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During the Revolutionary period various communications were received by the provincial assemblies relative to the Indian tribes, and these were transmitted to the Continental Congress. On June 16, 1775, a committee on Indian affairs of five was appointed and instructed to re· port on such steps as were deemed necessary to secure and preserve the friendship of the Indian nations. Accordingly the following plan was adopted July 12, 1775:

As the Indians depend on the colonists for arms, ammunition, and clothing, which are become necessary to their subsistence * * that there be three departments of Indians: The northern department, to include the Six Nations and all the Indians to the northward; the southern department, to extend so far north as to embrace the Cherokees; the middle department, to take in all Indians living between the other two departments. Five commissioners were placed over the southern department and $10,000 voted to defray the expenses of treaties and presents to the Indians. Three commissioners were to have charge of the northern department and three of the middle department, and $6,6663 were appropriated to each of these departments for sim. ilar expenses. The commissioners were empowered to treat with the Indians “in the name and on behalf of the United Colonies, in order to preserve peace and friendship with the said Indians and to prevent their taking any part in the present commotions." “ The commissioners respectively have power

to appoint agents, residing near or among the Indians, to watch the conduct of the (King's] superintendents [and] their emissaries,

and, upon satisfactory proof,

to cause to be seized and kept in safe custody

these officials or any other per[found) inciting the Indians

to become inimical to the American Colonies,

until order shall be taken therein by a majority of the commissioners of the district, or by the Continental Congress.

Tbe commissioners shall exhibit fair accounts of the expenditure of all moneys by them

to every succeeding Continental Congress, or committee of Congress, together with a general state of Indian affairs in their several departments.” 2

The following gentlemen were elected commissioners for the middle department: Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, and James Wilson.

For the northern department: Philip Schuyler, Joseph Hawley, Turbot Francis, Oliver Wolcott, Volkert P. Douw, the number of commis. sioners of this department to be increased by vote.?

For the southern department: John Walker, of Virginia; Willie Jones, of North Carolina; the remaining three to be nominated by the council of safety appointed by the colony of South Carolina.

1 American Archives, Vol. II, 4th series, col. 1849. 2 Ibid., Vol. II, 4th series, col. 1679. 3 Ibid., col. 1883. 4 Ibid., 4th series, col. 1887.



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April 29, 1776, a standing Committee on Indian Affairs was organized in Congress.

By Article IX. of the Articles of Confederation, the United States in Congress assembled” were charged with the sole and exclusive right and power of

managing all affairs with Indians."2 On June 3, 1784, “the Secretary in the War Office” was directed to order a force of militia, to be raised for the purpose, to be marched to what place or places the commissioners for negotiating treaties with the Indians shall direct." 3

An ordinance for the regulation of Indian affairs, passed August 7, 1786, provided that the Indian Department be divided into two districts; the northern district to include all Indians residing north of the Ohio and west of the Hudson River; the southern district, all tribes living south of the Ohio. The superintendent of each district to be appointed for a term of two years, and to give bonds for the sum of $6,000. All business to be transacted at an outpost occupied by troops of the United States. The superintendent to reside in or near the district to which he is appointed. The superintendent of the northern district to be empowered to appoint two deputies and to remove them for misbe. havior; these deputies to give bonds for $3,000, and to reside in such places as shall best facilitate the regulation of Indian trade. “The superintendent shall regularly correspond with the Secretary of War, through whom all communication respecting the Indian Department shall be made to Congress, and the superintendents are hereby directed to obey all instructions received from the Secretary of War.” 4

Upon the creation of the War Department, August 7, 1789, Indian affairs were left under the charge of the Secretary of War.

The act of March 1, 1793, pro vides that the President mayAs he shall judge proper, appoint such persons, from time to time, as temporary agents, to reside among the Indians.

