The Bureau of Indian Affairs was formed on March 11, 1824, by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, who created the agency as a division within his department, without authorization from the United States Congress. The Bureau has been both a witness to and a principal player in the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages. Also, the BIA has embodied the trust and government-to-government relationships between the U.S. and the Federally recognized tribes. The namesake was adopted for the agency on September 17, 1947.
Weldon 'Bruce' Loudermilk: Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs
Major functions and goals
BIA employees across the country work with tribal governments in the administration of law enforcement and justice; agricultural and economic development; tribal governance; and natural resources management programs in order to enhance the quality of life in tribal communities. The BIA carries out its core mission to serve 567 Federally recognized tribes through four offices. The Office of Indian Services operates the BIA's general assistance, disaster relief, Indian child welfare, tribal government, Indian Self-Determination, and reservation roads programs. The Office of Justice Services directly operates or funds law enforcement, tribal courts, and detention facilities on Federal Indian lands. The Office of Trust Services works with tribes and individual American Indians and Alaska Natives in the management of their trust lands, assets, and resources. Finally, the Office of Field Operations oversees 12 regional offices and 83 agencies which carry out the mission of the Bureau at the tribal level.
Present - Compared to other federal agencies, BIA is critically short of funds needed to maintain its core systems. BIA doesn't have funding to control erosion along the Missouri River, and as a result, important cultural sites are being lost. Another problem is weed control. Eliminating non-native grasses that have invaded many areas of the Midwest and West has become a major environmental concern and is critical to maintaining the economic value of the tribe's agricultural resources.
Past - The Bureau of Indian Affairs building takeover refers to a protest by Native Americans at the Department of Interior headquarters in the national capital of Washington, DC from November 3 to November 9, 1972. A group of protesters went to Bureau of Indian Affairs offices at the national headquarters building, intending to negotiate for better housing on reservations and other issues. Protesters began the siege after interpreting a government error as a doublecross. Protesters began to vandalize the building in protest. They were not evicted on the first night. The takover quickly gained national media attention.
On April 4, the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) owes the Navajo Nation approximately $15.6 million plus interest in money it withheld from the Nation’s judicial branch operations in 2014.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ mission is to enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.
- Observer, Navajo-Hopi. "Bureau of Indian Affairs Owes $15.6 Mil plus Interest to Navajo Nation." Http://www.nhonews.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
- "BIA Website." Indian Affairs | BIA. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
- "United States History." Bureau of Indian Affairs. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.