The abolition of the factory system left a vacuum within the U.S. government regarding Native American relations. The current Bureau of Indian Affairs was formed on March 11, 1824, by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, who created the agency without authorization from the United States Congress. McKenney was appointed the first head of the office, which went by several names at first. McKenney preferred to call it the "Indian Office", whereas the current name was preferred by Calhoun. Like its predecessors, the bureau was originally a division of the Department of War. In 1849 it was transferred to the Department of the Interior. The bureau was renamed to Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1947 (from the original Office of Indian Affairs).
The 1970's were a particularly turbulent period of BIA history. During this time, the rise of vocal activist groups such as American Indian Movement worried the U.S. Government, who reacted both overtly and covertly (through COINTELPRO and other programs)to supress possible uprisings among native peoples. As a branch of the U.S. government, BIA police were involved in political actions such as the occupation of Wounded Knee and the Pine Ridge shootout in which Leonard Peltier was accused of killing two FBI agents, as well as the occupation of BIA headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 1972. The BIA also assisted intensively in the establishment of infamous tribal authorities such as Dick Wilson, who was seen as a neo-dictator for his unabashed use of violent "GOON"(Guardians Of the Oglala Nation) squads, open misappropriation of funds, and other controversial actions. Because many of these issues, particularly the continued imprisonment of Leonard Peltier, are still seen as unresolved today, the BIA remains a controversial agency among native peoples.
The Bureau is currently trying to evolve from a supervisory to an advisory role; however, this has been a difficult task as the BIA is remembered by many Native Americans as playing a police role in which the U.S. government historically dictated to tribes and their members what they could and could not do.
Assistant Secretaries of the Interior for Indian Affairs
REP. NORM DICKS HOLDS A HEARING ON THE FISCAL YEAR 2008 BUDGET FOR THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS' OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL TRUSTEE
Apr 02, 2007; HOUSE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS, SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERIOR, ENVIRONMENT AND RELATED AGENCIES HOLDS A HEARING ON THE FISCAL YEAR...