Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 12

Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Predecessor Committees

Committee records discussed in this chapter:

History and Jurisdiction

12.1 This chapter describes the records of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, its predecessors, and other standing committees that had jurisdiction over matters that eventually became consolidated under the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee. The most significant of these predecessor committees is the Committee on Public Lands, but, by virtue of a long-term investigation, 1928-52, the Committee on Indian Affairs has the largest volume of records among the pre-1947 committees. Also described here briefly are records of other predecessor standing committees (on territories, insular possessions, mines and mining, irrigation and reclamation, national resources, the geological survey, and Indian depredation claims) that were eliminated in either 1921 or 1946 by reforms of the committee system.

12.2 There is no published history of any of the committees whose records are described in the following screens.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Public Lands, 14th-66th Congresses (1816-1921)
Records of the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys, 67th-79th Congresses (1921-1946)

12.3 The Committee on Public Lands, one of the original standing committees of the Senate, dates from the December 10, 1816 approval of a Senate resolution introduced by John Barbour of Virginia. Prior to this time, bills, petitions, and memorials relating to public lands were referred to various select committees.

refer to caption

H.R. 125, An Act to Secure Homesteads to Actual Settlers on the Public Domain, referred to the Committee on Public Lands (SEN 37A-C2). RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

12.4 Judging from the volume of early records and from citations in the Senate Journal, the Public Lands Committee was one of the busier and more important committees. One historian has determined that by 1838 Congress had enacted 375 laws dealing with the public domain, and had considered and either reported adversely or simply ignored many more proposed bills. The committee had jurisdiction over all legislative proposals relating to the disposition of the public lands, but it also was responsible for finding legislative remedies to private land disputes involving land grants from other governments. (See also the description of the records of the Committee on Private Land Claims.) Disposition of public lands, in and of itself, was a complex responsibility. In addition to overseeing the activities of the General Land Office, with its system of registers and receivers who served as sales agents of the public lands, and considering bills for general and special preemption laws, bounty lands, and claims, the committee acquired jurisdiction over such matters as aid to educational institutions, and support for railroad construction and other internal improvements. In the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the jurisdiction of the committee was expanded to include responsibility for the national parks system and other national resources, including energy and timber. The 1921 reorganization of Senate committees abolished the Committee on the Geological Survey and transferred its jurisdiction to the renamed Committee on Public Lands and Surveys.

12.5 One of the provisions of the 1946 Legislative Reorganization Act (Public Law 79-601) added to the basic jurisdiction of the Public Lands and Surveys Committee responsibility for mining, irrigation and reclamation, territories and insular possessions, and relations with Indian tribes from the Committees on Mines and Mining, Irrigation and Reclamation, Territories and Insular Affairs, and Indian Affairs, respectively. The new committee was named the Committee on Public Lands. The Senate soon realized that the name of the committee was too limited to describe its actual jurisdiction, and on January 28, 1948, approved S. Res. 179, 80th Cong., which changed the name to the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.

12.6 The records of the Committee on Public Lands (57 ft.) include the following series: Committee reports and papers, 1816-47 (4 ft.); committee papers, 1847-1946 (22 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee, 1816-1946 (26 ft.); legislative dockets, 1867-1917 (20 vols., 2 ft.); legislative calendars, 1913-34 with gaps (9 vols., 5 in.); petition and memorial docket, 1893-95 (1 vol., 1 in.); executive dockets, 1879-1919 with gaps (12 vols., 1 ft.); and minutes, 1892-1946 (1 ft., including 15 vols. and loose papers, 1941-44). Legislative case files on bills and resolutions referred to the committee, 1901-46, are found in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions. Records of the committee for the period January 1947-January 1948 are described in the section of this chapter on records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.

Records of the Committee on Public Lands, 14th-56th Congresses (1816-1901)

12.7 In comparison with other 19th century standing committees, the Public Lands Committee is one of the most thoroughly documented. The records for the 1816-1901 period alone consist of 43 feet of material. There are few Congresses for which there are no records in the principal series, and even among the series of bound records, the gaps in coverage are minor. The unbound records are fairly consistent in format; the committee reports and papers (4 ft.) consist of original and/or printed copies of committee reports on bills, petitions, and memorials referred to the committee and assorted supporting papers. From the 30th through the 56th Congresses (1847-1901), the committee papers (14 ft.) consist largely of legislative case files, arranged by bill number and typically including correspondence and other supporting papers. The committee papers also include papers that are not associated with a particular bill or resolution, original transcripts of hearings that were printed, Presidential messages, and executive communications and reports. The petitions and memorials (23 ft.), especially those prior to 1861, are also occasionally accompanied by supporting papers. One notable feature of the 19th century records is the large number of cartographic items, including many hand drawn or annotated printed land survey maps, which are found in all three series of unbound records. Several documents referred to the Public Lands Committee have been published in the Territorial Papers of the United States, especially for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri.

12.8 The subjects of the records of the Public Lands Committee parallel the development of Government policy toward use of the public domain and the westward expansion of population. By the time the committee was established, Congress had already passed several laws providing special land preemption rights to settlers of certain lands in Illinois, Missouri, and Florida, and had approved private acts to grant land to or otherwise relieve individuals and groups of individuals. Congress also faced the thorny issue of settling disputes over title to lands in the Louisiana Territory granted prior to 1803 by the French and Spanish. Furthermore, in 1816 the General Land Office was also actively selling lands in various Territories, and many records referred to the committee concerned sales of public lands.

refer to caption

Resolution of the General Assembly of Alabama, in favor of the establishment of a land district in the Cherokee purchase in that state, dated December 15, 1841.

12.9 Many of the 19th century petitions and memorials and papers relating to bills in the Public Lands Committee records concern such matters as the administration of land offices, especially the establishment or relocation of the offices, and compensation of the registers and receivers in those offices. Also prominent among the records are those relating to special and general preemption laws, particularly the Distribution-Preemption Act of 1841, which established the policy that up to 160 acres could be purchased at $1.25 per acre and legalized settlement before purchase. Representative of the numerous petitions on this subject is one dated 1839 from 181 citizens of Milwaukee, Wisconsin Territory (25A-G18.1) and one in 1844 from Mormon leaders Lyman Wright and Heber V. Kimball (28A-G17.1). Records relating to preemption and, in the 1850's, to revision of the 1850 bounty land act are common for most of the pre-Civil War Congresses, but not all were referred to the Public Lands Committee; many petitions also on these subjects were "tabled" instead.

12.10 In the years just before the Civil War, homesteading became a dominant issue. Following the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862, one wartime measure considered was to allow homesteading on the confiscated or forfeited lands in insurrectionary districts (38A-H17). After the war, veterans sought legislation to provide special treatment with respect to homesteading, including bounties to those who chose not to homestead (40A-H21, 41A-H21, 42A-H24, 43A-H22, 44A-H21, 48A-H24). Others proposed various steps be taken to assist freedmen to homestead (41A-H21, 41A-H21.2).

12.11 Also found for many Congresses are records relating to individuals or groups of individuals seeking passage of private relief bills. An interesting example is the 1838 petition of Marie Helene America Vespucci, a descendant of Amerigo Vespucci, for a grant of land and American citizenship (25A-G18.2). Cities and towns also sought legislation authorizing the donation or sale of Federal lands for their own public purposes; these petitions frequently were accompanied by maps of the property and other information of local interest. One such 1832 request from sundry citizens of Cook County, IL, contains a map drawn by petitioner James Herrington and other items relating to the history of Chicago in the early 1830's (22A-G16).

12.12 The Senate was also petitioned to grant land for agricultural and especially for educational purposes. For example, in 1821 the committee of superintendence of the East Florida Coffee Land Association sought a grant of land to cultivate tropical plants (17A-G12). In Alabama, a group of French immigrants known as the Tombechbee (Tombigbee) Association, similarly petitioned the Senate for land on which they could cultivate grapes and olives. Accompanying the petition are several exhibits, including a map and list of shareholders in the company, and the committee reported at least one bill in the association's behalf (21A-G17, 23A-E15). The heirs of Dr. Henry Perrine, who had been granted land in Florida for cultivating tropical plants, petitioned Congress for an extension of time to occupy and settle the land that had been granted (30A-H17.2).

