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Indigenous Learning

Searching RG 10 - Records of the Department of Indian Affairs

Search records relating to Indian Affairs (RG-10)

The documentation found in RG 10 refers to the historical records created by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and its predecessors. The records include files, correspondence, letters, and transcripts on all aspects of Indian administration for both headquarters and the filed offices. The records are primary sources of original, unpublished material.

The Indian Affairs Program of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development includes the management of Indian reserves and lands, trust funds, education, and agriculture. This administration has been carried out through a hierarchical structure of band, district, and regional offices across Canada. All records in RG 10 are organized into four separate series.

Pre-Confederation Records: The records of the Imperial and Colonial Governments were created prior to the establishment of a formal file system. Therefore these records which date from the 1700’s were kept in chronological order as they were received by the various offices.

Field Office Records: Over the last one hundred and fifty years, the field offices have experienced many re-organizations, amalgamations and closures. The National Archives of Canada has a select, yet limited amount of material from the field offices. However records originating from the field offices, such as superintendencies, commissions, agencies, districts, or regional offices may provide an insightful perspective on the administration of the department’s programs by virtue of their unique nature.

Land Records: These records pertain to land agreements involving treaties, surrenders, inspections, patents, claims, leases, permits, plans, surveys, natural resources and related documents.

* Headquarters Records: These records provide insight into department-wide policies and provide a national view of Indian affairs. Useful general indexes to these records include: the Red (Eastern) Series Index; the Black (Western) Series Index; the Central Registry Series Index; and the School Files Index.

Please note that the Northern Studies Resource Centre’s holdings are only a small portion of the entire RG 10 collection and is essentially limited to Headquarters Records in nature. Reels not in our collection can often be obtained through interlibrary loan from the National Archives of Canada.


The original central registry system for Indian Affairs was established in 1872. It consisted of a straight numeric file list with various subject classifications and was known as the Red Series. In 1882, a separate series known as the Black Series was established for Manitoba, the North-West Territories, British Columbia and the Maritime Provinces. In 1907 the Maritime Provinces were transferred to the Red Series. Use of this registry system was essentially stopped in 1923 and was replaced by two new filing systems, although an occasional new file was added until 1947.

Red (Eastern) Series, 1872-1964 (MB 277)

These files deal with all aspects of the administration of Indian Affairs in eastern Canada. The bulk of the records cover the period 1872-1923. 252 reels on 16mm microfilm. Library holdings: reel numbers C-11103 to C-11349, C-9659 to C-9666, C-12777 to C-12793, C-15513 Microfilm copy of a keyword-out-of-context (KWOC) index to the Red Series files is available on reels C-15713 to C-15716 and a box list is on reel C-15717.

Black (Western) Series, 1872-1959 (MB 280)

These files deal with all aspects of the administration of Indian Affairs in western Canada.

Many of the early files were created by the Office of the Indian Commissioner for Manitoba and the North-West Territories, while others are from the Manitoba Superintendency.

The bulk of the records are limited to the period 1872-1923. Library holdings: C-10098 to C-10187, C-10190, C-10193 to C-10198, C-10203 to C-10204, C-11063 Microfilm copy of a keyword-out-of-context (KWOC) index to the Black Series files is available on reel C-9640 and a box list is on reel C-9639.

School Files, 1879-1953 (MB288)

A series of files dealing with all aspects of Indian school administration throughout Canada. Library holdings: C-7909 to C-7963, C-8134 to C-8219, C-8639 to C-8803, C-9801 to C-9811 Index to the series is available on reel C-9641.

Files cover a very broad scope including surveys, leases, rights of way, natural resources, farming, band management, organization and administration, finances, engineering services, buildings, law enforcement, welfare and social activities. Library holdings: T-7558, T-7575, T-7576 (MB 294)

Files relate to reserve surveys, school lands, timber, oil and mining rights, Grey Owl, Library holdings: C-9487, C-9501, C-9502 (MB 293)

Files relate to all aspects of Indian administration such as education, membership, band elections, band council minutes, claims and disputes, agricultural projects, natural resources and handicrafts. Library holdings: C-9697 to C-9698, C-9718, C-9732, C-12966, C-13799, C-13803 (MB 291)

Files relate to Indian treaties, medals and awards, liaison with the United States Indian Bureau, federal-provincial relations, special committees of Parliament, placement of Indian labour, school establishment, health services, staff conferences and publicity. Library holdings: C-14183, C-14184, C-14229 to C-14230, C-14887 (MB 295)

Files relate to trust accounts, savings, commutation, band property, insurance, winter works, incentive programs, Indian housing, community development, welfare and rehabilitation. Library holdings: C-13749, C-13764 to C-13768, C-13772, C-13781, C-13845, C-13847 to C-13848, C-13895 to C-13899, C-14147 to C-14149, C-14151, C-14156 (MB 292)

Files concern admission and discharge of pupils at student residences, 1952-1965, and Indian housing 1906-1965. Library holdings: C-13718, C-13727 (MB 298)

Files relate to general administration of Indian Affairs throughout Canada, including enfranchisement, band loans, rights of way, surveys and surrenders. Library holdings: C-14763, C-14817 (MB 297)

Files relate to all aspects of the administration of Indian Affairs throughout Canada and include such topics as leases, rights of way, mining rights, timber resources, surveys and surrenders. Library holdings: C-11557, C-11564, C-11565, C-11569, C-11570, C-11583, C-11604, C-11607, C-12004 (MB 296) Index finding aid for Central Registry Files available on microfiche 10-128 and 10-129. (NMF MB 359)

Registers Indices and Indexed Registers, 1872-1962 (MB 279)

Letter registers, indices and indexed registers to incoming correspondence from both eastern and western Canada of the Central Registry System. Library holdings: C-9010 to C-9060, C-10486 to C-10522.

Engineering and Construction Files, 1930-1954 (MB 301)

A series of files relating to design, construction and maintenance of various structures built by or on behalf of the Indian Affairs Branch. Library holdings: C-15035 to C-15038, C-15040 to C-15041, C-15059 to C-15065, C-15102.

Note: Other reels available covering such topics as Port Arthur Agency (MB 289), Northern Superintendency (MB 290), Fort William Agency (MB 300), Fort Frances Agency (MB 305), and Rat Portage Indian Inspectorate Records (MB 304). Please check guide in Northern Studies Resource Centre.

How to locate files in RG-10, Records of the Department of Indian Affairs

Search the online index available from Library and Archives Canada. The index is available here. Select keywords which best describe your topic or area of research. Enter rg10 on line 1 as a keyword (no spaces). Then enter subject keywords on line 2. Examples of keywords: residential schools, day schools, natural resources, community development, correspondence, land sales, disputes, elections, surveys, band membership, agent reports, game and fishery, paylists, litigation, timber licences, etc. For files of interest, note the reference information ie. Volume #, Reel #, and File #. Use the RG 10 Microfilm holdings list located in NSRC to determine the location and call number of the reels. Select reel and access desired information on the microfilm reader/printer.