Bureau of Indian
Affairs - A Government bureau, also called the Office of Indian
Affairs, which provides public services to the Indians. It combines
the functions performed by all other federal agencies, by state governments,
by counties, by municipalities, and even private organizations.
The Federal Government first became interested
in Indian welfare through the regulation of trade. Benjamin Franklin
had reported to the Albany Congress in 1754 that "Many quarrels and wars
have arisen between the Colonies and the Indian nations through the bad
conduct of traders who cheat Indians after making them drunk."
In 1775 the Continental Congress took over
Indian affairs, and when the Federal Constitution was adopted, the states
gave to the national government the duty of regulating commerce not only
with foreign nations, and among states, but with the Indian tribes.
It said: "The utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians;
their land and property shall never be taken from them."
Upon establishment of the War Department
in 1779 all Indian affairs were placed under its jurisdiction. In
1824 the Bureau of Indian Affairs was created within the War Department,
but in 1849, owing to much criticism in the West of the way the military
branch administered Indian affairs, the Bureau was transferred to the newly
created Department of the Interior, where it is today.
the Bureau's function was then one of guardianship,
and in a sense the Indian was considered a ward - although the Indians
themselves never liked this term. The original purpose of the Bureau
was to civilize the Indian and prepare him for full citizenship, and to
insure that the Government fulfilled its promises to the various Indian
tribes in more than 400 treaties. With the years, the aim of
the administration of Indian affairs has changed gradually.
In 1924 all Indians had become citizens
and could vote. However, as the Bureau still has certain trustee
obligations for Indian property, and because it will take time to
adjust the many side relationship between Indians and the Federal Government,
the Bureau continues to provide services to Indians.
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs is appointed
by the President. The Bureau has an agency for one or more reservations.
Agencies are supervised by area offices, which in turn are supervised by
the Central Office. The Central Office acts as a go between with
Congress through the Secretary of the Interior and the President.
As many Indians were leaving reservations
and going to cities to work in 1956, the Bureau operated relocation centers
in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California. And was
planning many other such centers and Thousands of Indians had been placed
in jobs. The Bureau also operated 365 Indian schools and an had an
enrollment of 43,616 Indian children in 1956. Currently the BIA provides
services to 1.2 million American Indians in more than 550 tribes.
More than half of the Bureau's 14,000 regular
employees have Indian blood. To complete its services to the Indians,
the Bureau has become a huge business enterprise. It handles large
estates. It is in the oil industry. It is interested in bonuses
and royalties, and the disposition of great timber areas. It
conducts a large cattle business and is even in the fishing industry.
It arranges leases of tribal lands and carries on a big banking business.
The Bureau administers 43,450,267 acres of Tribally owned land, 10,183,530
acres of individually owned land, and 417,225 acres of Federally owned
land which is held in trust status.
of Indian Affairs Homepage
within this Site
Act ][ Indian
Reorganization Act ]
Reservation ][ Indian