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Ely S. Parker was the first Native to be appointed the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. (1869-1871).
Advertisement for the sale of land to white people under the Dawes Act 1911. The offer is signed by Robert G. Valentine, Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
US President Calvin Coolidge with four Osage Indians after signing the Citizenship Act

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA; German"Indian Affairs Office“) Is an agency subordinate to the United States Department of the Interior, which is supposed to look after the interests of the Indians and their reservations. It was founded in 1824 and was then still under the US War Department. In 1849 it was assigned to the newly established Ministry of the Interior. It is the oldest office of the Ministry of the Interior. According to its own information, the BIA looks after 567 Indian tribes recognized by the federal government, with 1.9 million members. The BIA manages 55 million acres (225,000 km²) of land on behalf of the Indian tribes. Around 42,000 students attend 183 BIA-owned schools. The office also operates or supports 28 universities and technical colleges.[1][2] The authority is based in Washington, D.C. The office is currently in a state of upheaval. In the past, the administration and monitoring of the Native Americans were at the forefront of its activities, but today the office wants to help improve the living conditions of the Indian population. This upheaval is difficult, as many Indians see the BIA as the cause of their problems. The BIA also attracted negative attention in the past due to massive cases of corruption.[3][4]


  • The Office of Indian Services: General assistance to the BIA, disaster relief, child welfare, tribal government, self-determination and the office's own road program.
  • The Office of Justice Services: Law Enforcement, Tribal Courts and Detention Centers. 43 units of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police report directly to the office. Another 165 police units are supported and financed by the office.
  • The Office of Trust Services: Manages the properties of the reservations and individual members of Indian tribes in cooperation with the reservation governments.
  • The Office of Field Operations: oversees 12 regional offices; Alaska, Great Plains, Northwest, Southern Plains, Eastern, Navajo, Pacific, Southwest, Eastern Oklahoma, Midwest, Rocky Mountain, and Western[5] and 83 agencies operating at the tribal level to carry out the duties of the bureau.


Aboriginal relations institutions had existed since 1775 when the Second Continental Congress commissioned Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry to negotiate with the Aborigines. The background to the negotiations was the Colonies' War of Independence against England. Attempts were made to draw the natives to the side of the rebels, or to ensure that they would not intervene in the fighting on the side of England.[6]

In 1789, the United States Congress transferred responsibility for relations with the Indian tribes to the Department of War. In 1809, at the request of Congress, this set up its own department, the "Office of Indian Trade". The department was primarily responsible for issuing licenses to fur traders who wanted to set up trading posts in the areas west of the Appalachian Mountains.[7] The department was led by Thomas L. McKenney. In 1822 the system of licensing traders in Indian land was abolished, which led to the problem of who should maintain relations with the Indian tribes in the future. Defense Secretary John C. Calhoun then set up the Bureau of Indian Affairs within his department without asking Congress for permission. McKenney was named the first head of the new department by Calhoun.[8]

In 1832, Congress established the position of a "Commissioner of Indian Affairs". In 1849 the BIA was added to the newly created Ministry of the Interior.[9] This also changed the tasks of the BIA. Indians have been resettled in reservations since the 1830s and so the supply of food to the reservations fell to the office, as the supply was often part of the contracts with the tribes and the reservations often consisted of poorly productive soils - many reservation residents were starving. But the responsible employees often increased the plight of the Indians and their often unjust decisions led to tensions with the Indians in the reservations created. For example, the Indian agent Thomas Jacob Galbraith contributed significantly to the outbreak of the Sioux uprising in Minnesota in 1862. The problems with the BIA increased to such an extent that in 1867 Congress was forced to set up an investigative commission to develop essential suggestions for improvement. The BIA should be run as a separate ministry and the employees should be replaced by more trustworthy people. But the ideas were not implemented.[10]

In March 1869, Ely Samuel Parker became the first Native American to take over the management of the bureau. Parker was enthusiastic about the task at first, but soon saw that the slowness of the bureaucracy and the narrow-mindedness of Washington officials were undermining all efforts to solve the Indian problem. In August 1871, he resigned after accusing him of irregular purchases of food for tribes threatened by starvation.

