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On This Date – Establishment of the Bureau of Indian Affairs

John C. Calhoun / painted by T. Hicks ; likeness from a dage. by Brady ; engraved by A.H. Ritchie, c. 1852. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was created by then Secretary of War John C. Calhoun on this day, March 11, in 1824.

After Congress abolished government-run trading houses in 1822 (3 Stat. 679, chap 54 (1822)), Calhoun appointed Thomas L. McKenney as the first commissioner of Indian affairs in 1824, to fill the void left by the end of this trade system with the country’s Native American population. Congress did not enact the statutory authority for the Bureau until eight years later (4 Stat. 564, chap. 174 (1832).)

The BIA’s mission today 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.”

If you are interested in learning more about laws related to American Indians, the Law Library of Congress has an extensive online collection of primary source material, including constitutions and charters of various Indian nations.  These items are available through our catalog or on the Law Library’s website, where you’ll find an interactive map of various geographic regions through which these digital files can be accessed.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary: Lawyer, Educator, Suffragist

Washington, D.C. is a nexus for high achievers, accomplished folks, and never-satisfied attention-seekers. In the wash of history, some of Washington’s brighter lights get lost—especially those whose history gets lost because of intersectionality. Mary Ann Shadd Cary is a prime example; she was a polymath whose unswerving quest for equality made her less popular than […]

Interview with Jolande Goldberg, Law Classification Specialist

Describe your background My first encounter with the Library of Congress (LC) was as a young German legal historian with a fellowship to research the transplantation of European law and government structures into the original American colonies, in particular New Netherlands (New York).  My chief adviser and director at the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and […]

Rare Book Video – The Trial of Captain William Kidd for Murder and Piracy

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On the Shelf – Finnish Forest and Forestry Laws

The following is a guest post by Elin Hofverberg, a foreign law expert at the Law Library of Congress. Elin has written posts for In Custodia Legis on an extensive array of legal topics, including Swedish Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights, FALQs: The Swedish Budget Process, 60 Years of Lego Building Blocks and Danish Patent Law, Finland: 100 Years of Independence – […]

National Transportation Safety Board Documents Digitized

The Law Library of Congress has digitized a collection of National Transportation Safety Board decisions, orders, and petitions. The years of the decisions span from 1973-1982, with the majority falling between 1977 and 1981. Other decisions can be found on the N.T.S.B.’s Document Management System. The National Transportation Safety Board (N.T.S.B.) conducts independent accident investigations […]

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40 Years of ICWA

November 8 was the 40th anniversary of the Indian Child Welfare Act [25 U.S.C. Section 1901-1963], also known as ICWA. Throughout the late 1800s and 1900s, indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and sent to Indian boarding schools, either via provisions in treaties or by other methods. By the 1960s and 1970s, indigenous […]

Viva la Causa! Dolores Huerta and Hispanic Heritage Month

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