The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is a direct descendant of the Department of the Interior although some functions can be traced back to the British regime. With the dissolution of the Department of the Interior in 1936, many responsibilities for resource development in the West and North as well as for native affairs were taken up by a succession of four federal departments: Mines and Resources (1936-1949), Resources and Development (1949-1953), Northern Affairs and National Resources (1953-1966), and Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1966). The Indian Affairs Program was part of the Department of Secretary of State at Confederation, then became affiliated with Interior in 1873. The Minister of the Interior acted as Superintendent General of Indian Affairs and presided over the new department. In 1880 an independent Department of Indian Affairs (43 Victoria Chap. 28) was created, however the Minister of the Interior still presided as Superintendent of Indian Affairs. In 1936 the Department of Indian Affairs was made a branch of the Department of Mines and Resources (1 Ed. VIII Chap. 33) which had inherited other functions of the defunct Interior.
By 1945 Mines and Resources was recognized as being over burdened and steps were taken to redistribute some duties. In 1949 many functions were shifted between two new departments; Citizenship and Immigration, Mines and Technical Surveys, and the remaining Mines and Resources functions were placed under Resources and Development. The new Department of Resources and Development consisted of; Administration Branch, Northern Administration and Lands Branch, National Parks Branch, Engineering and Water Resources Branch, Canadian Government Travel Bureau and Forestry Branch. This organization continued in existence until the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources was established in 1953. The Indian Affairs Branch was transferred to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (13 Geo. VI, Chap. 16). The administrative structure of the Branch remained virtually unchanged until its transfer to Northern Affairs and National Resources in 1965 (P.C. 2285, 22 Dec. 1965).
The Department of Resources and Development was renamed the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources (2-3 Eliz. II, c. 4). This was done, as Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent informed the House of Commons on December 8, 1953, to "give new emphasis and scope to work already being done, and to indicate ... the fact that the centre of gravity ... is being moved north". The functions and organization of the new Department remained essentially the same as those of its predecessor, although "its responsibilities in relation to the north are more fully and clearly defined" (NANR, Annual Report, 1953-1954, p. 9). The Government Organization Act of 1966 established the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Department Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act, 14 - 15 Elizabeth II, c.25) which was to be responsible for the development of National Parks, the administration of Indian and Eskimo affairs, and management of Canada's wildlife resources. The five Branches created within DIAND were Northern Administration, responsible for the Yukon and Northwest Territories and their resources, National and Historic Parks, Indian Affairs, including Inuit affairs, Canadian Wildlife Service, and Resource and Economic Development Group.
The department carries out a mandate on behalf of the Crown fulfilling treaty obligations to native people in Canada and as administrator for all lands and resources north of the sixtieth parallel. Chief among its other duties is overseeing the orderly transfer of political responsibility for the north to future provinces as they emerge from their territorial embryo. Devolution is also occurring with respect to aboriginal people through the process of comprehensive land claims and the development of self-government. The eventual goal of both native and territorial governments has been the acquisition of control over natural resources within their jurisdictions. While these negotiations represent present and future reallocation of existing departmental responsibilities, other departmental functions have been deleted or moved from the mandate. The goal being the eventual extinguishment of Indian and Northern Affairs within the federal government.
The department has a central administrative core which provides direction and support to the Indian and Inuit Affairs Program. The mandate is based on the Indian Act, and various acts and regulations pertaining to the Yukon and the Northwest Territories administered under the Northern Affairs Program. The Administration Program ensures the efficient and effective management of the department and its diverse functions. This service also applies to the minister and deputy ministers executive support services which fall under the Administration program. The control of financial, human and material resources is also part of the responsibilities. Other program activities are fully described in the administrative histories associated with each of the two major sous-fonds: Indian and Inuit Affairs and Northern Affairs.
The services of the department are offered throughout the country by means of a system of regional and district offices. The federal government delivers some services directly to Indians and Inuit in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, although most services and programs are delivered by the territorial governments.
Ministers of Indian Affairs and Northern Development: Jane Stewart 1997; Ronald A. Irwin 1993-1997; Pauline Browes 1993; Thomas Siddon 1990-1993; Pierre H. Cadieux 1989-1990; William McKnight 1986-1989; David Crombie 1984-1986; Doug Firth 1984; Hon. John Munro 1980-1984; Arthur Jacob Epp 1979-198; Hon James Faulkner 1977-1979; Hon. Warren Allmand 1976-1977; Hon. Judd Buchanan 1974-1976; Hon. Joseph Chretien 1968-1974; Hon Arthur Laing 1968-1968