Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


The creation of what would become the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) predated the Constitution, and the bureau was a part of the Department of War. Congress transferred the BIA to the Department of the Interior when it was established in 1849. Despite the transfer, the Department of War was still involved in the carrying out of Indian policy. The Secretary of War and many within Congress believed the transfer was a mistake due to the Department of the Interior’s apparent failure at curbing Indian violence, failure at providing proper provisions, and seeming failure to carryout the long standing civilization policy. Congress would attempt to transfer BIA back to the Department of War on a number of occasions, and the transfer was explored by a number of Congressional bodies. The investigations included the Doolittle Committee (1865), Peace Commission (1867), Banning Committee (1876), and a Joint Committee created in 1878 created solely to research the transfer issue. The pressure from these committees and the supporters of the Department of War acted as an interdepartmental check system between the departments. The added attention pushed the BIA to reform and to improve its practices. The transfer debates continued through the 1870s, but would lose support in Congress because the debates had brought about changes within the BIA and Indian Policy.

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