12.13 The connection between education and the public lands dates from the Northwest Ordinance of 1785, which, in providing for the division and disposal of public lands, stipulated that section 16 of each township was to be reserved for schools. The Public Lands Committee received numerous petitions and memorials seeking authority to dispose of section 16 lands (25A-G18, 30A-H17, 31A-H19.4, 33A-H19.2, 35A-H17.4). It became commonplace for colleges, universities, and even secondary schools, including private institutions, to request public land for their use, either for the physical site of the school or for sale by the school to raise operating funds or build an endowment. In 1818, for example, the trustees of Vincennes University sought to dispose of its surplus lands to raise money for operating expenses (15A-D12). Other typical requests are an 1828 petition of Philander Chase, president of Kenyon College, in whose behalf at least two bills were introduced (21A-G17); an 1832 memorial of the trustees of the Tuscaloosa Female Academy in Alabama (22A-G16); and an 1834 petition from the trustees of Woodward High School in Cincinnati, OH (23A-G15). Of particular interest are the papers relating to a bill to grant a township of land to the French University of St. Louis (now St. Louis University) that include a printed "catalogue of officers and students" in 1836 (24A-D15). The Senate was occasionally asked to grant land for the purpose of educating the "deaf and dumb" and the blind; as early as 1827, the Ohio Legislature requested such support (19A-G15) and several other States followed suit. In 1862, Congress passed the Morrill Act, setting aside 30,000 acres of land within each State loyal to the Union for the purpose of endowing at least one agricultural university. Curiously, there is no documentation of the Morrill Act in the committee papers for the 37th Congress, although during that Congress, several petitions favoring legislation to donate land for agricultural and mechanical colleges were referred to the committee (37A-H15). After 1862, such petitions and memorials gradually diminished in number.

12.14 Records of the committee also illustrate how the public domain was used to encourage internal improvements such as canals, roads, and especially, railroads, by providing grants of land and rights-of-way through public lands. Prior to 1850, there are several petitions and memorials in favor of grants to specific canal and road projects or companies; examples include a petition of 225 citizens of Peoria, IL, in support of the Illinois and Michigan Canal (27A-G18) and memorials dated 1840 in favor of aid for the Portsmouth and Ohio Turnpike (26A-G17.1). In later years, such petitions and memorials called for the construction of military roads. Petitions on behalf of canal and road projects were outnumbered easily, however, by those on behalf or in support of land grants to aid the construction of railroads. Beginning in the late 1840's, with proposals by Asa Whitney and others for using public lands to help finance the construction of a transcontinental railroad (29A-G19), the committee received hundreds of petitions and memorials promoting various railroad projects (30A-H17.1, 31A-H19.3, 32A-H20.2, 33A-H19.1, 34A-H20.1, 35A-H17.3, 36A-H16.1, 39A-H20). Occasionally the Senate considered legislation, such as S. 119, 37th Cong., to confirm a land claim in the States of Iowa and Minnesota, that actually proposed to resolve a dispute over title to railroad lands, in this case between the Dubuque and Pacific Railroad and Edward Litchfield (36A-H16.1, 37A-E12). After the Civil War, support for such grants diminished in some quarters because some railroads for which lands were granted were never constructed and settlers along the rights-of-way wanted the lands put to other use. In other instances, railroad company policies and practices were perceived as detrimental to settlers along the road (40A-H21, 41A-H21.1, 42A-H24.1, 44A-H21, 46A-H21, 47A-H25, 49A-H23). Forfeiture of railroad grants that had not been strictly complied with became an issue during the organized farm movement in the 1890's (52A-J24, 53A-J31).

12.15 In addition to homesteading, private land claims, land grant colleges, internal improvements, and other subjects discussed above, the post-Civil War records also concern national parks, timber laws, irrigation, and reclamation. Records on these subjects are found among the committee papers and petitions and memorials of many Congresses; however, one file is worthy of special mention. In 1890, the committee investigated charges of mismanagement of the Yosemite Valley by the State of California. Among the records accumulated as part of the investigation is a volume of copies of letters from various sources, several printed items, and 23 photographs showing conditions in the Yosemite Park in the late 1880's that were taken by C.D. Robinson, a professional photographer and one of the instigators of the investigation (52A-F24).

12.16 Other noteworthy records of the committee are correspondence, affidavits, petitions, and printed matter relating to a timber claim and the Kaweah Colony, a late 19th century socialist/anarchist cooperative in Tulare County, CA (52A-F24, 53A-J31); papers relating to S. 2038, 53d Cong., for relief of Oklahoma settlers known as "sooners" (53A-F29); and papers, including a photograph, relating to S. 699, 56th Cong., to authorize the purchase of lands in the District of Alaska claimed by the Karluk Packing Company on Kodiak Island (56A-F34).

refer to caption

Petition from the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society against the Raker Bill, which called for a dam to be built across the Hetch Hetchy Valley (SEN63A-F26). RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

12.17 Other committee records covering the 1816-1901 period are legislative dockets, 1867-1901 (12 vols., 1 ft.); the petition and memorial docket, 1893-95, (1 vol., 1 in.); executive dockets, 1879-1901 with gaps (5 vols., 7 in.); and minutes, 1892-1901 (3 vols., 2 in.).

Records of the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys, 57th-79th Congresses (1901-1946)

12.18 The records of the Public Lands Committee for this period consist of 14 feet of material. Most of the committee papers (8 ft.) prior to the mid-1930's are originals or copies of executive communications, chiefly from the Secretary of the Interior and his assistants. Dispersed throughout, however, are some interesting exceptions, including executive session transcripts, records of investigative subcommittees, unbound minutes of committee meetings, and miscellaneous reports and correspondence. Unprinted transcripts document a meeting in 1937 relating to the settlement of the estate of Edward L. Doheny, one of the principals in the Teapot Dome scandal in 1923-24 (75A-F22), and hearings from the 1941 investigation of J. Ross Eakin, the superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (77A-F27). Investigative records in the committee papers include copies of contracts relating to Naval Oil Reserves No. 1 and No. 2 that the committee acquired during the Teapot Dome investigation (67A-F22) and subject files of the Subcommittee to Investigate the Potash Industry, 1935-41, pursuant to S. Res. 274, 74th Cong. (76A-F22). Also among the committee papers are minutes of committee meetings, 1939-44 (76A-F22, 77A-F27, 78A-F27), which are missing from the bound set of minutes. Among the more extensive files containing correspondence and reports are those relating to enlargement of the Olympic National Park in Washington, 1936-39, and to the feasibility of establishing a national park at the Royal Gorge in Colorado, 1939-40 (76A-F22). The Olympic National Park file includes a report of a private consultant that contains numerous photographs and maps.

12.19 Petitions and memorials (3 ft.) concern a variety of subjects, including several homesteading issues (57A-J62, 59A-J101, 62A-J79), the establishment and protection of national parks (numerous Congresses), reclamation (62A-J79, 66A-J54), water power (64A-J72, 65A-J53), and the leasing and control of range lands (59A-J102, 62A-J79, 69A-J37). Protests over the Hetch-Hetchy Valley water project, which imperiled the Yosemite Valley, are found in the committee papers (63A-F26) and tabled petitions (63A-K8) for the 63d Congress, rather than in this series.

12.20 Among the bound minutes is a separate volume for the meetings and hearings of the investigative subcommittee on the Teapot Dome scandal during the 67th and 68th Congresses (1923-24). These minutes and the copies of contracts described above are the only unpublished records on the Teapot Dome investigation found in Senate records. Overall, the committee minutes, 1901-46 (1 ft.), consist of loose papers for the 76th to 78th Congresses, 1938-44, and 12 volumes. The minutes for the 65th Congress (1917-19) and the 75th Congress (1937-38) are missing.

12.21 In addition to the series mentioned above, the committee records for the 1901-46 period also include the legislative calendars, 1913-34 with gaps (9 vols., 5 in.); legislative dockets, 1901-17 (8 vols., 8 in.); and executive dockets, 1901-19 (7 vols., 7 in.).