From 1880 the BIA took on more and more tasks in the reservations. The BIA was responsible for education, health, security, soil management and the judiciary as well as supplying the population. Around 1900 the BIA had taken over the government of the reservations and tribes.[11]

During this time, the BIA was instrumental in breaking up the reserves. This was made possible by the Dawes Act. The law had two main goals: On the one hand, the community structure of the Indians was to be broken and the Indians to be integrated into American society. The Indians should become farmers. As such, according to official opinion, they would need much less land than they claimed for their traditional non-sedentary hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The Indians themselves mostly resisted a life as farmers, especially those of the northern plains. They saw the farm work as unworthy and restrictive. The government saw a further advantage of the parcelling in the excess land that was freed up in this way, which it could sell to whites for a profit. In total, the Indians lost 90 million acres from a total of 138 million acres in 1887, or around two thirds.

The parceled land was to be administered in trust by the BIA until the Indians had learned to keep it like whites, that is, until the Indians had become farmers. To make matters worse for the Indians was that the best land was sold to whites and they had to make do with second-class land. In addition to the land parceling, further measures should let the Indians rise in the melting pot of the USA. Everything should be for the Indians Savage driven out and thus made white.

In 1906 the Dawes Act was expanded to include the Burke Act. The Burke Act supplemented the Dawes Act by giving the Home Secretary the power to classify individual owners of such properties as competent and incompetent, as Congress felt that most Indians were not competent to dispose of their properties, that is To become owner with entry in the land register.[12][13] The Burke Act led to corruption within the BIA[14], since it was now at the discretion of the Indian agents to classify an owner of a property as competent or not. In some cases, the owner of a property has been deemed competent without telling him. Now that the property was no longer owned by the BIA, taxes became due (reservations were generally exempt from taxation), and after the owner failed to pay those taxes, the county or state expropriated the owner. Because many Indians didn't even know where their properties were. or the plots were far away from the settlement where the owners lived, the Indian agents had an easy job of chasing them off their plots by classifying the owner as incompetent or threatening to do so if they did not sell their land after being classified as competent would. Whether the owners could become citizens of the United States depended on competence. The Burke Act only granted citizenship to owners once the land issue was resolved.[15][16] The Home Office speculated that 95% of the owners would give up their claims on the land.

This practice did not end until 1924 with the Indian Citizenship Act, which gave citizenship to all indigenous people.

With the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the tasks of the BIA changed. Suddenly the agency was supposed to help the Indian tribes create reservation governments. The sale of land has stopped. On the contrary. Now the authority should help buy back land for the tribes. Many tasks were given to the individual tribal governments.

Indian health care, often part of contracts, was transferred to the United States Department of Health and Human Services in 1956. The Indian Health Service is now the operator of clinics and hospitals for the Native Americans.

In 1972, the American Indian Movement (AIM) hosted the African American civil rights movement, modeled on the March on Washington Trail of Broken Treaties (German Path of broken contracts; based on the notorious resettlement march of the Indians of the southeast in the Indian territory, the Path of tears (Trail of Tears) ", in 1833) to commemorate the many previous agreements between Indians and US negotiators that the Americans later ignored. When the convoy of demonstrators arrived in Washington DC, there was Contrary to the plans, there were no places to stay. As a result, there were riots and demonstrators occupied the administration building of the BIA and declared it to be the embassy of the Native Americans. Native American Embassy).

During the occupation, a multitude of documents securing contracts, foundations, water rights and fundamental rights disappeared in the building. The documents that were taken away were passed on to a journalist and later returned to government property via the FBI.[17] In addition to the stolen documents, several documents were also destroyed during the occupation and, according to government information, there was greater damage to property,[18] which was sharply criticized by the leader of the demonstration, Hank Adams.[19] The 20 points of the march put forward to the Nixon government were rejected by the latter.

