1948 3¢ Indian Centennial
Issue Date: October 15, 1948
City: Muskogee, Oklahoma
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforations: 11 x 10 ½
Color: Dark brown
U.S. #972 arose from the request of Senator Elmer Thomas of Oklahoma, who asked Postmaster General Robert E. Hannegan in 1947 for a stamp to commemorate the arrival of the Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma. The stamp was issued in Muskogee, which served as the location of the Union Agency, a two-story stone building where the heads of the Five Civilized Tribes met.
The “Five Civilized Tribes” Are Forced to Settle in Indian Territory
Five Civilized Tribes was the name given to the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole Indian tribes. These tribes had farmed and hunted in the southeastern United States. By the 1800s, they had adopted much of the European way of life, so European settlers considered them more civilized than other Native Americans.
This did not stop the white settlers from taking land from the Five Civilized Tribes. The U.S. government forced most of the members of these tribes to move to Indian Territory, in what is now Oklahoma, between 1830 and 1842. Thousands of Indians died making the journey, which became known as the Trail of Tears.
The U.S. pledged to preserve the Indian Territory forever. However, American Indians living in Indian Territory aided the South during the Civil War. As punishment, the government took away the western portion of Indian Territory. In 1898, the U.S. began to dissolve the tribal governments. All Indians in the territory were granted U.S. citizenship in 1901. Today, many descendants of the Five Civilized Tribes still live in Oklahoma.
Bureau Of Indian Affairs
On March 11, 1824, US Secretary of War John C. Calhoun created the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Among the first acts of the new Continental Congress in 1775 was the creation of three departments of Indian affairs: northern, central, and southern. Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry served as some of the early commissioners of these departments, tasked with negotiating treaties with Native American tribes. Their goal was to establish tribal neutrality in the Revolutionary War.
In 1789, the US Congress created the War Department and included Native American relations as part of its duties. Then in 1806, the Office of Indian Trade was established to oversee the fur-trading network, which included some control in Native American territories.
When this system ended in 1822, there was a gap in Native American relations. US Secretary of War John C. Calhoun sought to bridge that gap by creating the Bureau of Indian Affairs on March 11, 1824. It was a division within his Department of War and he created it without authorization from Congress. Because he had created the office in this way, Calhoun retained authority over the office, while the bureau’s superintendent had little power. It would take five years before a bill passed in both houses giving the president the authority to appoint a Commissioner of Indian Affairs to officially direct and manage all government matters relating to Native Americans.
In 1849, the office was transferred to the US Department of the Interior, which brought about several changes in policy and responsibilities. Over the years, tribes that had been moved to reservations suffered from diseases and starvation, leading the bureau to start providing food and supplies. However, by the 1860s, a series of corrupt bureau agents failed to do their jobs properly, leading to widespread hostility on the reservations.
So in 1867, Congress created a Peace Commission to examine the issues and suggest changes. Among their many suggestions was the appointment of more honest agents. While this change was made, their suggestion of removing the bureau from the Interior Department never happened. In the coming years, the bureau had a larger influence on reservations – running schools, participating in law enforcement, handing out supplies, and leasing contracts.
The bureau continued on this path until 1938 when the Merriam Report revealed that they weren’t properly providing services to reservations. Congress then passed the Indian Reorganization Act to help boost the tribal economies and governments. The bureau also expanded its services to include forestry, range management, and construction. The bureau’s services continued to expand until the 1960s, when some of these duties, such as education and healthcare, were passed to other departments.
Since the 1970s, the bureau has followed a policy of self-determination, promoting tribal resources and rights and their ability to manage their own governments. The current mission of the bureau is to “enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives.”
Click here for more stamps honoring Native Americans.
Click here to view the bureau’s website.