Researching American Indians and Alaska Natives

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Photograph from an industrial survey report of Fort Bidwell Agency, California. The photograph presumably depicts Bieber Quinn, Leroy Quinn, Sally Ann Quinn, and Sally Jack sitting on a front porch., ca. 1924. (National Archives Identifier 296316)

Tasked with federal oversight of American Indians, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) interacted with many individuals and families affiliated with tribes or working for and with the BIA. Most American Indian-related records held by the National Archives (NARA) were originally created or received by the BIA, primarily in the course of administering official BIA business, not for historical research or genealogical purposes. NARA maintains historically significant and permanently valuable records created by the BIA and its predecessor agencies from as early as 1793.

Although these records primarily relate to administrative matters and the management of tribal and individual resources by the Federal government, many of these documents also contain information about individuals and families that are especially beneficial to genealogy research.

The BIA headquarters' original administrative records are available at the National Archives, Washington, DC. Additional records created by the BIA field offices and American Indian schools can be found at many of the NARA facilities throughout the country.

There is no comprehensive index to BIA records. It is important to know the Indian tribe and/or BIA agency or jurisdiction to locate potentially relevant records. BIA records relating to specific individuals generally concern persons who had official business with the BIA, including some persons of Indian background who had a formal affiliation with a American Indian tribe under BIA supervision.

Each jurisdiction's records comprise various record series, usually arranged chronologically, alphabetically, numerically, or by subject. Research can require extensive time or repeat visits. Some records may have been microfilmed and digitized, but a large percentage has not been reproduced. For agency specific finding aids or research assistance, visit our Online Catalog or Contact Us.

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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