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

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HYDE PARK N.Y.—No one will be surprised to read that I am interested in how we, as a people, treat our American Indians. But I am a little shocked by a letter I have just received which makes it appear that not only our government but many of our business people have remarkably little interest in being fair to our American Indians.

The woman writes:

"I have recently returned from a seven-year stay in India where I was lecturing on psychology at one of the universities.

"On returning to this country my hope was to do some work in the American Indian Service, because my interest and abilities lie primarily in this direction. I, therefore, looked into this situation, visiting towns and agencies in Nevada and New Mexico to do so.

"This brief survey has shown me that the American Indian is more grossly exploited today than ever before. I shall not go into the matter of the relocation program. You probably know far more about this than I.

"However, here are two flagrant cases of exploitation which I have reported to two agencies, reportedly interested in Indian welfare, but possibly only interested pocket-deep, because there was no reply.

"In Gallup, New Mexico, a jeweler told me he would sell me a good gem of the quality of rough turquoise for $3.50 an ounce, but that he sells it to the Indians for $6 an ounce. He was indignant when I told him off and walked out of the store.

"In a town in Arizona, a store which sells to the Indians buys small cans of coffee for 35 cents and sells them for a dollar and a half each.

"If, in a short time, and without trying to probe into injustices, such conspicuous cases came to my attention, what could not be uncovered with a little effort."

I cannot help wondering why this woman had no answers to her letters telling of these incidents. There may be an explanation, but to an outsider this looks like exploitation of a people who have a right to be protected in this country.

I know a great deal about the efforts that have gone on over the years to relocate the Indians, and the efforts now to make them citizens without the proper preparation so essential if they are to be properly protected and able to live with equal opportunity outside their reservations.

We are not a colonial nation, but sometimes I wonder if the American Indian has not had as poor treatment as any colony under a despotic ruler. Of course, the American Indian should be a full-fledged citizen with full rights. But how could he become such until he had really been given full opportunity for health and education?

It was reported in Monday's newspapers that Egypt's President might ask the West to change the site where the discussions on the Suez Canal will take place and to include more nations.

It certainly would be a mistake to hold this conference in any part of the Middle East and it also would seem to be a mistake to include more nations unless there was an agreement to bring the whole question into the United Nations, which I think would be a wise move.


(Copyright, 1956, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, August 8, 1956

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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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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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.