Probing a Dark Decade

Recordkeeping in the Indian Affairs Branch, 1937–1947

  • Bill Russell


At the end of the Second World War, the Indian Affairs Branch (IAB) launched a significant administrative renovation. As a result, during the first post-war decade, it introduced a number of notable changes in the manner in which records were managed both at headquarters in Ottawa and in the wide network of field offices. These achievements are documented in the archival record available today at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). What is less well understood is the records management environment out of which these changes emerged. This study describes aspects of the challenges that faced the IAB’s records staff during the later years of the Great Depression and those of the Second World War. Its centrepiece is a file that provides a chronicle, in the form of monthly reports, of recordkeeping in the headquarters central registry office of the Indian Affairs Branch during the years 1937–1947. This record shines additional light on the information management activities of the branch during a particularly difficult decade in the administration’s history.

Author Biography

Bill Russell

A government records, manuscript, and reference archivist with Library and Archives Canada for 26 years, Bill Russell was among those respon- sible for the records of the Indian and Inuit Affairs Program (RG 10) for much of that period. Immersion in this archival material spawned his interest in the administrative history of the Department of Indian Affairs/Indian Affairs Branch and, in particular, recordkeeping practices within these agencies. Current research projects include developments in records management within the branch, 1945–1966, as well as a case study of the transfer in the 1950s of branch field office records from federal government custody to a regional archival repository.

How to Cite
Russell, Bill. 2023. “Probing a Dark Decade: Recordkeeping in the Indian Affairs Branch, 1937–1947”. Archivaria 96 (November), 98-135.
Studies in Documents