BIA’s Impact on Indian Education Is an Education in Bad Education

Anyone else pay in tens and not twenties?

By: By Darek Hunt January 30, 2012
Indian Country Today Media Network

The forerunner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was created by the U.S. federal government in 1824 to handle all matters relating to American Indians. From its inception, the ultimate goal of what ultimately became the BIA was not to protect Indians, but to assimilate them into white society. One major tool of that assimilation was education.

Secretary of War John C. Calhoun created the Office of Indian Affairs under the guidance of the Department of War. By 1829, the Office of Indian Affairs was sanctioned by Congress and by 1947 it officially became known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Since there was little oversight of the BIA in its early years, greed, corruption and politics shaped federal policy in favor of the encroaching white immigrants and to the detriment of Natives trying to preserve their lands and culture. The early mandate of the BIA was to handle treaties for the government, but in reality BIA representatives acted more as agents for the whites by negotiating treaties that were harmful for Natives. A leading exemplar of this exploitation was Andrew Jackson. Prior to his election to the presidency in 1828, Jackson was a strong political force in the southeastern United States. Utilizing his connections in the federal government, he was able to get vital information about Indian lands from the General Land Office, which worked with the Office of Indian Affairs. By working with family members who were given government jobs, Jackson bought up Indian lands cheaply. According to the author Anthony F. C. Wallace in The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and The Indians, “At the suggestion of his Uncle Andrew, it is said, [John] Coffee made an agreement with the Land Office clerks to receive half of any bribes they took for giving information about land or aiding in its acquisition.” Once he was elected president of the United States, Jackson continued to ruthlessly harass and exploit Natives.

In 1830, President Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal Act and began a process that systematically robbed Natives of their land. Many tribes were exterminated; others were forced to move as far west as Oklahoma. Wallace wrote, “[It] was a disaster that never really ended. The government thereafter pursued the same policy of buying Native lands and relocating Native tribes as the nation moved westward. The Indian territory (as did other reservations) became a vast, poverty-stricken concentration camp for dispossessed Natives, administered by a federal bureaucracy—the Office of Indian Affairs—that largely controlled the local economy, the local police and local schools.”

Read more at Indian Country Today


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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