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on the Geological Survey, 56th-67th Congresses (1899-1921)

12.22 The Committee on the Geological Survey was established on December 15, 1899, by Senate resolution. It succeeded a select committee that investigated the U.S. Geological Survey, the agency responsible for the classification of public lands and the examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain. Although the committee existed for more than 20 years, extant committee papers, 1905-7, and petitions and memorials referred to the committee, 1905-09, comprise less than ½ inch of material. Additional records may be found in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions, 1901-46, and among printed Senate reports and documents in the Congressional Serial Set. The committee was terminated April 18, 1921, pursuant to S. Res. 43, 67th Cong., as part of the large reduction in Senate standing and select committees.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Indian Affairs, 16th-79th Congresses (1820-1946)

12.23 The Committee on Indian Affairs was established by a Senate resolution introduced by Walter Leake of Mississippi on January 3, 1820. Prior to the creation of the standing committee, matters relating to Indian affairs were considered by various select committees, such as the Select Committee on the Extinguishment of Indian Title to Certain Lands, which existed for approximately two weeks in 1818 (15th Cong.). Once established, the standing Committee on Indian Affairs met during each Congress until it was eliminated by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. Between 1820 and 1946, numerous select committees on specific Indian-related issues were established, but of these, only the Select Committee on Indian Depredations, 1889-1893, left unprinted records. This select committee became the Committee on Indian Depredations in 1893.

12.24 The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 terminated the Committee on Indian Affairs and assigned legislative responsibility for Indian-related matters to the Committee on Public Lands (in 1948, the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs), which maintained a subcommittee on Indian affairs. When the Senate committee system was reorganized once again in 1977, the Senate established the Select Committee on Indian Affairs, which still exists.

12.25 Records of the Committee on Indian Affairs (96 ft.) include committee reports and papers, 1820-47 (2 ft.); committee papers, 1847-1946 (80 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee, 1820-1946 (13 ft.); legislative dockets, 1848-65, 1881-85 (4 vols., 4 in.); minutes, 1873-1918 with gaps (10 vols., 10 in.); executive dockets, 1889-1911 with gaps (3 vols., 3 in.); and indexes to petitions and memorials, 1903-13 (2 vols., 2 in.). Two-thirds of the records date from the 1928-46 period when the committee, pursuant to S. Res. 79, 70th Cong., conducted a broad investigation of Federal policy toward Indians. The investigation continued under various other resolutions until 1952. In addition to these records, legislative case files on bills and resolutions referred to the committee, 1901-46, are found in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions ("accompanying papers"). Several other committees, including Appropriations, Claims, Finance, Military Affairs, and Public Lands, also received and reported on bills affecting Indians.

Records of Treaty Files, 1st-41st Congresses (1789-1871)

12.26 From 1789 until 1849 when the Department of the Interior was established, the War Department supervised the negotiation of treaties by special commissioners acting for the President. Responsibility for the management of Indian affairs, including the negotiation of treaties, was transferred to the new Department of the Interior in 1849. The last Indian treaty that the Senate ratified was concluded with the Nez Perce tribe and signed on April 13, 1868. The Indian Appropriation Act approved on January 3, 1871, eliminated the practice of dealing with the tribes as independent nations. As a result, the Federal Government made no new treaties with the Indians, but kept existing treaties intact.

12.27 The original ratified treaties are in Record Group 11, General Records of the United States Government, as part of the series Treaties with Indian Tribes and Related Papers. These records have been microfilmed as National Archives Microfilm Publication M668, Ratified Indian Treaties, 1722-1869, 16 rolls. Most unratified treaties are among the executive proceedings of the Senate that include Presidential messages and accompanying documents pertaining to Indian treaties.

Records of the Committee on Indian Affairs, 16th-41st Congresses (1820-1871)

refer to caption

Senate Joint Resolution Directing an Inquiry into the Conditions of Indian Tribes, dated March 3, 1865. RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

12.28 The early records of the committee relate to a variety of subjects, including the negotiation and implementation of treaties; the conditions of various tribes; claims of individuals for funds and supplies advanced to the Indians; claims of Indians against whites; the role of Indians in the fur trade; the acquisition and sale of Indian lands; the removal of Indians from lands east of the Mississippi River; and the administration of the Office of Indian Affairs, the agency directly responsible for most of the Federal Government's relations with the Indians. The committee reports and papers (2 ft.) for each Congress from the 16th through the 29th are arranged chronologically by date of receipt. From the 30th through the 41st Congresses (1847-71), most committee papers (3 ft.) are arranged numerically by bill number for each Congress; records not associated with a particular bill or resolution are arranged chronologically by date of referral. Correspondence with various Departments of the executive branch is dispersed throughout the files.

12.29 Typical of some of the documents among the committee papers are a lengthy 1829 report on the status of the fur trade that includes an "Extract from Sir Alexander McKenzie's History of the Fur Trade 1793" (20A-D6); a transcript of Thomas L. McKenney's talk in 1831 with the Creek Indians about a tract of land claimed by Georgia that illustrates the general tone and language adopted by Federal officials when negotiating with the Indians (21A-D7); and a 14-page report prepared by the committee in 1836 in connection with a proposed supplement to the act of May 28, 1830, that had provided "for an exchange of lands with the Indians residing in any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi," thereby formalizing the policy of Indian removal (24A-D7).

12.30 The petitions and memorials received by the committee (5 ft.) reflect the controversial nature of the removal proposal. The concept of Indian removal and an exchange of lands on a more or less voluntary basis was first stated in the act of March 26, 1804, but the 1830 act provoked strong public reaction. Numerous petitions came from whites who advocated removal, from whites who protested the removal on moral grounds (mostly religious societies who petitioned on behalf of the Indians), and from Indians who unsuccessfully opposed implementation of the policy. In 1846, the committee received a memorial from John Ross and other Cherokee leaders concerning the tribe's relationship with the United States and the problems the tribe had encountered after their forced removal to the west (29A-G7.2). In 1870, leaders of the Cherokees and several other tribes protested a bill, S. 679, 41st Cong., which called for the establishment of the Territory of Oklahoma and the consolidation of the Indian tribes under a Territorial government (41A-H9).

12.31 Many of the early petitions and memorials received from whites and Indians alike concern Indian treaties and the appropriation of lands from and for the Indians. Numerous white groups submitted petitions protesting the abrogation of treaties. One such 1846 petition on behalf of the Seneca Indians in New York contains the signature of Noah Webster (29A-G7). Petitions concerning disputes over boundaries of Indian reservations are useful in interpreting the relationships between Indians and their white neighbors.

12.32 By the 1840's the records begin to reflect the dissatisfaction on the part of some employees of the Office of Indian Affairs who, for one reason or another, were having trouble collecting funds due them for their services. Many of these petitioners wrote letters to the committee and the War and Interior Departments requesting payment, supporting their claims with affidavits, copies of letters, lists of expenses, and vouchers. In some instances, petitions were submitted on behalf of deceased employees, such as John B. Hogan, a Commissioner to investigate frauds on the Creek Indians, and William Armstrong, Indian agent for the Choctaws (30A-H7). Occasionally, agents submitted claims for damages caused by the Indians they served. An interesting variation is a petition from Thomas Galbraith, the agent for the Sioux in Minnesota, who asked that he not be held responsible for Government property lost when the Indians sacked agency buildings in August, 1862 (38A-H7). Many of the Indians who participated in the Sioux uprising were tried by a military commission; the transcript of the hearings is among the Presidential messages for the 37th Congress (37A-F2).

12.33 The records of the committee contain three legislative dockets for 1848-55, 1856-63, and 1863-65. Entries in the dockets are arranged chronologically, showing who presented a bill to the Senate, the subject referred, and the date of referral, and providing subcommittee information and additional remarks.

Records of the Committee of Indian Affairs, 42nd-57th Congresses (1871-1901)

12.34 The committee papers of the late 19th century (17 ft.) contain documents that illustrate the administrative control the Federal Government exercised in dealing with the Indians. Most of the records consist of printed bills, but there is a substantial amount of correspondence as well. Included in the correspondence are letters of reference and recommendations for several individuals seeking employment as Indian agents and a letter from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior regarding the appointment of a superintendent of education for the Indians (43A-E7).