The President may, in order to pro. mote civilization among the friendly Indian tribes, and to secure the continuance of their friendship, furnish them with useful domestic animals, and implements of husbandry, and also furnish them with goods or money. "

By act of Congress, April 16, 1818, superintendents and agents were to be nominated by the President and appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and each agent to give bonds for $10,000.7

By the act of April 20, 1818, the salaries of agents were graded. All sub-agents to receive $500 per annum. Of the agents named in the act, five only were in control of distinct tribes, the others were in charge of districts wherein different tribes lived. 8

The growth of the frontier, and the consequent complexity and magnitude of the duties devolving upon the Secretary, resulted in the organ. ization, by act of Congress Juiy 9, 1832, of a distinct office for the Indian service, to be under a commissioner, subordinate to the Secretary of

"Journals of Congress, Washington, 1823, Vol. I, pp. 330–331. 2 Ibid., Vol. III, P. 589.

3 Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 416. 4 Ibid., pp. 677-678. 5 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. I, pp. 49–50. 6 Ibid., p. 331. ? Ibid., Vol. III. p. 428. 8 Ibid., p. 461.

War. On June 30, 1834, an act was passed “to provide for the organization of the Department of Indian Affairs." By it certain agencies were established and others abolished, the duties of superintendents and agents defined, interpreters and employés provided, and the President empowered to prescribe the rules and regulations needful to carry into effect the provisions of this act, which stands as the organic law of the Indian Department.?

The Hon. Robert J. Walker, Secretary of the Treasury, in his annual report to Congress, dated December 9, 1848, says:

The duties now performed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs are most pumer. ous and im portant, and must be vastly increased with the great number of tribes scattered over Texas, Oregon, New Mexico, and California, and with the interesting progress of so many of the tribes in Christianity, knowledge, and civilization. These duties do not necessarily appertain to war, but to peace, and to our domestic relations with those tribes placed by the Constitution under the charge of this Government.

This most important Bureau, then, should be detached from the War Department. with which it has no necessary connection.

There is another reason why the Pension Office, as well as the Indian Bureau, should be detached from the War Department and placed under the supervision of the same Secretary to whom the Land Office would be intrusted, namely: Under our system of Revolutionary and military bounties and land warrants, as well as under treaties and reservations with Indian tribes, many questions arise in relation to our public lands and private land claims, connecting themselves frequently and intimately with our general land system, and with decisions upon land titles made by the Commissiouer of the General Land Office; and therefore all those bureaus whose duties are so intimately connected with the public lands, as well as with private land claims, ought to be placed under the supervision of the same Department, or conflict of decision and jurisdiction may, and does in fact, take place.

In consideration of these and kindred arguments, upon the creation of the Department of the Interior by the act of March 3, 1849,3 the Bureau of Indian Affairs was transferred to that Department, and the Indians passed from military to civil control.

With the exception of a period from March, 1869, to July, 1870, dur. ing which officers of the Army, detailed for that duty, acted as Indian agents at most of the agencies, the service in the field has been since that time generally performed by appointees from civil life. During the ten years following 1870, agents were appointed upon the recommenda. tion of the religious denominations of the country, a certain number of agencies being assigned to each denomination. The intent of this distribution of agencies was to enlist the active sympathy of the several religious organizations in the Indian work, and to obtain men specially qualified by disposition and character for the peculiar service desired.

The above plan for appointing agents has been discontinued since about 1880.

The policy of the Indian service is to bring the Indians into a condi tion of self-support. The success of that policy has varied with the circumstances, situation, and individual characteristics of the several tribes. Some of those which were first brought into close relations

2 I bill.,

1 United States Statutes at Large, Vol. IV, 1.tid, Vol. IX, p. 395.

p. 735-738.

3 Ibid.,

with the Government fifty or sixty years ago have not for years received assistance from the Government, appropriation for them being the interest upon their own funds accruing from the sales of their lands, invested and held in trust by the United States. There are other tribes who rely mainly and some times entirely on their own efforts for support.

OFFICE ORGANIZATION. Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The head of the Indian Office is known as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, whom the President shall appoint by and with the advice and consent of the Senate."

