The Indian Department was established in 1755 to oversee relations between the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and those First Nations in British North America. At that time of its establishment it was a wing of the British Army.
Indian Department for British North America 1755–1867
Initially Indian Affairs and the offices of the Inspector General of the Department of Indian Affairs. Both these offices were abolished in 1828, and Major-General H.C. Darling took the position of , two departments were created.
The superintendent of the northern department, responsible for negotiations with the Indians living north of the Ohio River, was Sir William Johnson who held the position until 1774.
For the Southern Department, the superintendent was Edmund Atkins. In 1774, Colonel Guy Johnson, Sir William’s nephew, succeeded him and held the position until 1782, at which point he was succeeded by Brigadier-General Sir John Johnson, Sir William’s son, who held the position until 1791, and from 1796 to his death aged 88 in 1830.
After 1796, responsibility for Indian affairs in Upper Canada was assigned to the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.
In 1800, responsibility for Indian affairs in Lower Canada was assigned to the Governor General of Canada. In 1816, responsibility was transferred to the Commander of the Armed Forces in North America.
In practice, Indian affairs were managed and supervised through the offices of the Superintendent General of Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs, supervising the Indian Department.
In 1830, the Indian Department was split into two, with one for Upper Canada and one for Lower Canada.
In Upper Canada, the Lieutenant-Governor appointed a Chief Superintendent to oversee the department, in Lower Canada the Military Secretary oversaw the department.
That year, Colonel James Givins was appointed in Upper Canada, and Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan C. Napier was appointed in Lower Canada. Samuel Jarvis replaced Givins in 1837.
In 1841, the Canadas were amalgamated into the Province of Canada, and the Governor-General assumed direct oversight of the Indian Department.
In practice, his secretary handled most of the day-to-day operation of the department. This situation continued until 1860, when responsibility for the Indian Department was turned over from the British government to the Government of Canada.
Indian Affairs fell under the jurisdiction of the Crown Lands Department, and the commissioner of that department was appointed the Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
That role was filled by Philip M.M.S. Vankoughnet from 1860 to 1862, George Sherwood in 1862, William McDougall from 1862 to 1864, and Sir Alexander Campbell from 1864 until 1867.
Upon confederation, responsibility for Indian affairs was made the jurisdiction of the Federal government.
Indian Department/Indian Affairs for Canada 1867–1966
Upon confederation, the Federal government took control of Indian affairs in Canada under the Department of Indian Affairs.
From 1867 until 1873, the Secretary of State for Canada was also named the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs.
In 1873, the role of Superintendent General of Indians Affairs was turned over to the Minister of the Department of the Interior. In 1880, a separate Department of Indian Affairs was created.
The Minister of the Department of the Interior was the Minister of the Department of Indian Affairs until 1883, when the Privy Council assumed the role, and the Minister of the Department of the Interior was the Minister of the Department of Indian affairs from 1887 until 1930, when it was briefly turned over to the Minister of the Department of Immigration and Colonization, and then back to the Department of the Interior until 1935.
In 1936, the office of Superintendent General of Indians Affairs was abolished, and Indian affairs were governed through the Minister of the Department of Mines and Resources. In 1950, responsibility for Indian affairs was transferred to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.
Indian Affairs and Northern Affairs of Canada since 1966
It remained there until 1965, when the Department of Northern Affairs was assigned to the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, which became the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.
Rank structure of the Indian Department during the American Revolution
|1||Superintendent General||Head of the Department|
|2||Superintendent||Head of a district|
|3||Deputy Superintendent||Deputy head of a district|
|4||Captain||Senior officer in the field|
|5||Commissary||In charge of supply|
|6||Lieutenant||Assistant officer in the field|
|1||Superintendent-General and Inspector-General||Head of the Department, and Head of Operations in Lower Canada|
|2||Deputy Superintendent-General and Deputy Inspector-General||Deputy Head of the Department, and Head of Operations in Upper Canada|
|3||Deputy Agent||Deputy Head of Operations in Lower Canada|
|4||Superintendent||Chief officer in the field|
|5||Deputy Superintendent||Deputy chief officer in the field|
|6||Secretary||Senior administrative officer|
|Resident Agent||Indian Agent in Lower Canada|
|Agent||Indian Agent in Upper Canada|
|7||Assistant Secretary||Assistant administrative officer|
|Storekeeper-General||Senior supply officer|
|Storekeeper||Assistant supply officer|
|Resident Agent and Captain||Indian Agent and Senior officer in the field, in Lower Canada|
|Resident and Captain||Indian Agent and Senior officer in the field, in Upper Canada|
|Captain||Senior officer in the field in Upper Canada|
|9||Lieutenant and Interpreter||Assistant officer in the field and interpreter, in Lower Canada|
|Lieutenant||Assistant Officer in the field, in Upper Canada|
|Surgeon’s Mate||Assistant medical officer|
|10||Interpreter||Linguist in the field|