12.35 Most of the records are arranged numerically by bill number, but there are small quantities of records that have no discernible arrangement. Throughout the records for this period are hand-drawn maps of sections of the States and Territories showing the location of Indian reservations (45A-E8, 47A-E10, 48A-E11, 50A-F11, 51A-F14, 52A-F13). The committee used the maps to review boundary disputes, homestead rights, Indian claims, and public surveys for railroads and waterways. The committee also had at its disposal statistical reports showing for each tribe the amount of agricultural produce raised, timber cut, livestock owned, acres cultivated, and acres occupied by whites (43A-E7, 45A-E8).

12.36 Much of the correspondence in these files addresses the problems that resulted from the Federal Government's sale of Indian land to whites for settlement and development. The correspondence is between executive Departments, the committee, and independent groups acting on the Indians' behalf, for example, the Indian Citizenship Association (52A-F13). Several messages signed by President Chester A. Arthur accompany letters between the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Secretary of the Interior regarding Indian land sales (47A-E10).

12.37 Increasingly, the types of records referred to the committee provide information about the duties of the Indian agents and the many activities involved in their administration of Federal Indian policy. Periodic inspections and investigations of conditions on the various reservations often afforded the Indians an opportunity to express their views, and they produced case files that may include reports, transcripts of interviews, affidavits, and similar records testifying to the success or failure of the Government officials and the policies they attempted to implement (48A-E11, 55A-F12). A typical document is a 29-page report entitled "Agents and Agencies" that begins with a general discussion of the attributes of a successful agent and continues with sections on the following subjects: Indian police, Indian soldiers, surveys, irrigation, agriculture and implements, stock, game, rations, annuity goods, clothing, blankets, schools and education, hospitals, the field matron system, dances, and treaties (52A-F13). This particular report was prepared by commissioners appointed in 1891 to adjust the differences between the Sioux Indians on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations.

12.38 Collectively, the petitions and memorials for the late 19th century amount to approximately 5 feet of documents, but for most Congresses the files are relatively sparse. An exception is the 53d Congress (1893-95), when the committee received numerous petitions and memorials (1 ft.) protesting Government support of Indian sectarian schools as a violation of the principle of separation of church and state. For the most part, however, the majority of records in this period concern efforts to open for public entry lands in Indian territory and on Indian reservations. Individuals and groups of whites sometimes submitted petitions urging the Federal Government to permit Indians to own their reservations and to establish schools for Indian children (46A-H10, 48A-H12). One unusual petition was received in 1880 from a group of Coloradoans requesting that a section of land on the Ute reservation in Colorado be given to Susan, wife of Chief Johnson, for her "kindness to the whites" who had been taken captive during the Meeker massacre at White River in 1879 (46A-H10).

12.39 The minutes, 1873-1901 (5 vols.), are inconsistent in their coverage. The most thorough accounts are in the books covering 1873-75, 1891-93, and 1899-1901. There is also a volume containing the minutes for Henry Dawes' 1885 subcommittee to determine the condition of the tribes in the Indian territory and their policies for leasing lands, but it contains very little substantive information. A legislative docket for 1881-85 also contains few notations.

12.40 An executive docket from the 1889-97 period contains a register of nominations and appointments to positions such as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Superintendent of Indian Schools, inspector, and agent. The entries are arranged chronologically and give the date of nomination and sometimes date of confirmation, but little, if any, background information on the nominees is provided. The docket includes an index.

Records of the Committee on Indian Affairs, 57th-79th Congresses (1901-1946)

12.41 The records of the committee for this period total approximately 65 feet, but the bulk of the records (58 ft.) relate to the committee's investigative subcommittee which conducted a long-term study of the operations of the Office of Indian Affairs. The subcommittee's records are described below (see paras. 12.45-12.47).

12.42 Those committee papers for 1901-46 (5 ft.) that are not filed with the records of the subcommittee do not include the extensive case files prevalent at the end of the 19th century, chiefly because bills and resolutions beginning with the 57th Congress (1901-03) are in a separate series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions. Accordingly, the papers for each Congress tend to be arranged chronologically by date of referral rather than numerically by bill number. The correspondence in this period comes from a great variety of sources, among them Indians, Government employees who worked with Indians, and officials of various executive Departments. Fewer documents than previously relate to claims. There are records concerning irrigation projects on reservations (66A-F9), expenditures at Indian schools and agencies (70A-F10), and Indian protests against Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier (77A-F13). The papers even include some minutes of meetings held by Indians on the reservations (66A-F9).

12.43 The petitions and memorials (2 ft.) deal with social issues such as education, allotments in severalty, temperance instruction, and voting rights. A 1906 memorial of the Indian Industries League describes various groups that helped the Indians in assimilation efforts (59A-J50). A 1908 petition from the president of the Chicago Historical Society urges that the Bureau of American Ethnology collect and publish information relating to extinct and endangered languages (60A-J45). Protests against an address presented by Commissioner John Collier at the National Conference of Social Work in 1933 are also included (73A-J26) There are two volumes of indexes to petitions and memorials for 1903-13.

12.44 Five volumes of minutes covering 1902-11 and 1914-19 usually provide detailed discussion of bills and hearings. Other bound records include two executive dockets, 1901-11, containing information relating to personnel actions in the Office of Indian Affairs.

Records of the Indian Affairs Investigating Subcommittee

12.45 On February 1, 1928, the Senate passed S.Res.79, 70th Cong., which authorized the Committee on Indian Affairs to survey conditions of the Indians and laws affecting them. The committee also was authorized to evaluate the operations of the Office of Indian Affairs and report on abuses that needed correction and laws that needed change to "promote the security, economic competence, and progress of the Indians." To carry out this mandate, the Committee on Indian Affairs established an investigative subcommittee. This subcommittee survived its parent committee, operating under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Public Lands, 1947-48, and the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 1948-52. The records of the subcommittee cover the period 1928-53 and form a separate collection among the committee papers of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs for the 83d Congress.

12.46 The committee papers are arranged in three segments: A general subject file (12 ft.), arranged alphabetically by subject, including substantial files on Indian appropriations, 1931-1953, investigators' notes and data, 1930-50, and files on the Indian Reorganization Act (Wheeler-Howard) Act of 1934; a geographic file (45 ft.), arranged by State or Territory, thereunder by tribe or other subject; and records relating to a "Silver Investigation" (1 ft.). A folder title list is available for these records.

12.47 In large measure these records owe their existence to Alfred A. Grorud, a longtime committee staff member through three decades, from the 1930's through the 1950's. His correspondence reveals much of the history of the relationship between Indians and the Federal Government. One folder, "Report of Past Work and Statement of Unfinished Work," is helpful in understanding the history of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and in analyzing Federal policy toward Indians. The records also contain a 1948 analysis by Senator Hugh Butler of Nebraska entitled "Fractionated Indian Heirship Lands," which is critical of the Bureau (formerly Office) of Indian Affairs, and several memos and letters that cite poor living conditions on Indian reservations and inadequate administrative procedures in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These records reflect the attempts to restructure Federal policy toward the Indians.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Indian Depredations, 53rd-67th Congresses (1893-1921)

12.48 The Committee on Indian Depredations was created by a Senate resolution on March 15, 1893, and superseded a select committee on Indian depredations that had been established in 1889 to deal with the increased volume of Indian depredation claims. The committee was terminated by approval of S. Res. 43, 67th Cong., on April 18, 1921, which also eliminated many other obsolete standing and select committees.

12.49 The records of the standing committee (4 in.) consist of committee papers, 1893-1905 (3 in.), and petitions and memorials referred to the committee, 1893-1901 (1 in.). The committee papers contain executive and other correspondence referring to the Indian Depredation Act passed on March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. 851), which established the Office of the Assistant Attorney General to oversee claims cases. The committee papers include a list of suggestions concerning committee investigations and a list of judgments in claims cases (53A-F14). Legislative case files on bills referred to the committee, 1901-21, are in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions.

