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Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian Relocation Records

Identifier: Ayer-Modern-MS-BIA Relocation

Scope and Content of the Collection

Photographs, clippings, maps, employment brochures, and statistics compiled in albums / notebooks by Bureau of Indian Affairs agencies and offices on reservations and in urban areas, 1936-1975, bulk 1956-1958. The materials were prepared by each office to provide information to other relocation offices and potential residents. In addition to numerous photographs of Indians, Indian families, reservation buildings, vocational classes, etc., there are promotional brochures describing educational opportunities, entertainment, and shopping in the cities, and employment brochures from companies that hired Indians. Also includes 16mm film labeled "Bureau of Indian Affairs, Chicago Story."


  • Creation: 1936-1975
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1956 - 1958



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian relocation records are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian relocation records are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

History of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian Relocation Program

Indian commissioner Glenn L. Emmons started the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) relocation program in 1948. Migration to urban areas became a general trend in the post World War II years. By 1953 placements had reached 2600, and they peaked in 1957 with 6964. By 1960 a total of 33,466 Indians had been relocated.

Government relocation started as a part of Navajo-Hopi rehabilitation in 1948 when the BIA recruited Navajo and Hopi men for agricultural and railroad work. Soon they demanded better jobs, so the BIA established job placement offices in Denver, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles. The Navajo relocation program began on a small scale but quickly gathered momentum.

By 1950 the BIA had extended relocation services to other Indian tribes. Congress soon expanded the program by appropriating funds for additional offices. In 1951 there were Field Relocation Offices in Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Offices were later added in other cities, including Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco, Dallas, Cleveland, and St. Louis.

The BIA relocation program originally provided transportation, job placement, subsistence funds until the first paycheck, and counseling. In 1956 Public Law 959 added vocational training to the program. Participants, mostly between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, received two years of benefits for either on-the-job experience or vocational classes. Typically, Indians working in factories on the reservation received apprenticeship provisions, and relocated individuals received vocational training. The 1956 legislation also increased counseling services.

The BIA relocation program was controversial. Some believed that industrial jobs freed Indians from BIA control, exposed them to improved education, and provided a means to end Indian poverty. Others believed that the program forced Indians to leave reservations without improving living conditions or the quality of job training.

The BIA relocation program continued until at least 1979.


2.2 Linear Feet (4 boxes)


Photographs, promotional brochures, statistics, clippings, etc., dating mainly from 1956 to 1958, from album / notebooks compiled by Bureau of Indian Affairs agencies and relocation program field offices at reservations and schools (Cheyenne River, Fort Peck, Great Lakes, Intermountain School, Menominee, New Mexico Pueblos, Pierre, Sisseton including Flandreau, Turtle Mountain, Winnebago), and in cities (Chicago, St. Louis).


The papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Reservation Agencies, 1936-1963
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: Urban Field Offices, 1955-1975
Boxes 2-3
Series 3: Audiovisual, approximately 1968
Box 4


3a 57 11


The Bureau of Indian Affairs' Chicago Field Office donated the Indian Relocation Records to Fritz Jennings of the Newberry Library, ca. 1975.

Processed by

Jodi Morrison, 2001; Karyn Goldstein, 2002.

Inventory of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian Relocation Records, 1936-1975, bulk 1956-1958
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States