National Archives at Seattle

Bureau of Indian Affairs Records at the National Archives at Seattle

The National Archives at Seattle has records from Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) offices and Indian agencies and schools in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.  Bureau of Indian Affairs records are contained within Record Group 075.

Administrative History 


The Bureau of Indian Affairs is the Federal agency responsible for carrying out the policies of the Federal government which relate to American Indians and Alaskan Natives.  As these policies of the Federal government have evolved, so too has the work of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

1789: The U.S. Congress assigned the work of American Indian relations to the War Department.

1824: As head of the War Department, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun created the Office of Indian Affairs.  Calhoun acted without authorization from the U.S. Congress.

1832: Congress officially recognized the Office of Indian Affairs and appointed the first Commissioner of Indian Affairs.  

1849: The Office of Indian Affairs and its operations were transferred to the newly created Department of the Interior.

1878: The last Superintendency was abolished.  For 75 years, superintendents of Indian Affairs had acted as intermediaries between agents serving in individual territories and states and the main Indian Affairs offices in Washington D.C.

1884: The Alaska Division was created as unit within the Department of Interior’s Office of Education.

1893: Congress established the Alaska Reindeer Service.

1908: The position of Indian Agent was abolished.  Agents had been Federal employees who were responsible for enforcing Federal policies on individual or small groups of American Indian tribes.  The tribe or tribes overseen by a single agent were referred to as an agency.  After the position was abolished, the organization of the agencies was maintained, and the duties of the agents were transferred to members of the communities, usually superintendents of the agency schools.

1931: The Alaska Division was transferred to the Office of Indian Affairs.  The division became known as the Alaska Indian Service.  In 1945, that name was changed to Alaska Native Service. 

1947: The agency name Office of Indian Affairs was changed to Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) by authorization of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior.   

1947: The Bureau of Indian Affairs began establishing regional offices to exercise supervisory control over agencies and other administrative units (such as schools and irrigation and forestry field programs) within specific geographic regions.  To serve the Pacific Northwest, the BIA opened a regional office in Portland, Oregon.

1955: The administration and management of health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives was transferred from the BIA to the Public Health Service, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

1971: The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was signed into law. Materials at the National Archives at Seattle related to the ANCSA can be found in the records of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. district courts.

1994: The Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) was established within the DOI to improve management of American Indians funds and lands held in trust by the Federal government.

2004: Following a review of DOI and BIA records management practices, the OST opened the American Indian Records Repository (AIRR)

BIA Records at the National Archives at Seattle


Records Overview 
Dates: 1850-1999 
Volume: 6500 cubic feet 

Records of the following BIA agencies, area and field offices, and schools in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington

Alaska

Agencies Area & Field Offices Schools
Anchorage Agency Alaska Native Service (Indian Service) Mt. Edgecumbe School
Bethel Agency Alaska Reindeer Service Wrangell Institute
Fairbanks Agency Juneau Area Office   
Kotzebue Agency Seattle Support Center (AK Resupply Program)  
Nome Agency    

Idaho

Agencies
Coeur d'Alene Indian Agency
Fort Hall Indian Agency
Fort Lapwai Indian Agency
Northern Idaho Indian Agency

Oregon

Agencies Area & Field Offices Schools
Grand Ronde Indian Agency Portland Area Office* Chemawa Indian School
Grand Ronde-Siletz Indian Agency    
Klamath Indian Agency    
Rogue River Indian Agency    
Roseburg Indian Agency    
Umatilla Indian Agency    
Warm Springs Indian Agency    

Washington

Agencies Area & Field Offices Schools
Colville Indian Agency Seattle Support Center Cushman Indian School
Cushman Indian Agency Wapato Irrigation Project  
Hoquiam Indian Agency    
Malheur Indian Agency    
Neah Bay Agency    
Olympic Agency    
Puget Sound Agency    
Puyallup Indian Agency    
Quinault Indian Agency    
Spokane Indian Agency    
Taholah Indian Agency    
Tulalip Indian Agency    
Western Washington Agency    
Yakima Indian Agency    

*The Portland Area Office (PAO) currently serves a region that includes Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and parts of Alaska and Montana.  When the PAO was first established in 1947, the region it served included California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.  The records of the PAO at the National Archives at Seattle include materials related to BIA operations in these states, as well as Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.    

