Native American Heritage

Native American Employees of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Official Register of the United States, 1849-1925

An act of Congress on April 27, 1816 (3 Stat. 342) required the Department of State to produce a biennial register of the names of all U.S. civil employees, military and naval officers, and agents. The Official Register published pertinent information about the federal workforce, including the name of every employee, their job title, state or country of birth, the location of their post, and their annual salary.

Prior to 1849, the Official Register lists the Indian Bureau, Indian Department, and Indian Affairs Office under the War Department. When Congress created the Department of the Interior in 1849, it transferred the Indian Affairs Office to the new Department; the employees appear under the Department of the Interior.

The Official Register lists Indian Bureau/Department/Affairs Office special agents, Commissions, and employees at the headquarters level, Washington, D.C. offices, and field offices. Each Official Register lists Washington DC employees (including the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner) first followed by the field office employees.  The Official Registers often contain a miscellaneous section which contains listings of special agents and Commissions. Beginning in 1881, individuals employed in the educational field appear under a separate category; Indian Training Schools (1881-1885), Indian and Industrial Training Schools (1887-1891), and the Indian School Service/School Service (1893-1905). On occasion, individual schools appear among the field offices. In 1947 the Department of the Interior renamed the Indian Affairs Office the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Native American Employees of the Indian Affairs Office
The Official Register lists include Native American employees.  Prior to 1895, the term “Indian” may appear parenthetically next to an employee’s name. The majority of Native American employees listed in the pre-1895 volumes are intermixed with non-Native Americans with one exception. From 1879 to 1905, Native American policemen appear in a separate Police/Indian Police category. The number of Native Americans employed by the Office of Indian Affairs increased dramatically during the 1870-1880s. From 1895 to 1905, the Field Office employees are listed under two categories, White or Indian. Native Americans held numerous positions including:

  • Apprentice
  • Adobe Molder
  • Assistant Mechanic
  • Blacksmith
  • Butcher
  • Carpenter
  • Clerk
  • Cook
  • Engineer
  • Farmer
  • Field Matron
  • Fireman
  • Ferryman
  • Freighter
  • Harnessmaker
  • Herder
  • Hospital Laundress
  • Indian Police
  • Interpreter
  • Janitor
  • Judge
  • Laborer
  • Mail Carrier
  • Messenger
  • Miller
  • Nurse
  • Ox Driver
  • Overseer
  • Painter
  • Physician
  • Physician Assistant
  • Saddlemaker
  • Stableman
  • Stenographer & Typewriter
  • Store Keeper
  • Teacher
  • Telegraph Operator
  • Tinner
  • Toll Keeper
  • Wheelwright
  • Wagonmaker
  • Watchman

Arrangement of Employee Information
From 1817 to 1905 the Official Register organized the information in a tabular format, by branch of government, and then by department such as the Department of the Interior, Treasury Department, and War Department.  Bureau, agency, and commission listings appeared separately under each department and often changed over the years. 

From 1907 to 1921 the Official Register used a directory format of one-line entries arranged alphabetically by surname.  The entries used abbreviations to list employee information.  Additional tabular entries identified the principal officials of each department, providing in more compact form an overall statement of departmental organization.

After 1921 the Official Register removed the all-name directory, reverting to lists in table format of administrators and supervisors in each Executive and Judicial department of the federal government and the District of Columbia, whose salaries were paid directly by the U.S. Treasury.

Using the Official Register
The volumes from 1817 to 1875 do not contain an index, but a table of contents arranged alphabetically by department, office, or position. From 1877 to 1905, an alphabetical name index appears at the end of each volume. The switch to the directory format from 1907 to 1921 eliminated the need for a comprehensive name index.

The Official Register is available at the Archives Library Information Center (ALIC) in the National Archives Building, Washington, DC. This set, however, is incomplete; early volumes from 1817 to 1829 are missing. Most U.S. government depository libraries also carry sets of the Official Register, as well as many large universities and public libraries. Researchers may locate the nearest government depository library online. Some volumes of the Official Register (1883-1893) are published as well in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set. See volumes 2214-2215, 2410-2411, 2567-2568, 2764-2765, 2985-2986, and 3230-3231.

Read an article in Prologue Magazine, "Genealogy Notes: The Official Register of the United States, 1816-1959"

Additional resources on the National Archives web site:

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