12.50 The petitions and memorials also concern administration of the Indian Depredation Act. Most petitioners requested that claims for crimes committed during wartime be considered eligible, because the act stipulated that only depredations committed in times of peace with the Indians could be considered for claims.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Territories, 28th-67th Congresses (1844-1921)

refer to caption

Memorial of the Commissioners appointed by the Convention of West Virginia praying for the admission of that State into the Union, dated May 31 1862. RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

12.51 The Committee on Territories was established on March 28, 1844, following approval of a Senate resolution that Arthur P. Bagby had introduced 2 weeks earlier, in the midst of the heated debate over Oregon and the United States' dispute with Great Britain. Bagby's reason for introducing the resolution is not explicit in the debates of the Senate, but the mid-1840's were marked by intense congressional interest in westward expansion and the establishment of civil government in the Territories. As the Territories became States, the committee's real areas of interest diminished until the only non-island Territory remaining under its jurisdiction was Alaska. Other committees oversaw legislative matters in other U.S. territories. In 1921, many committees were eliminated by the Senate; among them were Committees on the Pacific Islands and Puerto Rico and on the Philippines, whose areas of jurisdiction were combined with those of the Committee on Territories to form the Committee on Territories and Insular Possessions, soon to be renamed the Committee on Territories and Insular Affairs.

12.52 The records of the committee (7 ft.) consist of committee reports, 1844-47 (¼ in.); committee papers, 1849-1920 (2 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State and Territorial legislatures referred to the committee, 1844-1919 (5 ft.); and minutes, 1874-75 (1 vol., ½ in.). Legislative case files, 1901-21, are in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions.

12.53 There are very few committee reports and committee papers from the Civil War period and earlier. Legislative case files on S. 239, 35th Cong., and S. 365, 37th Cong., however, contain printed material on bills proposing to admit Oregon and West Virginia, respectively, to statehood (35A-E14, 37A-E13). Petitions and memorials referred to the committee during this period are more numerous and cover a broader range of subjects, including the colonization of Oregon (29A-G23, 30A-H20); the extension of slavery into the Territories and the enforcement of fugitive slave laws (31A-H22); the creation of Territories (Nebraska: 32A-H23; Dakota: 35A-H19; Arizona: 35A-H19; Jefferson: 36A-H18) and admission of new States (Utah or Deseret: 32A-H23, 35A-H19, 36A-H18, 37A-H17; California: 31A-H22; Kansas: 34A-H23); and changes in boundaries, such as extending the boundary of Iowa westward to the Missouri River at the expense of the Minnesota Territory (34A-H23).

refer to caption

S. 956, A Bill Providing for the Election of Delegates to the House of Representatives from the District of Alaska (SEN59A-B6). RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

12.54 The post-Civil War committee papers are also fragmentary, consisting of legislative case files on bills referred to the committee, executive communications, printed materials, and correspondence on various subjects. Included is correspondence of Selucius Garfielde, the delegate to Congress from Washington Territory, concerning a political dispute within the Republican Party, 1869-70 (41A-E20), and correspondence relating to the New Mexico election and referendum on statehood, 1911 (61A-F29). There also are several noteworthy items or files relating to Alaska. Among these are papers relating to a bill on the courts, S. 153, 47th Cong., which include correspondence and a report from Henry W. Elliott of the Smithsonian Institution entitled "A Synopsis of the Status of Alaska in 1880-81," and to S. 360, 47th Cong., which includes a War Department recommendation about a proposed scientific exploration of the Territory (47A-E24); numerous legislative case files referred during the 55th Congress; copies of 2 issues of a newspaper, The Alaska Miner for 1897 (55A-F29); and an unprinted report of the Alaskan Engineering Commission, 1918-19, containing over 30 photographic illustrations (66A-F23).

12.55 The post-Civil War petitions and memorials referred to the Committee on Territories most frequently concern the following subjects: The establishment of Territorial government; matters such as road construction and boundary changes; and the admission of new States. Statehood for Utah was an especially controversial issue that generated petitions dating from the late 1850's until 1896 when Utah finally was admitted to the Union (35A-H19, 37A-H17, 42A-H27, 44A-H24, 47A-H28, 48A-H27, 50A-J27.2, 51A-J28, 53A-J43). Because of the tie between suffrage and statehood, several petitions and memorials related to woman suffrage. One of the more interesting documents is a petition from women residents of Utah and members of the Mormon Church, objecting to the admission of Utah as a State, because they opposed Brigham Young and the workings of the Mormon priesthood. The petition cited the "personal and very bitter experience of the practical workings of polygamy" (42A-H27). Other petitioners opposed statehood bills that limited suffrage in new Territories or proposed States (43A-H26, 47A-H28, 50A-J27.3, 58A-J76).

12.56 The records of the committee also include petitions, memorials, and resolutions concerning statehood for Idaho (51A-J28), Oklahoma (57A-J68, 58A-J76), and New Mexico and Arizona (58A-J77, 59A-J105, 59A-J106, 60A-J125). One particularly interesting document is a memorial from the Ex-Slave Association of Ardmore, Indian Territory, dated January 22, 1903, in which the signers expressed their fear that statehood for Oklahoma would cost them their liberties (57A-J68). Numerous petitions and memorials concerning the government, settlement, and development of the Alaska Territory are also among the records of the Committee on Territories (41A-H24, 44A-H24, 47A-H28, 49A-H25.1, 50A-J27, 52A-J25.1, 55A-J33, 57A-J67, 59A-J104, 63A-J84, 65A-J55).

12.57 There is only one volume of minutes of committee meetings, February 1874-January 1875, and the informational content is slight. For some unknown reason, this volume also contains minutes of the Select Committee to Investigate the Memorial of Davis Hatch, January 8-24, 1870. An American agent for a salt mining company, Hatch was caught up in a revolution and imprisoned in the Dominican Republic in 1869, and he subsequently memorialized Congress to obtain his release.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Pacific Islands and Puerto Rico, 56th-66th Congresses (1899-1920)
Records of the Committee on Pacific Islands Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, 66th-67th (1920-1921)

12.58 The Committee on Pacific Islands and Puerto Rico was established by Senate resolution on December 15, 1899, during a critical period in the expansion of American influence in the Pacific and Caribbean areas. The focus of the committee was almost exclusively on legal matters and economic development in the Hawaiian Islands and Puerto Rico. On February 5, 1920, the U.S. Virgin Islands were added to the jurisdiction and the committee was renamed the Committee on Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The committee was terminated April 18, 1921, by S. Res. 43, 67th Cong., and its jurisdiction transferred to the new Committee on Territories and Insular Possessions.

12.59 The records of the committee (4 ft.) include committee papers, 1900-20 (3 ft.), and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of various bodies referred to the committee, 1899-1920 (1 ft.). Records relating to bills and resolutions referred to the committee, 1901-21, may be found in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions.

12.60 Among the committee papers, comprised of a mixture of loose papers and bound volumes, are correspondence of the chairman, Joseph Foraker of Ohio, 1905-12 (62A-F17, 9 in.); minutes, January-June 1900 and December 1909-February 1910 (1 vol. and loose papers, 3/4 in., 56A-F25, 61A-F20); executive docket, 1900-11 (1 vol., 1 in., 61A-F20); legislative docket, 1899-1911 (1 vol., 1 in., 61A-F20); a combined legislative and executive docket and minute book, 1913-20 (1 vol., 1 in., 66A-F15); miscellaneous subject files; and Presidential messages and executive communications, printed as House or Senate documents (most Congresses). Also included are printed or carbon copies of laws of Hawaii and Puerto Rico, a journal of Puerto Rico's Executive Council, and the journals of Puerto Rico's House of Delegates (numerous Congresses). Individual documents of interest are a letter from Susan B. Anthony to Senator Thomas C. Platt requesting omission of the word "male" from suffrage laws framed for new possessions (56A-F25), a report on the treatment of Puerto Ricans taken to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations (57A-F21), and papers relating to the 1902 election riots in Puerto Rico (57A-F21).

12.61 Petitions and memorials concern reforms and causes such as prohibition in Hawaii (56A-J27.1, 61A-J71, 64A-J61) and woman suffrage (56A-J27.2); citizenship for Puerto Ricans (58A-J55, 59A-J78, 60A-J97); Hawaiian statehood (66A-J46); and economic issues such as development of the islands and the protection of U.S. industries from island products and manufactures (numerous Congresses).