* The Commissioner “shall, under the direction of the Secre. tary of War,' and agreeably to such regulations as the President may from time to time prescribe, have the direction and management of all Indian affairs and of all matter arising out of Indian relations." He is also required "to report separately to Congress at the commence. ment of each December session, a tabular statement showing distinctly the separate objects of expenditure under his supervision;"3 “all bids and proposals for * supplies or annuity-goods;"4 and 6 the reports of agents." The Commissioner "shall have the sole power and aathority to appoint traders to the Indian tribes and to make such rules and regulations as he may deem just and proper, specifying the kind and quantity of goods and the prices at which such goods shall be sold to the Indians."6

From 1832 until the present time the office bas been filled as follows:



Term of service.

Where born.

Whence appointed.


Elbert Herring
Casey A. Harris
T. Hartley Crawford
William Medill.
Orlando Brown
Lake Lea...
George W. Manypenny.
James W. Denver
Charles E. Mix
James W. Denver..
Alfred B. Greenwood
William P. Dole
Dennis N. Cooley
Lewis V. Bogy
Nathaniel G. Taylor .
Ely S. Parker..
Francis A. Walker
Edward P. Smith.
John 0. Smith......
Ezra A. Hayt.
Rowland E. Trowbridge
Hiram Price.....
John D.C. Atkids

1838-45. 1845-49.. 1819.. 1850-53. 1853-57. 1857-58. 1858. 1858–59.. 1859-61 1861-65 1865-66 1866-67. 1867-69 1869-71. 1871-73. 1873-75 1875-77.. 1877-80.. 1880-81 1881-85.

Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania.



Pennsylvania Ohio.


District of Columbia.


New Hampshire.... Illinois.



New York.

District of Columbia.
Massachusetts Massachusetts.

New York.

New York.

New York.

Pennsylvania.. Iowa.



Now under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior. ? United States Statutes at Large, Vol. IV, p. 564. 3 Ibid., XIV, p. 515. 4 Ibid., XIX, p. 199. Vol. XVIII, p. 178. 6 Ibid., XIX, p. 200.

5 Ibid.,


The Commissioner is aided by an Assistant Commissioner, “who shall also perform the duties of chief clerk,”1 and who, in the absence of the Commissioner, is authorized to act in his stead.

There are also under the immediate direction of the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner a stenographer, type writing and index clerk, and a stationery clerk; also a clerk charged with the appointment and bonding of traders.

The clerical force of the Indian Office is classified into five divisions, viz: Finance, Land and Law, Accounts, Education, Records and Files; the work in each division being under the immediate direction of a clerk known as the chief of the division. The following account of the several divisions was revised with the courteous assistance of the Indian Office to November 1, 1885, but they are subject to modification and change:

Finance division.—The finance division has charge of all financial af. fairs pertaining to the Indian service, and all correspondence relating thereto; keeps account of all receipts and disbursements of all appropriations and other funds for the Indian service; prepares and records all contracts for furnishing Indian supplies and goods, and for their transportation, and acts upon all questions relating to the same; remits funds to the disbursing officers of the Bureau on their estimates; gives such officers specific directions in regard to the objects for which funds remitted may be expended; audits and pays all claims for indebtedness incurred by the Indian Office directly; also, is charged with the inves. tigation of all claims arising on account of depredations by Indians, and making report upon the same to the Department.

This division also audits and pays a large number of claims based on indebtedness incurred by agents, who, under authority from the office, transmit such accounts in the form of certified vouchers to the Indian Office for payment. This system, which was inaugurated in 1875, has relieved agents of large money responsibilities, but has materially in. creased the labor required of the finance division.

The clerical force of the division consists of the chief, a book-keeper, one clerk of class 4, two clerks of class 3, three clerks of class 2, three lower grade, and three record clerks.

Land and law division.—This division has charge of all the Indian lands in the United States, and is the law division of the Indian Office. It directs all allotments, surveys, conveyances, appraisement and sale; prepares copies of land plats, and conducts the entire correspondence connected with the foregoing; the establishment, enlargement, or re. duction of Indian reservations by Executive order; issues certificates of allotments of land in severalty to Indians, and instructions to special commissions. It is the depository for all maps, diagrams, and plats

I Act of Congress, March 3, 1887, United States Statutes, second session Forty-pinth Congress, 1886-87.

2 For fuller statement see Report Indian Commissioner, 1878, p. LI-LXIV.

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