census Rolls, which span from 1885 to 1940, were the result of an 1884 Act of Congress that required agents in charge of Indian reservations to submit population records to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Although the records were incomplete — there aren't census records for every reservation or group of Indians for every year — and the data from record-to-record varied, the Indian Census Rolls are the most thorough archive of U.S. Native American populations that exist for that time period.
Generally, the records include the English and/or Indian name of the person, roll number, age or date of birth, sex, and relationship to head of family. Using these categories, and with a bit of time and effort, Janet might be able to narrow down the list of records and determine the name of her toy's creator. An initial search of the Rolls by ROADSHOW did not uncover any additional information about the partial name Shackleford found on the toy, but more in-depth research could yield better results.
The records are maintained by the U.S. National Archives and can be accessed — among other ways — free of charge at a number of National Archive facilities across the country, or through online subscription services such as Ancestry.com or hertiagequest.com, which have digitized many of the records.
To explore the records yourself, visit the National Archives to get started:www.archives.gov/research/census/research.html