Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880

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United States Gotoarrow.png American Indian Research Gotoarrow.png Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880

The Office of Indian Affairs was established in 1824 under the War Department. It was transferred to the Department of the Interior when that department was created in 1849. In 1947, the name was changed to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Prior to 1824, most of the Indian affairs in the United States was directly supervised by the Secretary of War. The major exception was that government trading posts, or factories, were under the supervision of the Office of Indian Trade.

Letters received by the Commissioner's Office in the Office of Indian Affairs for the years 1824 thru 1880 have been arranged primarily by the names of the field units of that office. The two main field offices in existence during those years were the superintendencies and the agencies.

This correspondence has been microfilmed by the National Archives and Records Service (now the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA) as their Microcopy 234. This set of records -- 962 microfilm rolls -- is available for searching at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. and at most of the Regional Archives of NARA. They are also available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and at several universities throughout the United States.

The letters pertain to the operations of the field offices, including reports of conditions, needs of the office, requisitions of funds and supplies, etc.

This set of correspondence provides the searcher with an insight into the history of the field office and its activities. For the person interested in family history, it will also provide information about the individuals writing the letters. But the volume of the correspondence can be somewhat daunting.

Much of the correspondence may be of little interest to the genealogist. However, embedded in it are such family history gems as "Record of Employees," rosters of Indian Scouts with English and Indian names prior to the annual Indian census rolls, and petitions of non-Indian residents regarding reasons for the removal of Indians to a reservation. Some petitions of tribes against encroaching "white" settlers are also included.

For some of the field units, the volume of correspondence about the specific topic of "Emigration" was large enough to require the filing of those letter separately. Lists of tribal members before their removal from one locality to another and muster rolls of the individual Indians actually moved may be included in the "Emigration" files.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Hill, Edward E. (comp.). Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States relating to American Indians. Washington [District of Columbia]: U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1981. 467pp.
  • Hill, Edward E. Historical sketches for jurisdictional and subject headings used for the letters received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-80. Washington [District of Columbia]: The National Archives, 1967
  • Hill, Edward E. The Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880: Historical Sketches. New York, New York: Clearwater Publishing Co., 1974.