A Range of Responsibilities

Hubert Work (center), 1928, courtesy Library of Congress

Hubert Work (center), 1928, courtesy Library of Congress

The Indian Service, or later, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) fell under the department of the Interior. The Interior department had a wide range of responsibilities, including the provision of medical services for various groups under its control.

In 1927, Secretary of the Interior, Hubert Work, tried to show the range of  just the Interior’s medical services:

— It had a floating hospital on the Yukon in Alaska (a territory at the time) and supported territorial Boards of Health in Alaska and Hawaii.

— It safeguarded the health of visitors within the National Park system.

— Trained nurses and field matrons went to remote areas of the country, teaching hygiene and sanitation.

— The department’s Geological Survey investigated ground water supplies.

— Its Bureau of Education investigated the status of physical education and hygiene in colleges and reported on the health of teachers

— Through its Bureau of Pensions, conducted physical exams and medical rating boards for veterans.

The department supported more than 100 hospitals providing over 2 million days of hospital care; the Indian Bureau maintained 91 of them. More than 30,000 Indian patients were treated in these hospitals in fiscal year 1926.

BIA Health Officer

BIA Health Officer

Tulalip Hospital, Tulalip Indian Reservation, 1910, courtesy Library of Congress

Tulalip Hospital, Tulalip Indian Reservation, 1910, courtesy Library of Congress

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