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

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NEW YORK—At the year's end, there is one subject I would like to bring to the attention of the American people. We can never forget that the people living in this country when our ancestors first came here from other parts of the world were tribes of Red Indians. Some of them were friendly, some of them belligerent.

Without the friendliness of some, many of our ancestors would have died, but others did die at the hands of the Indians who wanted no white people to invade what they considered their sole domain.

Gradually the white people spread from coast to coast and our government made agreements with the Indians, granted them rights and land, and took on certain responsibilities. Thus, we came to think of the Indians as wards of the state. Some are cared for in part by the states, others come under the Indian Bureau, which is established in the Department of the Interior to look after the welfare of the Indians, their health, and education, their farming, and training in modern industry.

There is nothing to be proud of in the way we have done this job. We have been niggardly in giving opportunities for education and health. We have drafted the male Indians into service when necessary but have not given them full citizenship rights.

Lately there has been a move to wipe out the Indian Bureau and we have talked very piously about making the Indians full citizens and "liberating" them from their ancestral homelands. Some people probably think this is really a step in the interest of the Indians. As a matter of fact, I am afraid in many cases it is a land grab.

No Indian in America is forced to live on a reservation, but these lands were reserved by treaty to the Indian tribes. I think very few of our people realize that the present policy will deprive the Indians of property rights guaranteed by treaties and contracts entered into many years ago. Bills have been enacted by Congress, some of them without any hearings and most of them with very inadequate hearings, which will violate these treaties.

One of the bills signed by the President authorized any local state government to replace the Federal government whenever it chose to take over fully Indian matters. This is one of the ways of proceeding to liquidate the services rendered by the Indian Bureau.

This probably means that in many states when the policy of taking away the Indian lands is actually achieved, the state will find a great number of poor Indians on their relief rolls.

I think perhaps in the New Year it would be wise to review this whole policy as regards our Indian fellow citizens. The Indians are a native minority in this country and they have a right to preserve their culture, and to have preserved for them such economic and social rights as were agreed to by treaty.


(Copyright, 1955, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 31, 1955

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.