Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 13: Interior and Insular Affairs

Chapter 13. Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Its Predecessors

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Records of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee and Its Predecessors, 1805-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Committees discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs (1951-68) History and Jurisdiction 13.107 Under the 1946 Reorganization Act, six standing committees-- Public Lands, Indian Affairs, Territories, Mines and Mining, Irrigation and Reclamation, and Insular Affairs-- were merged to form a new committee. At the time of the merger, the committee assumed the name of Committee on Public Lands, but during the 82nd Congress (1951-52), the name was changed to the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs to reflect more accurately the responsibilities of the committee. In 1993 the name was changed briefly to the Committee on Natural Resources, and in 1995 it was renamed the Committee on Resources.

13.108 The jurisdiction of the committee includes the following subjects:

    (a) Forest reserves and national parks created from the public domain; (b) Forfeiture of land grants and alien ownership, including alien ownership of mineral lands; (c) Geological Survey; (d) Interstate compacts relating to apportionment of waters for irrigation purposes; (e) Irrigation and reclamation projects, and easements of public lands for irrigation projects, and acquisition of private lands when necessary to complete irrigation projects; (f) Measures relating to the care, education, and management of Indians, including the care and allotment of Indian lands and general and special measures relating to claims which are paid out of Indian funds; (g) Measures relating generally to Hawaii, Alaska, and the insular possessions of the United States, except those affecting the revenue and appropriations; (h) Military parks and battlefields, and national cemeteries; (i) Mineral land laws and claims and entries thereunder; (j) Mineral resources of the public lands; (k) Mineral interests generally; (l) Mining schools and experimental stations; (m) Petroleum conservation on the public lands and conservation of the radium supply in the United States; (n) Preservation of prehistoric ruins and objects of interest on the public domain; (o) Public lands generally, including entry, easements, and grazing thereon; (p) Relations of the United States with the Indians and the Indian tribes.1

13.109 The committee functioned through subcommittees that essentially mirrored the old standing committees that had existed before the 1946 merger. There were subcommittees on Indian affairs, irrigation and reclamation, mines and mining, public lands, and territories and insular affairs. During the 87th Congress (1961-62) a new subcommittee on the national park system was created to handle matters in that increasingly complex area.

Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 82nd-90th Congresses (1951-1968)


Record TypeVolumeCongresses (Dates)
Minute Books5 fts.82d-90th (1951-68)
Petitions and Memorials4 ft.82d-90th (1951-68)
Committee Papers57 ft.82d-90th (1951-68)
Bill Files204 ft.82d-90th (1951-68)
TOTAL:270 ft. 

13.110 The Committee produced approximately 5 feet of unbound minutes that provide a record of committee and subcommittee meetings. From the 82nd to the 85th Congresses (1951-58), the minutes cover the full committee; from the 86th to the 90th Congresses (1959-68) separate minutes were maintained for the full committee and subcommittees.

13.111 Legislative calendars furnish essentially the same information as docket books did for earlier Congresses; they document the receipt and disposition of legislation and petitions by the committee. There is at least one copy of a legislative calendar for each Congress from 1951-68.

13.112 Most of the petitions and memorials referred to the committee were on preprinted forms and focused upon a single issue. Perhaps the most interesting petition was from the students of Roosevelt High School in Honolulu, HI. This petition, which supported Hawaiian statehood, was hand-printed by a calligrapher and apparently signed by almost all of the students at the school (86A-H7.1).

13.113 Committee papers include resolutions, reports, published and unpublished hearings, executive communications, prints of bills, and other administrative papers necessary for the committee to conduct its business. Among the papers of the 82nd Congress (1951-52), there is a report on synthetic liquid fuels written by Secretary of the Interior, Oscar Chapman, in February 1951. In his report he states that:

    In view of the ever-increasing need for petroleum in the United States, [and] the critical international situation that may result in loss of important foreign supplies . . . the prompt development of a synthetic oil industry is not only requisite to safeguarding our oil supply, but it is also an economically sound course for the foreseeable future (82A- F9.1).

More information on synthetic fuels is among the committee papers of the 83d Congress (83A- F9.1).

13.114 The committee papers also include a bound volume containing a structural engineer's report on the Ford's Theatre Building. It contains 50 photographs, primarily of the interior; floor plans of the building from the basement to the attic; and the outside measurements of the building (85A-F9.1).

13.115 Bill files are organized by bill number and usually contain a printed copy of the bill, plus supporting materials. The committee dealt with a number of bills relating to Indians. Among the bill files of the 86th Congress (1959-60) are published hearings, photographs, a map, and other evidence relating to an investigation by the Secretary of the Interior regarding the advisability of the establishment of Huron Cemetery in Kansas City, KS as a national shrine and monument (H.R. 2334). This two-acre plot of land was used by the Wyandot Indians as a burial ground as early as 1844 (85A-D8). In the 87th Congress, H.R. 3534 proposed to donate to certain Indian tribes some submarginal lands of the United States and make such lands part of their reservations (87A-D7).

13.116 During the 1950's and 1960's the committee dealt with important legislation relating to the Territories of the United States. A bill introduced during the 87th Congress provided that the unincorporated territories of the Virgin Islands and Guam would each be represented in Congress by a territorial deputy to the House of Representatives (87A-D7, H.R. 4752). The 85th Congress (1957-58) saw the introduction of two bills proposing statehood for Alaska and Hawaii: H.R. 49 provided for the admission of the State of Hawaii into the Union, while H.R. 50 concerned statehood for Alaska (85A-D8).

13.117 The massive Central Valley Water Project of California occupied a significant amount of the committee's time. The project's goal was to provide an adequate water supply from northern California to the more populous southern portion of the state by building a system of reservoirs and canals to save and transport water to the south. Information on this project can be found among the committee papers and bill files of several Congresses. The committee papers for the 85th Congress, for example, include two volumes of published documents (85A-F9.3), while the bill files for the 87th Congress also contain information on the project (87A-D7, H.R. 980).

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1 U.S. Congress, House, Constitution, Jefferson's Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives of the United States, Ninetieth Congress, H. Doc. 529, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1967, p. 343.

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-245). By Charles E. Schamel, Mary Rephlo, Rodney Ross, David Kepley, Robert W. Coren, and James Gregory Bradsher. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.