Thomas L. McKenney

Thomas Loraine McKenney.

Thomas Loraine McKenney (21 March 1785 – 19 February 1859) was a United States official who served as Superintendent of Indian Affairs from 1824–1830.

McKenny was born on March 21, 1785, in Hopewell, Maryland. He was the oldest of five boys, and was raised and received his education at Chestertown, Maryland. McKenney was a Quaker, which influenced his approach to interactions with Native Americans.[1]

After the abolition of the U.S. Indian Trade program in 1822, then Secretary of War John C. Calhoun created a position without legislation within the War Department entitled Superintendent of Indian Affairs (this later became part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs). McKenney was appointed to this position, and held it from 1824-1830. McKenney was an advocate of the American Indian “civilization” program, becoming an avid promoter of Indian removal west of the Mississippi River. President Andrew Jackson dismissed McKenney from his position in 1830 when Jackson disagreed with his opinion that “the Indian was, in his intellectual and moral structure, our equal.”

He wrote the two volume work, History of the Indian Tribes of North America, With Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs[2]

McKenney died in New York City in February 1859.


  • McKenney, Thomas L. Memoirs, Official and Personal: Thomas L. McKenney. [1846] With Introduction by Herman J. Viola. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1973.
  • Viola, Herman J. Thomas L. McKenney: Architect of America’s Early Indian Policy: 1816-1830. Chicago: The Swallow Press Inc., Sage Books. 1974.

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