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on the Philippines, 56th-67th Congresses (1899-1921)

12.62 The Committee on the Philippines was established on December 15, 1899, by Senate resolution, although the treaty of December 10, 1899, by which Spain had ceded the Philippines to the United States as part of the settlement of the Spanish-American War had not yet been ratified. At the time of the creation of the committee, the Philippines were in a state of civil turmoil that greatly concerned the Senate, where a debate raged between those who wished to extend U.S. sovereignty over the Filipinos and the so-called anti-imperialists. Like the Committee on Pacific Islands and Puerto Rico, the Committee on the Philippines focused on legal and economic matters: Philippine independence, administration by the Philippine Commission, and trade issues. Matters relating to the suppression of the Philippine insurrection were often referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. In 1921, the Committee on the Philippines was terminated and jurisdiction over legislative matters concerning the Philippines was transferred to the newly created Committee on Territories and Insular Possessions.

12.63 Records of the committee (2 ft.) include committee papers, 1899-1919 (1 ft.), and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of various Government bodies that were referred to the committee, 1899-1920 with gaps (1 ft.). Legislative case files on bills and resolutions referred to the committee, 1901-21, are in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions. The committee papers consist primarily of correspondence of Chairman Gilbert M. Hitchcock of Nebraska, 1913-18 (3 in., 63A-F21, 64A-F18, 65A-F15); various printed reports of the Philippine Commission; miscellaneous Senate resolutions relating to committee activities; and Presidential messages and executive communications, most of which were printed as House or Senate documents. Many petitions and memorials referred to the committee express anti-imperialist opinions, opinions that also were voiced by George F. Hoar of Massachusetts, the faction's leading spokesman in the Senate (56A-J30). About half of the petitions are protests from U.S. cigar makers against H.R. 3, 59th Cong., a bill to reduce the duty on cigars (59A-J84). Other petitions and memorials concern Philippine independence, prohibition, and a variety of trade issues.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Territories and Insular Possessions, 67th-70th (1921-1929)
Records of the Committee on Territories and Insular Affairs, 71st-79th (1929-1946)

12.64 The Committee on Territories and Insular Affairs was established on April 18, 1921, with the adoption of S. Res. 43, 67th Cong., which eliminated many standing and select committees, including the Committee on the Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, and the Committee on the Philippines. Legislative responsibility for these areas was transferred to the Committee on Territories, which was renamed the Committee on Territories and Insular Possessions. On June 17, 1929, the Senate approved S. Res. 55, 71st Cong., which changed the name to the Committee on Territories and Insular Affairs, but left the jurisdiction intact. As a result of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, the legislative responsibilities of the committee were assigned to an expanded Committee on Public Lands, which in 1947 became the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.

12.65 The records of the committee (18 ft.) consist of committee papers, 1923-46 (16 ft.), and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of Government bodies, 1923-46 (2 ft.). Legislative case files are in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions. There are no records for the 67th Congress (1921-23).

12.66 The committee papers for the 68th-72d Congresses consist chiefly of Presidential messages and executive communications about the administration of governments in Puerto Rico and the Philippines, annual reports of the Governor of Puerto Rico, and copies of laws passed by the legislative bodies of both countries. Also included are papers submitted by the American Federation of Labor supporting the protests of workers in Puerto Rico against the alleged frauds and violence committed during the election in November, 1924 (68A-F20). Beginning with the 73d Congress (1933-34), the records for each Congress include correspondence of the committee chairman and clerk, which is arranged alphabetically by territory (Alaska, Hawaii, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Samoa, and Virgin Islands). The quantity of correspondence varies from Congress to Congress, with the greatest amount existing for the 78th and 79th Congresses (78A-F29, 79A-F28). The emphasis of the correspondence for these two Congresses, 1943-46, is on the Philippines: The Japanese occupation, the government in exile, postwar reconstruction and rehabilitation, and claims that were championed by the committee chairman, Millard Tydings of Maryland. The committee papers also include printed material such as newspaper clippings, committee prints, legislative calendars, committee reports and documents, and bills. Also included is a small file on S. 1078, 80th Cong., a bill to provide a civil government for the island of Guam (79A-F28).

12.67 The petitions, memorials, and resolutions referred to the committee consist largely of resolutions and memorials of the legislative assemblies of various territories concerning political and economic relations with the United States. Examples include resolutions from several provincial and municipal governments in the Philippines favoring complete independence and withdrawal of U.S. troops, 1925-31 (69A-J38, 71A-J56). For most Congresses, 1931-46, the series is arranged by territory and thereunder chronologically.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Mines and Mining, 39th-79th Congresses (1865-1946)

12.68 The Committee on Mines and Mining was established on December 6, 1865, by the Senate resolution establishing the standing committees of the Senate for the 39th Congress. The new committee was responsible for most legislation concerning the regulation of mines and mining operations, although the Committee on Public Lands retained jurisdiction over mineral rights on public lands. The committee was terminated by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 and its legislative responsibilities were transferred to the Committee on Public Lands and then to the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.

12.69 Records of the committee (2 ft.) are fragmentary. The committee papers, 1873-1946 (1 ft.), contain a number of informative legislative case files for the 43d Congress (1873-75), in particular S. 16 relating to the Sutro Tunnel in the Comstock Lode (43A-E11). For other 19th-century Congresses, however, there are few files as instructive. There are no papers at all for the periods 1875-1887 and 1901-1917. After 1901, legislative case files for bills referred to the committee are in the series of papers relating to specific bills and resolutions. From 1922 through 1941, the committee received reports on implementation of the War Minerals Relief Act. In general, however, there is relatively little correspondence for the period 1933-46, and the papers contain only a few Presidential messages, executive communications, and reports on subjects such as the interstate compact to conserve oil and gas and the Federal Anthracite Commission (1942).

12.70 Although few in number, petitions and memorials referred to the committee, 1866-1944 (1 ft.), concern issues relating to general mining law, economics and safety, and specific mining claims. Miners were particularly interested in establishing and protecting title to their claims, which were threatened by bills such as S. 16, 43d Cong., which concerned claims on the Comstock Lode. A large petition submitted in 1874 by residents of the towns of Virginia City and Gold Hill, NV, who opposed the bill, not only lists the names but also the occupations of the signers (43A-H13). Beginning in 1908, a growing articulation of miners' concern for their health, safety, and economic well-being is expressed in their petitions for a law to provide compensation for mine injuries (60A-J88); for investigations of unsafe working conditions in mines operated by the Treadwell Mining Company in Alaska (60A-J89) and the anthracite coal industry, which had been struck in 1925 (69A-J28); and for the establishment of a bureau of mines, 1910-11 (61A-J65).

12.71 The records also include minutes, 1933-38 (1 vol., 1 in.), which document committee meetings during the 73d-75th Congresses. They are, however, very brief and contain little information beyond listing the items discussed.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation of Arid Lands, 52nd-66th Congresses (1891-1921)
Records of the Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation, 67th-79th Congresses (1921-1946)

refer to caption

Resolution, "Protest Against Diversion of Waters from Lands Requiring Irrigation," from Citizens of Merced and Stanislaus Counties, California, dated May 30, 1913 (SEN 63A-F26). RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives.

12.72 The Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation of Arid Lands was established on December 16, 1891, succeeding a select committee that had been established during the 2d session of the 50th Congress (1889) to investigate the best means for irrigating arid lands. The committee's name was shortened to Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation in 1921. It remained a standing committee until the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 assigned its functions to the Committee on Public Lands.

12.73 Only a small number of petitions and memorials were referred to the select committee during the 51st Congress (1889-91), and no unprinted records of the standing committee exist before 1894. The records (4 ft.) consist of committee papers, 1899-1946 (2 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures, 1894-1946 (1 ft.); minutes, 1903-1946 (3 in., including 2 vol., 1903-26, 1937-46, and unbound records, 1929-33); legislative dockets, 1903-30 (3 vol., 4 in.); and a digest of legislative action, 1925-31 (1 vol., 1 in.). There are major gaps in most of these series.

