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Records of the U.S. Department of the Interior

Creator: United States. Dept. of the Interior

Date: 1800 - 2006

Level of Description: Coll./Record Group

Material Type:

Call Number: Unavailable

Unit ID: 217582

Abstract: The majority of the records from the Department of the Interior that the Kansas State Archives holds come from the Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska's offices in Kansas. The State Archives also holds microfilmed copies of correspondence and reports from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its predecessor agencies, as well as later surveying and resurveying records from the Bureau of Land Management, notably paper copies of plat maps and field notes.

The records from the Surveyor General's office provide a thorough view into the work performed in the early surveying of Kansas. Textual records include correspondence, reports, financial records, contracts and oaths of surveyors, indexes, and surveyors' field notes. The Archives also holds thousands of plat maps, diagrams, and related illustrations and drawings corresponding to the surveyors' notes. These records relate to public lands, Native American reservation land, military reservations, and some individual claims on land. These records demonstrate how the United States and its citizens gained intellectual and physical control over the new territory and provide glimpses into the United States' relationship with Native American tribes.

While the records from the Department of the Interior held by the Kansas State Archives encompass most of the existence of the United States, the majority of the records at the State Archives cover the period from 1854-1876, when the office of the Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska was in existence.

A paper finding aid for the records of the Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska, providing a more in-depth agency history as well as a folder-level inventory for the boxes of textual records, can be found in the reference room of the Center for Historical Research.

Space Required/Quantity: Circa 100 cubic feet

Title (Main title): Records of the U.S. Department of the Interior

Administrative History

Administrative History: In 1789 Congress created three Executive Departments: Foreign Affairs (later in that same year renamed as the State Department), Treasury, and War. It also provided for an Attorney General and a Postmaster General. Domestic matters were apportioned by Congress among these departments.

The idea of setting up a separate department to handle domestic matters was put forward on numerous occasions. It was not until 1849 that a bill was passed to create the Department of the Interior to take charge of the nation's internal affairs.

The Interior Department had a wide range of responsibilities entrusted to it: the construction of the national capital's water system, the colonization of freed slaves in Haiti, exploration of western wilderness, oversight of the District of Columbia jail, regulation of territorial governments, management of hospitals and universities, management of public parks,and the basic responsibilities for Indians, public lands, patents, and pensions. In one way or another all of these had to do with the internal development of the nation or the welfare of its people.

Many functions and offices that were placed under the Department of the Interior started before the department's existence. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for example, originally started as a position under the Secretary of War in 1789. An Office of Indian Affairs was established in 1824, transferred to the Department of the Interior when it was created in 1849, and became the Bureau of IA in 1947. IA currently provides services (directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts) to approximately 1.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. There are 562 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives in the United States. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is responsible for the administration and management of 66 million acres of land held in trust by the United States for American Indian, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives.

As additional lands were acquired by the United States from Spain, France, and other countries, Congress directed that they be explored, surveyed, and made available for settlement. In 1812, Congress established the General Land Office (GLO) in the Department of the Treasury to oversee the disposition of these federal lands. The office administered all public land transactions except surveying and map work (which came under the supervision of the GLO in 1836). As with the Office of Indian Affairs, the GLO was transferred to the Department of the Interior in 1849. The GLO was merged with the Grazing Service in 1946 to form the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM continues to perform surveying work throughout the country including in Kansas, among its other duties.

The position of Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska was created by an act of Congress in 1854, under the General Land Office. This act also proclaimed the territories of Kansas and Nebraska as land districts, which made it imperative that surveying of the lands should commence immediately. John Calhoun was commissioned as the first Surveyor General of the territories. In 1876 the Office of the Surveyor General was closed in Kansas, most of its records and functions transferred to the Kansas Auditor of State.

[Bureau of Land Management. "BLM and Its Predecessors." http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/About_BLM/History.html (accessed 16 July 2009).]

[Bureau of Indian Affairs. "About Us." http://www.doi.gov/bia/about_us.html (accessed 16 July 2009).]

[National Archives and Records Administration. "Archival Holdings Guide." http://www.archives.gov/central-plains/kansas-city/holdings/ (accessed 16 July 2009).]

[Roberts, Randy E. and revised by Angela Windsor. "Inventory: Records of the Office of the U.S. Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska." Kansas State Historical Society, 1990.]

[United States Department of the Interior. "DOI History." http://www.doi.gov/history.html (accessed 16 July 2009).]

Locators:

No Locators Identified

Related Records or Collections

Associated materials: Records of the Bureau of Land Management (Record Group 49), National Archives and Records Administration
Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (Record Group 75), National Archives and Records Administration
U.S. Surveyor General (RG510), Nebraska State Historical Society

Other Finding Aid/Index: See the guide to Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1907-1939.

Index Terms

Subjects

    United States. Bureau of Land Management -- History
    United States. Dept. of the Interior -- History
    United States. Office of Indian Affairs -- History
    United States. Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska -- History
    United States. Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska -- Records and correspondence
    Plats
    Topographic maps
    United States -- Territorial expansion -- History -- 19th century
    Indian reservations -- Kansas
    Indians of North America -- Government relations -- Kansas
    Military reservations -- Kansas
    Public lands -- Kansas
    Surveying -- Public lands -- Kansas
    Topographical surveying -- Kansas

Creators and Contributors


Agency Classification:

    Federal Agencies. U.S. Department of the Interior.
    Federal Agencies. U.S. Department of the Interior. U.S. Surveyor General of Kansas & Nebraska.

Additional Information for Researchers

Ownership/Custodial Hist.: In 1876 when the Office of the Surveyor General of Kansas and Nebraska was closed, its records were turned over to Daniel Wilder, the Kansas State auditor and register of the State Land Office. While some records were transferred to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1948, the majority of them remained with the State Auditor's Office until it was abolished in 1975. The records then came under the control of the Kansas secretary of State. This office transferred the remainder of the records of the Surveyor General's Office to the State Historical Society in 1988.