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Description found in Archives
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Scope and content
Series consists of records created and maintained by the Office of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. These records include correspondence, minutes, general office records, and general orders.
Conditions of access
Copyright belongs to the Crown. In order to protect the fragile originals, the microfilm copies of these records must be consulted rather than the originals.
Biography / Administrative history
From the earliest years, governors of British colonies in North America held responsibility for managing relations with the native peoples within and adjacent to the territories they administered. In May 1755, Edmund Atkin submitted a "Plan of General Direction and Management of the Indian Affairs throughout North America" to Lord Halifax, who approved the idea of dividing the continent into a Northern and a Southern District. The commission appointing Sir William Johnson as Superintendent in the northern colonies was dated 17 February 1756, while that appointing Atkin, his counterpart in the southern colonies, was dated 13 May 1756. The commissions state neither precise boundaries nor specific duties for these two officials. Reporting to and taking orders from the Commander of British Forces in North America, the superintendents concerned themselves with military alliances rather than civil administration.
The roles and responsibilities of the Superintendents evolved in the ensuing decades. Each appointed deputies, secretaries, interpreters, commissaries and other agents, dividing territories as they saw fit. Lands won from the French were added to the northern district (now running from Pennsylvania to the Hudson's Bay Company's territory), and from the Spanish to the southern district. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774 gave both officials additional concerns beyond boundaries of established colonies. The northern Superintendent's exercise of authority over Nova Scotia, tenuous at best, ended with the appointment in 1777 of Michael Francklin to manage affairs in that province. The loss of the thirteen revolting colonies effectively terminated the southern superintendency, and altered the territorial jurisdiction of the northern.
Guy Johnson, appointed acting Superintendent of the Northern District on the death of Sir William in 1774, allowed the authority of the office to erode. Sir John Johnson, appointed Superintendent General and Inspector General of Indians in Quebec on 14 March 1782, revived that authority, but lost ground during long absences from the province. His jurisdiction was reduced in 1796 by the surrender of the Western Posts (British-held territories south of the Great Lakes) and a transfer from military to civil authority in Upper Canada that made the superintendents and agents answerable to the Lieutenant Governor there. Between 1800 and 1815, Sir John reported to the Governor of Lower Canada, then again to the Commander of the Forces until the office of Superintendent General and Inspector General was abolished in 1828 and new structures established for the management of Indian Affairs within each colony of North America.
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