12.74 The committee papers, arranged by Congress and thereunder either chronologically or in no discernible fashion, consist largely of executive communications and reports from Federal agencies, many of which were printed as House or Senate documents. Also found among the records are minutes of committee meetings, January 1929-May 1933 (71A-F14, 72A-F15, 73A-F14); a small amount of correspondence, 1923-46 (66th-79th Congresses, with gaps for the 67th, 69th-70th, and 74th Congresses); and transcripts of hearings that were not printed. Of particular interest are transcripts of the December 19, 1903, testimony of Frederick H. Newell, chief engineer of the Reclamation Service, before a joint meeting of the House and Senate Committees on Irrigation and Reclamation (58A-F14), and the February 3, 1944, hearing to investigate delays in construction of irrigation projects (78A-F16). Legislative case files on bills referred to the committee, 1901-46, can be found in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions.

12.75 The petitions and memorials are arranged for each Congress chronologically by date of referral. They reflect the concerns of farmers and ranchers of the Great Plains and Western states that they receive an adequate supply of water for their land through the use of irrigation and diversion projects, for protection of water rights, and later, for adequate water for the generation of electricity; they also reflect the opposition of other segments of the population to the projects. Many of the petitions and memorials express support for or opposition to specific projects, such as diversion projects affecting the flow of the Sacramento River in California (59A-J61) and a proposed dam on the Yellowstone River (67A-J38), or for issues such as drainage or flood (63A-J42, 70A-J40). There are no petitions for this committee for the 74th Congress (1935-36).

12.76 A volume labeled "digest of legislative action, 69th-71st Congress" that is unique among records of standing committees, provides a subject index of all legislation, reports, and executive communications referred to the committee for the mid-1920's and early 1930's. Legislative dockets list bills and resolutions referred to the committee and indicate the actions taken on each.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on the Conservation of National Resources, 61st-67th Congresses (1909-1921)

12.77 The Committee on the Conservation of National Resources was established by Senate resolution on March 21, 1909. Joseph M. Dixon of Montana served as its first chairman. The records of the committee consist chiefly of petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures, 1909-13 (2 in.), nearly half of which opposed the Hetch-Hetchy water project in California, which would have flooded part of the Yosemite Valley in order to provide water for the San Francisco area (61A-J13). Most of the others supported protection of water, timber, and coal lands. Legislative case files referred to the committee are in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions. The committee was terminated by S. Res. 43, 67th Cong., which eliminated many standing and select committees.

Back to Top

Records of the Committee on Public Lands, 80th Congress (1947-1948)
Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 81st-94th Congresses (1948-1976)
Records of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 95th Congress-ongoing (1977- )

12.78 Under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, four committees—Public Lands and Surveys, Territorial and Insular Affairs, Indian Affairs, and Irrigation and Reclamation—were terminated and their responsibilities were consolidated, effective with the beginning of the 80th Congress, under a single committee, the Committee on Public Lands. The jurisdiction of this committee in 1947, as described in Senate Rule XXV, included the following subjects: The public lands generally; mineral resources on public lands; forfeiture of land grants and alien ownership, including alien ownership of mineral lands; forest reserves and national parks created from the public domain; military parks and battlefields, and national cemeteries; preservation of prehistoric ruins and objects of interest in the public domain; measures relating generally to Hawaii, Alaska, and the insular possessions of the United States, except those affecting the revenue and appropriations; irrigation and reclamation and related water projects, including the acquisition of private land to complete projects; interstate compacts relating to apportionment of water for irrigation purposes; mining interests generally; mineral land laws and claims and entries thereunder; geological survey; mining schools and experimental stations; conservation of petroleum resources on public lands and conservation of the radium supply in the United States; relations with Indians and Indian tribes; and measures relating to the care, education, and management of Indians, including the care and allotment of Indian lands and measures relating to claims paid out of Indian funds. Responsibility for these jurisdictional areas was further divided among subcommittees, following the pre-1947 committee structure.

12.79 Early in the 2d session of the 80th Congress, the chairman of the Public Lands Committee, Hugh Butler of Nebraska, submitted S. Res. 179 to rename the committee, and effective January 28, 1948, the committee became the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. In 1977, most of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee's jurisdiction was transferred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

12.80 The National Archives has among its holdings 458 feet of records of the Committee on Public Lands, 1947-48, and the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 1948-68, and their subcommittees.

12.81 The major series of records of the committee consists of legislative case files ("accompanying papers"), 1947-68 (235 ft.). These papers document legislative and internal committee and subcommittee action on bills and resolutions referred to it. Arranged for each Congress by type of bill or resolution and thereunder by number, the case files may consist of as little as one or two printed items or as much as several boxes of material. The types of records found in the files include printed material, such as bills, reports, hearings, committee prints, and amendments; transcripts of unprinted public hearings and executive sessions of committee or subcommittee sessions at which legislation was discussed, 1947-60 only; memorandums written by professional staff members to advise the committee chairman or other members; correspondence from executive agencies, either forwarding proposed legislation or commenting on legislative proposals; correspondence with the general public; official statements of interested organizations; and printed reference material, often submitted by organizations or the public. In later years, each file folder is coded with initials to indicate the subcommittee to which the bill was referred. In a few instances, this series also contains records of committee investigations pursuant to Senate resolutions; for example, the file on S. Res. 248, 85th Cong., to compare river and related water resources development programs of the United States, Soviet Union, and the People's Republic of China, 1957-58, contains almost 1 linear foot of exhibits, committee prints, and related records.

12.82 For the 80th Congress (1947-48), the series is divided between the Public Lands Committee and the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, with most being under Public Lands because the majority of bills tend to be introduced in the 1st session. Even if hearings on bills were held after January 28, 1948, the records will still be found as part of the Public Lands Committee records.

12.83 Among the larger files are S. 1222, 80th Cong., to liquidate the Klamath Indian reservation; H.R. 49, 80th and 81st Congresses, to grant statehood to Hawaii; H.R. 331, 81st Cong., to grant statehood to Alaska; S. 5, 82d Cong., to authorize a desalination of water demonstration project; S. 1333, 84th Cong., to authorize construction of the Hells Canyon dam on the Snake River; and S. 4028, 85th Cong., to establish a national wilderness preservation system. S. 49, 85th Cong., was enacted as the Alaska statehood bill (Public Law 85-508), and S. 50, 86th Cong., was enacted as the Hawaii statehood bill (Public Law 86-3). Hearing and executive session transcripts are not maintained with the legislative case files after 1960, but are in a separate series described below.

refer to caption

Memorandum from Gerald R. Gereau to Jerry T. Verkler, dated May 9, 1973. This memorandum details separate and conflicting sets of issues in regard to the American Indian Movement (AIM) and Ogala Sioux Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO) occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives

12.84 Legislative files relating to coastal zones and tidelands, 1951-53 (2 ft.), are filed separately. They contain various types of records on bills relating to submerged lands. Included are numerous memos to Chairman Joseph O'Mahoney from the committee's legal counsel, Stewart French.

12.85 Other records referred to the committee include Presidential messages and executive communications ("messages, communications, and reports"), 1947-68 (30 ft.) and petitions, memorials, and resolutions from State legislatures, 1947-66 (4 ft.). Arranged by Congress, thereunder by type of document and chronologically by date of referral, the Presidential messages and executive communications consist of formal communications transmitting proposed legislation, special reports requested by the Senate, and reports required by statute, such as annual reports of Interior Department agencies and territorial governments, and reports on various agency projects. The number of Presidential messages is very small. The petitions, memorials, and resolutions file consists largely of resolutions of State legislatures on subjects primarily of local or State interest. One-fourth of the total, however, are memorials from mining companies and unions favoring H.R. 2455, 80th Cong., the National Minerals Development and Conservation Act of 1947. For the 80th Congress, records in both series are divided between the Public Lands and Interior and Insular Affairs Committees.

12.86 Some executive communications also are in the special projects files ("special actions"), 1951-68 (13 ft.). This series is unique to the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, and its subjects vary from Congress to Congress. Special projects status and numbers were assigned to investigations, other matters on which hearings were held, and more routine matters such as reports submitted to the committee relating to the Small Reclamation Projects Act of 1956. Many of the documents in the files were originally referred to the committee as executive communications. The files for each Congress are arranged by SP-number, and while some special projects may continue from one Congress to the next, the file numbers do not. There are no special projects files for the 83d Congress (1953-54).

