Crooked Agent

Agent fired for "irregularities."

For Indian Agent Albert M. Anderson, kickbacks and embezzlement were all in a day's work.

For years, the term "Indian Agent" was synonymous with corruption, and Albert M. Anderson was a perfect example. At the turn of the century, the “spoils system” was in full effect: the Bureau of Indian Affairs turned a blind eye to agents who misused their position to enrich themselves. Agents were political appointments, so the only requirement for landing the job was to be from the same political party as those elected to office.

In 1889, Hal J. Cole was the Bureau of Indian Affairs Agent assigned to the Colville tribes, and Anderson was his clerk. Perhaps it was there that Anderson learned the art of creative bookkeeping. When Cole left office in 1897, Anderson took over as the Colville agent. But by 1903, a routine internal review showed that embezzling was the least of Anderson’s abuses. His crimes included taking kickbacks from mining companies prospecting on reservation lands, and even claiming to be the guardian of the reservation's orphaned children, so that he could lease the children's land and pocket the money. Anderson's misdeeds shocked even the most seasoned agents. By the next year, President Theodore Roosevelt himself ordered Anderson removed from office.

Anderson proclaimed his innocence, perhaps emboldened by the long history of unchecked corruption that had gone before. In April of 1908, Anderson appeared before a Federal Grand Jury. The district attorney was confident in his case against Anderson, but the jury did not render an indictment. In September, Anderson appeared in court again, this time on charges of perjury related to the mining claims. But in October 1909, the case was dropped, and Anderson walked away a free man. Was there an even bigger scandal beneath the surface? We may never know: Since Anderson was not indicted, the court records remain sealed to this day.



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