Query: Antebellum U.S. Indian Agency & affilitated Cong. committees -- Washington office procedures, staff, etc.

Linda Louise Bryan's picture

Is anyone else reading Indian Office materials on NARA microfilm? Have you made observations about the nature of these documents? Care to correspond?

I am very curious as to the hands behind the scenes who were involved in the handling and filing of the materials that went through the Washington office. I've found the notations on the outside of the letters to be very interesting--sometimes the same hand did the writing on sequential letters, often for a long period of time; at other times different hands are also writing. Sometimes scrawls and codes are there that span years. I wonder who did the summarizing of the letters--the Commissioner? a clerk who did the pre-reading? a clerk who did the filing?

I have also noted that some of the materials have been page numbered as if once included in a different document set. Could these notations have been done by someone who was bringing the docs to an outside reader, perhaps a the Senate or House Indian committee? or were they used in anticipation of a treaty negotiation? or were they used by an investigatory group at a later time? If so, how and when were the files re-inserted in the files at the Indian Office? And did all the files get reinserted or did they go walkabout?

A cohort of whistleblowers in the Minn.-Wisc. area in the 1850s and 60s believed there was a mole in the Indian Office that was leaking the contents of their letters to outsiders. I've begun to take note of Charles E. Mix, the career clerk of the Indian Affairs Office who even served as temporary Commissioner of Indian Affairs at various times. (His son Chas. H. Mix was named to the Winnebago Agency in the mid-1850s, cute eh?) Would love to know if Mix Sr. was squeaky clean.

Who else was in the Indian Office? In late 1850s there's Godard Bailey, whose presence in that office is strangely stinky. If anybody knows anything about him, please contact me, even years from now. He is reputed to have been a nephew of Gov Floyd's wife, but I don't understand the connection. Bailey was implicated in the Indian Office's "abstracted bonds" scandal at the very end of the Buchanan administration -- Floyd, as Secretary of War, was protected. Whether Bailey was always a jerk or just took the fall, well, that would be helpful for me to understand, given that he was also a treaty negotiator in Minnesota.

Would also like to know about Ashley  "A.S.H." White, who also was affiliated with the Indian Office from mid-50s to the 60s.

Is there any trove of minutes or journals or the like kept by the House and Senate Indian Affairs Committees? I know of the printed material available in the Serial Set, but would very much like to pinpoint other, less formal materials that were probably generated by the two committees. I must be frank here: I am especially concerned with Minnesota members of the committees - Henry Rice and Cyrus Aldrich, but also Doolittle of Wisconsin - or anyone else who got involved with the entrepreneurial aspects of Indian Office activities, or investigated them. Naturally, I would also like to know about Eastern investors who got involved with contracts or land buys connected with Wisconsin and Minnesota Indians, especially Ojibwe.

Linda Bryan, Maplewood Minnesota