In 1996, Blackfeet Indian Treasurer Elouise P. Cobell sued the BIA for compensation for unpaid profits from leases of Indian land.[20] Many other victims joined the lawsuit. The originally requested amount was $ 176 billion. It was the largest class action lawsuit in United States history, involving over 500,000 people.[21] The case went as ‘Cobell v. Salazar ’entered the history of the United States. The case was settled out of court on December 8, 2009. The federal government promised to pay out $ 3.4 billion to the affected landowners. To this end, the US House of Representatives passed the ‘Claims Resolution Act of 2010’ in 2010. President Obama signed the bill on December 8, 2010.[22]

During the trial, the computer system and the computer network of the BIA had to be switched off several times due to court decisions. There was suspicion that accounts and data had been tampered with.[23][24][25]

Commissioners and Assistant Secretaries

Head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Commissioners of Indian Affairs

Assistant Secretaries of the Interior for Indian Affairs

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ There are 567 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives in the United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is responsible for the administration and management of 55 million surface acres and 57 million acres of subsurface minerals estates held in trust by the United States for American Indian, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives. Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) provides education services to approximately 42,000 Indian students. (Memento of the original from July 19, 2017 in Internet Archive) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@ 1 @ 2 Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.bia.gov
  2. ↑ Programs administered by either Tribes or Indian Affairs through the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) include an education system consisting of 183 schools and dormitories educating approximately 42,000 elementary and secondary students and 28 tribal colleges, universities, and post-secondary schools (Memento des Originals from August 22, 2017 in Internet Archive) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@ 1 @ 2 Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.bia.gov
  3. ↑ The tribes' relationship with the bureau is often described as a love / hate relationship. On the one hand, the bureau is the symbol of the tribes' special relationship with the federal government. On the other hand, tribes have suffered from bureau mismanagement, paternalism, and neglect. It is the hope and objective of many tribal peoples and government officials that tribes can enter into a more equal relationship with the bureau and that the bureau can truly function in an advisory capacity as opposed to dictating policy to tribes.
  4. ↑ The BIA is currently involved in a lawsuit over its mismanagement of Individual Indian Monies (IIM) trust accounts. The suit was brought against the BIA and the federal government by Elouise Cobell and other individual Native Americans in 1996.
  5. ↑ https: //www.bia.gov/regional-offices
  6. ^ One of the first acts of the Continental Congress was the creation, in 1775, of three departments of Indian affairs; northern, central, and southern. Among the first departmental commissioners were Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry. Their job was to negotiate treaties with tribes and obtain tribal neutrality in the coming Revolutionary War. Fourteen years later, the U.S. Congress established a War Department and made Indian relations a part of its responsibilities.
  7. ^ In 1789, Congress moved all Native American relations to the War Department, which had just formed that year. Today, the War Department is known as the Department of Defense. In 1806, Congress established a Superintendent of Indian Trade in the War Department whose responsibility it was to maintain the factory trading network of the fur trade.
  8. ^ The abolition of the trading system removed even this effort to centralize the work with the Indians within the War Department. March 11, 1824 Secretary of War John C. Calhoun created what he called the Bureau of Indian Affairs without authorization from the Congress. McKenney, formerly superintendent of Indian trade, was appointed to head the office, with two clerks assigned to him as assistants.
  9. ^ In 1849, Congress transferred the BIA from the War Department to the newly created Department of the Interior. With this transfer came a change in policy and responsibilities. The removal of tribes to reservations had brought about disease and starvation, which forced the government to begin providing tribes with food and other supplies.
  10. ↑ The commission recommended many changes, including the appointment of honest, more effective agents and the establishment of a separate, independent agency for Indian affairs. Some improvements were forthcoming, but the recommendations to remove the BIA from the Interior Department and establish it as an independent agency was never followed.
  11. ↑ Indian agents became responsible for operating schools, dispensing justice, distributing supplies, administering allotments, and leasing contracts. By 1900 the Indian agent had, in effect, become the tribal government.
