Tag Archives: Hubert Work

Scrutinizing the BIA

Hubert Work

Hubert Work

Soon after he took office, Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work contacted the Institute for Government Research; he wanted them to take an intensive look at how his organization was managing the Native American population under its control. The Institute gathered a team of experts headed by Lewis Meriam to survey reservations, schools, and other Indian Bureau facilities. On February 21, 1928, they presented Work  with a report called “The Problem of Indian Administration” that didn’t mince words.

Meriam’s report reviewed the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, and found it lacking. By this time, the institution had several buildings, and the report began with a brief description of them: “At Hiawatha (the local name for the asylum) . . . the central portion of the main building contains the administrative quarters and the culinary section on the first floor, and the employees’ living quarters on the second floor.”

Sample Pages From The Problem of Indian Administration

Sample Pages From The Problem of Indian Administration

The bakery was located in the basement of the building and “was in disorder and the oven was in a bad state of repair.” The inspectors noted the sleeping arrangements for patients and said that: “Equipment is confined almost entirely to iron beds.”

It was a dismal picture, and it seemed consistent. “The hospital building is located about fifty yards from the main building. On the first floor is a good sized dining room in great disorder.” It added later, “The dairy barn was very disorderly,” and that “the power plant and laundry are located in a separate building . . . both were in disorder.”

Much of Meriam's Report Dealt With Indian Boarding Schools Like This One at Fort Spokane

Much of Meriam’s Report Dealt With Indian Boarding Schools Like This One at Fort Spokane

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The Meriam Report

Secretary of the Interior, Hubert Work, tried to get a feel for conditions within the Indian population under his control. Muckrakers at the time were divulging a number of abuses, and after several unsatisfactory attempts to get to the bottom of them, Work contacted the Institute for Government Research.

Hubert Work

Hubert Work

In 1926, the Institute gathered a team of experts headed by Lewis Meriam, to survey reservations, schools, and other Indian Bureau facilities. Other team members were: Ray Brown, Henry Cloud, Edward Dale, Emma Duke, Herbert Edwards, Fayette McKenzie, Mary Mark, W. Carson Ryan, Jr., and William Spillman.

The team had little of the partisanship or bias that typical investigators took to the field, and on February 21, 1928, they presented Work  with a report called “The Problem of Indian Administration” that didn’t mince words. My next two posts will detail some of their findings.

 

Sample of Meriam Report

Sample of Meriam Report

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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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