The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Tuesday—One of the Soviet attacks on the democracies, particularly the United States, centers on our racial policies. In recent months the Russians have been particularly watching our attitude toward the native Indians of our country. So, the question of what we do about our Indians, important as it used to be for the sake of justice, is enhanced in importance now because it is part of the fight which we and other democracies must wage, day in and day out, in perfecting our governmental households so that it will not be vulnerable to attack by the Communists.

For that reason our country as a whole should understand what is going on at the present time in Congress in this connection. This particular little plot, shall I call it, has to do with the Navajo and Hopis. There are 11 Hopi pueblos, surrounded by Navajo country. The Navajos number about 65,000 and are the largest Indian tribe north of Mexico. The Hopis represent the most perfect flowering of pre-Columbian culture from the Rio Grande to the Arctic.

For purposes largely of publicity, because it was not really necessary, the Interior Department drafted a bill to authorize a rehabilitation program. This bill reauthorized already authorized appropriations, and the interested public and the Indians gained an impression that the bill actually appropriated $90,000,000 for their needs. It did nothing of the kind. The hope was that it would create public interest and thus stir the appropriations committee in Congress to appropriate some very much needed money.

The bill was approved by voice votes in the House and the Senate and sent to President Truman. Even if it is signed by the President, funds must still be appropriated to put the bill into effect.

I certainly hope President Truman will veto this bill. One provision of it would place all Navajo and Hopi Indians under the state laws of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. Only a few minor exceptions in the matter of land law and property taxation were made; nothing was said of water rights; and without any exceptions the Navajos and the Hopis are placed under the jurisdiction of the state and local courts.

For a hundred years it has been the U.S. policy to allow Indians their own tribal, customary law. Under Section 9 of this new bill we will interfere with all the things that are important to them—their religion, their art, their self-governing arrangements. The very things that those who study Indian life consider most important, this bill would destroy.

There is a constant effort going on to transfer Indian property to whites and one of the most successful ways in the past has been to disrupt the Indian social system. Between 1887 and 1933, through land allotments, we transferred 90 million acres of the best Indian land to whites. This was largely done by the method of persuading or compelling the individualization of tribal properties.

In 1934, under the Indian Reorganization Act, land allotments were stopped. Now there is still another bill up for consideration, called the Butler-D'Ewart Bill. This authorizes any Indian individual, if declared competent, to sell his equity regardless of the consent of the co-owners and, of course, strikes a body blow at all Indian corporate holdings. The intent is similar to the Indian Omnibus Bill of 1923 which Albert B. Fall nearly succeeded in getting enacted.

There are many other things that are being done in Congress at the present time and which the public knows little or nothing about. Often the Indians themselves and the welfare groups that are trying to watch legislation for them know nothing about what is being done by the conferees in Congress.

Are we indifferent to the way our Indians are treated? If not we had better let our representatives in Congress know that we do not like the present trend of legislation.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics
  • Indian Reorganization Act (United States)
         [ LC ]
  • Indians of North America
         [ LC | Wikidata | FAST ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, October 5, 1949

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | LC | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | Wikidata | SNAC ]

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Available under licence from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

Published with permission from the Estate of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

TEI-P5 edition published on April 28, 2017.

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.