12.87 One project of the committee that went beyond these special projects or action was its national fuels and energy study. The origin of the study was S. Res. 105, 87th Cong., which was introduced by Jennings Randolph of West Virginia and called for the creation of a special committee to study the fuels industry to determine whether changes in the national fuels policy were necessary in order to maintain the Nation's energy supremacy. Randolph's resolution was approved after it was amended significantly. Although a special committee was not created, the study was assigned to the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee. Under the committee's supervision, the study was conducted by Samuel G. Lasky, an official in the Department of the Interior, who was assisted by energy specialists from the private sector. Randolph and two other Senators served as ex-officio members. The records of the Energy Study Group, 1961-62 (4 ft.), consist of correspondence with organizations, correspondence with executive agencies, a subject file, and copies of its publications (hearings and committee prints).

12.88 In general, committee correspondence is found primarily in two series: General correspondence ("subject files"), 1947-68 (57 ft.), and copies of outgoing letters ("reading files"), 1949-68 (14 ft.). For some Congresses the committee maintained additional files and these are noted below.

12.89 The general correspondence is arranged by Congress and thereunder alphabetically by subject. For the 90th Congress there are two separate subject files. The records include correspondence of the chairmen, staff directors, legal counsels, and clerks with chairmen of Interior and Insular Affairs subcommittees, other Members of Congress, officials of executive agencies of the Federal Government, lobbyists and other advocates, and the general public; printed matter, usually attachments to correspondence; and very rarely, transcripts of committee meetings and hearings. The files broadly document all legislative interests of the committee and some administrative matters. Included in the series are letters, staff memorandums, and extensive newspaper clippings concerning charges made in 1950 by Sen. Andrew F. Schoeppel that Secretary of the Interior Oscar L. Chapman and one of his principal assistants had pro-Communist sympathies. For the 80th and 81st Congresses, there are separate, chronologically arranged reading files. In addition to the larger correspondence file, for the 80th Congress two small correspondence series were maintained. The area files, 1947-48 (4 ft.), are arranged by name of Territory, and most of the material relates to a trip to Alaska by committee members, pursuant to S. Res. 148, 80th Cong. Correspondence with subcommittees, 1947-48 (4 in.), is arranged alphabetically by subcommittee and is similar to that found as part of general correspondence in succeeding Congresses.

12.90 With two exceptions, the copies of outgoing letters are arranged by Congress and thereunder alphabetically by name of correspondent. The copies are annotated to indicate the location of the originals in the general correspondence or the legislative case files. The exceptions are the 87th Congress for which there is no file of outgoing letters, and the 90th, which has separate alphabetical files for 1967 and 1968.

12.91 Transcripts of public hearings and executive sessions, 1947-68 (83 ft.), are a valuable source of information about bills, nominations, and other committee business. The series generally is arranged chronologically for each Congress and contains transcripts of public hearings, some of which were eventually printed, and of hearings and committee meetings held in executive session. The number of transcripts varies greatly from Congress to Congress, with the largest number of documents found for the 87th-90th Congresses; prior to 1961, transcripts of hearings relating to specific bills and resolutions are frequently found in the legislative case files.

12.92 Also documenting the meetings of the committee are its minutes, 1947-54 and 1961-68 (3 ft., incl. 6 vols.). Minutes for the 80th-82d Congresses are bound; those for the 83d and 87th-90th Congresses are unbound. No minutes for the 1955-60 period have been transferred to the National Archives. For the most part, the minutes are meticulous and detailed, supplemented occasionally with verbatim transcripts, agenda, vote tallies ("yeas and nays"), and copies of bills.

12.93 Records of nominations referred to the committee comprise the nominations case files, 1947-68 (4 ft.). Nominees for high-level positions in the Department of the Interior, such as the Secretary, Undersecretary, assistant secretaries, Director of the Bureau of Mines, Commissioner of Indian affairs, Territorial governors, and members of the Indian Claims Commission are among those referred. For each Congress the files are arranged alphabetically by name of nominee. They may include such records as transcripts of nomination hearings (after 1958, see series of transcripts of hearings and executive sessions), correspondence for and against the nomination, biographical sketches, nomination reference and report forms, and newspaper clippings. Among the largest files are those for the following nominees: Dr. James Boyd, to be Director of the Bureau of Mines (80th and 81st Congresses); Mariano Villarongo, to be Commissioner of Education for Puerto Rico (80th Congress); Ernest Gruening, to be Governor of Alaska (81st Congress) and Raphael M. Paiewonsky to be Governor of the Virgin Islands (87th Congress).

12.94 Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 1969-76, and Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 1977-86 (372 ft.); Major series for the full committee include legislative case files, general subject files, transcripts of hearings and executive sessions, "special actions," nominations files, executive communications, and petitions. There are also records for the following subcommittees: Energy Research and Development (4 ft.); Recreation and Renewable Resources (8 ft.); Parks (1 ft.); and Public Lands (20 ft.).

Records of Subcommittees of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs

12.95 The organization of subcommittees of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committees parallels closely the committees that were merged into the Committee on Public Lands by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. Although Chairman Joseph O'Mahoney proposed the elimination of subcommittees at the committee meeting of January 12, 1949, subcommittees continued to have a significant role in considering legislation and investigating other matters. While much documentation of subcommittee activities is contained in the various series of the full committee records, a few series of records were maintained separately.

Subcommittee on Indian Affairs

12.96 The largest of the separate files are the records of the standing Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 1947-52. Because these are a continuation of a series that originated with the standing Committee on Indian Affairs prior to the 1946 reorganization, the records of the subcommittee are intermixed with those of the predecessor committee. Consequently, they are described with the records of that committee. One small series of subcommittee records that is not interfiled with the main series relates to an investigation of complaints concerning the Interior Department's administration of revested Oregon and California Railroad Company lands and related timberland agreements. Records relating to the sustained timber yield investigation, 1948-49 (6 in.), consist of statements and printed matter submitted by witnesses at the hearing in Eugene, OR, in 1948, and related correspondence.

Subcommittee to Investigate the Explosion at Centralia Coal Mine #5

12.97 On March 25, 1947, an explosion destroyed the Centralia Coal Mine #5, at Wamac, IL, killing 111 miners. Demands for a congressional investigation were swift and within days, the Senate approved S. Res. 98, 80th Cong., which authorized the appointment of a special subcommittee on the Public Lands Committee to investigate the causes of disaster. Guy Cordon of Oregon was named chairman. The incident and subcommittee investigation were followed by enactment of S. J. Res. 130, 80th Cong., which extended the safety code for mine inspections.

12.98 The records, April-July 1947 (2 ft.), include transcripts of hearings, copies of subpoenas, correspondence, an alphabetical subject file, newspaper clippings, mine inspection reports for the Centralia Coal Mine #5 and other coal mines, maps of the mine, and other exhibits.

Subcommittee to Investigate Minerals, Materials, and Fuel Economics

12.99 Pursuant to S. Res 143, 83d Cong., and continued by four additional Senate resolutions during the 84th Congress, the subcommittee, chaired by George W. Malone of Nevada, conducted a study of the accessibility of critical raw materials. Hearings were begun in Seattle, WA, in September 1953 and continued until May 1954. The materials of greatest concern were nickel, titanium, and uranium, all of which were essential to the military. The subcommittee was highly critical of stockpiling procedures and in response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower instituted a new policy to maintain sufficient supplies of strategic raw materials. The records, 1953-54 (3 ft.), consist of transcripts of hearings, excerpts of transcripts, and exhibits.

Records of the Staff

12.100 The general correspondence and legislative case files contain much of the staff's memorandums to their chairmen and correspondence with the general public. Especially evident in these records are the contributions of longtime staff members, including committee counsel Stewart French and staff director Jerry T. Verkler (see the Senate Historical Office's oral history with Verkler). However, the only records of a professional staff member that have been transferred to the National Archives are the reference files of Elmer K. Nelson, 1937-52 (3 ft.). Nelson was a consulting engineer and later a professional staff member of the committee, who collected printed material on water projects in Arizona, California, and Colorado.

Back to Top

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.

Return to the Table of Contents for the Guide to the Records of the U.S. Senate