  12. ↑ Amends section 6 of the General Allotment Act, adding that the secretary of the interior is authorized to cause an issue of a patent in fee simple to an allottee whenever the secretary is convinced that the Indian allottee is competent and capable of managing his or her affairs (This did not require the Indian allottee's approval, desire, or knowledge of the fee simple patent issue).
  13. ↑ Under this act the secretary of the interior was given great authority over individual Indians who had taken allotments. The secretary decided whether an Indian was competent enough to handle his own affairs before he could even receive an allotment, and the secretary alone determined the legal heirs of a deceased allottee. If he determined there were no legal heirs, the allotted land could then be sold.
  14. ↑ 1915 Joint Commission of US Congress releases the Report on the Business and Accounting Methods employed in the Administration of the Office of Indian Affairs citing, “… due to the increasing value of his remaining estate, there is left an inducement to fraud, corruption, and institutional incompetence almost beyond the possibility of comprehension ”.
  15. ↑ A question that had long plagued the U.S. government involved the citizenship status of American Indians. In 1887 Congress passed the General Allotment Act, or Dawes Severalty Act, which stated that Indians who received land allotments or voluntarily took up away residence from their tribes were to be given United States citizenship.
  16. ^ The Burke Act pertained to Indians who took allotments. The law withheld citizenship until the end of the twenty-five year trust period or until the allottee received a fee patent from the secretary of the interior. It further stated that any Indian who had taken up residence apart from the tribe and who had "adopted the habits of civilized life" was declared a citizen and was entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of citizenship.
  17. ^ Indian Explains Actions, BIA Material Was Sent for Him to Return - Feb. 2, 1973, newspaper article copy on maquah.net
  18. ↑ Damage to BIA Third Heaviest Ever in U.S. - Nov. 11, 1972, newspaper article copy on maquah.net
  19. ↑ Nov. 10, 1972 Justice Eyes Way to Charge Indians, newspaper article copy on maquah.net
  20. ↑ While generations of non-Indians have become rich harvesting the abundant resources of private Indian lands — which once included virtually all the oil fields of Oklahoma — Indian landowners have been paid only erratically, and far less than their due. Consequently, even landowning Indians remain among the nation's poorest citizens
  21. ↑ Cobell filed her lawsuit in 1996 after years of kinder entreaties failed, demanding payment of all unpaid revenues from Indian leases for the past century, a tally of past revenues, and a new accounting system to deal with future revenues. According to Cobell's forensic accountants, the government owes $ 176 billion to individual Indian landowners, averaging $ 352,000 per plaintiff, making this monetarily the largest class-action lawsuit ever launched.
  22. ^ Claims Resolution Act of 2010
  23. ^ The court originally imposed the moratorium by stipulation of the government and the plaintiffs in the 1996 Cobell class action litigation. The ban was necessary because the BIA computers were not safe from hackers entering the system and apparently creating their own accounts and moving money between Individual Indian money accounts. U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson turned down the BIA’s request. The new head of the BIA, Asst. Secretary Carl Artman, claims the BIA is severely limited in its operations and communications by this continuing ban on BIA internet usage. Artman also contests the Cobell plaintiffs claim that the case is worth $ 100 billion.
  24. ↑ DOI's Internet connection shut down for third time TUESDAY, MARCH 16, 2004 The federal judge handling the Indian trust fund lawsuit ordered the Department of Interior to shut down its Internet connection on Monday, a move that plunged many of the agency's computer systems back into the dark ages. For the third time since December 2001, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth blasted the department for failing to correct known security vulnerabilities. In a 29-page decision, he called Interior "incapable" of ensuring that billions of dollars of Indian money are safe from computer hackers.
  25. ↑ Because it is indisputable that the 'poor state of network security' creates an imminent risk of irreparable injury ... plaintiffs request that this court disconnect from the Internet and shut down each information technology system which houses or access individual Indian trust data to protect plaintiffs against further injury to their interests ...
  26. John O. Crow Named Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs and Member of Advisory Board on Indian Affairs. In: Bureau of Indian Affairs. February 10, 1961. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  27. Nash Nominated as Commissioner of Indian Affairs; Crow Appointed Deputy Commissioner. In: Bureau of Indian Affairs. August 1, 1961. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  28. ↑ PDF (Memento of the original from May 2, 2017 in Internet Archive) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@ 1 @ 2 Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.indianaffairs.gov