Records Description

The records of area offices often include records of predecessor district offices. These records can relate to agricultural extension, credit, forestry, health, and irrigation.

The records document tribal governments and provide insight into tribal politics and Indian reaction to various Federal programs and policies. Included are agendas, minutes, and resolutions of tribal business committees or other elected groups.

Records submitted by the agents and other employees document:

  • tribal economic, political, and social life;
  • the daily relations between the BIA and the Indians, an agent and his superiors, and officials of other Federal and local government agencies;
  • and the agent's perceptions about the Indians and his duties.
  • Included are annual narrative and statistical reports and correspondence.

The records document Indians' financial affairs.

  • Annuity payments and disbursements of other funds to tribal members as a result of treaties or congressional legislation.
  • They contain the Indian's name and the amount of money or type of goods received.
  • Included are cash reports, ledgers of receipts and disbursements, property returns, and vouchers. 
  • Along with tribal censuses and other enrollment records, financial records document genealogy and tribal demographics.

The records document the financial affairs of "restricted Indians," considered incompetent because of their age, degree of Indian blood, or other factors. These records concern:

  • the collection and disbursement of funds;
  • requests by Indians for money to buy automobiles, clothing, farming equipment, furniture, groceries, livestock, pianos, and many other items;
  • and the determination of heirs and the distribution of estates.
  • Included are application forms, probate files, and related correspondence.

Land allotment records have:

  • information on individual tribal members;
  • names of eligible tribe members;
  • information on contested allotments;
  • information on the dispersal of the tribal domain;
  • documents regarding protests against the allotment process, sale or leasing of land;
  • and documents related to use of tribal resources.
  • Included are lists of eligible members, applications for specific tracts of land, plat maps, hearings, and letters (many in the native language) from Indians to their agents.

Records document the operation of agency schools, as well as Indian schools that served multiple agencies, and public schools that Indians attended.  These records include:

  • school enrollments and individual student files;
  • materials related to employment and training programs;
  • files related to health and medical treatment;
  • files related to financial affairs;
  • and other materials related to planning and implementation of educational programs.
  • Included are correspondence, narrative and statistical reports, and photographs.

The records document the impact of changing social and economic conditions as reflected in activities of the Civilian Conservation Corps--Indian Division and other emergency relief programs conducted in the 1930's; agricultural extension projects; health care programs; construction of homes and roads; home demonstration programs; housing; income; irrigation and land management activities; liquor control, suppression of peyote, and other law enforcement activities on reservations; living conditions; and recreation.

Restrictions 
Access to case files on individual Indians is restricted because of personal privacy concerns.

Finding Aids and Guides


The National Archives at Seattle has prepared inventories and finding aids for many of the agencies and offices listed above.  Please contact us for more information.

Guides

Edward E. Hill, comp., Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians (1981).

Edward E. Hill, comp., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, PI 163 (2 vols., 1965).

Robert M. Kvasnicka, comp., The Trans-Mississippi West, 1804-1912: A Guide to Federal Records for the Territorial Period, National Archives and Records Administration (1993-2007).

Related Microfilm Publications 


M2Records of the Oregon Superintendency of Indian Affairs, 1848-1873 
M5Records of the Washington Superintendency of Indian Affairs, 1853-1874 
M21Letters Sent by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1881
M234Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1881 
M595Indian Census Rolls, 1884-1940 
M832Records of the Idaho Superintendency of Indian Affairs, 1863-1870
M833Records of the Montana Superintendency of Indian Affairs, 1867-1873 
M1011Superintendents' Annual Narrative and Statistical Reports from Field Jurisdictions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1907-1938
M1070Reports of Inspections of the Field Jurisdictions of the Office of Indian Affairs, 1873-1900
M1186Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914
M1301Applications for Enrollment of the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914

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