Before trying to find primary resources, we need to understand what they are.
Scholars define primary resources as documents or physical objects that were created during the period of study. This definition is a bit vague, so in this article I'm going to explain what exactly constitutes a primary source.
First- documents and physical objects. Defining documents is tricky, to this day the question "what is a document" isn't entirely settled. For our purposes, think of a document as something produced by the person or organization you are trying to study. Examples include: diaries, autobiographies, speeches, letters and official records.
Next question- do images count as primary sources? Yes, as long as they are directly related to the thing you are trying to study. For example: a photograph of an Indian taken in the early 20th century is a primary source. Photographs of indian art are also excellent primary sources. Be careful though, images of Indians drawn or painted (especially if they were recently created) are not primary sources.
The best way to determine whether or not something is a primary source is to refer to the "period of study". If you are studying, for example, the Yakima Nation and find an old image of a Yakima chief from the early 20th century, that's a primary source because the photo was taken during the period you are studying.
If you want to look beyond the databases listed on the previous page, you'll need some tips on finding primary sources. This is often the most difficult part of research, so don't worry if you get stuck. This box offers some helpful tips and tricks I've learned from my own experience.
Don't believe everything you read. Primary sources recount an interpretation of an event, they do not describe the event-as-it-happened. Remember that the person who created your document had opinions, agendas, and in some cases may be misleading you. As a scholar, you need to think critically about a document before you accept it's version of events at face value. Here's a helpful checklist to consider as you evaluate primary sources