FEBRUARY 4, 1948
HYDE PARK, Tuesday—There are many things in our democracy that need attention but one of the most important, it seems to me, is for our Congress to give serious thought to the treatment accorded our Indians. When our forefathers came to this land, they might easily have been wiped out by the Indians, but many of the tribes proved to be friendly. To many of us there have come down, as family history, tales of Indians who gave of their own corn when starvation faced the white men or who guided them to good hunting grounds.
Now the Indian turns to the white man for justice. He asks very little—that he may retain the land allotted to him, that he may be treated as a citizen, that his children may be educated so that, when they can no longer live on the reservations, they will have an equal chance to earn a living as citizens of the United States. The Indians have fought beside the white man in wars which we have waged far overseas. They have a right to justice and consideration, and yet in Congress we find bills which, in almost every case, try to remove something from the Indian rather than to improve his lot.
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In New York State there is a small nation of Indians known as the Six Nation Confederacy or League of the Iroquois. I have seen their reservation and I have been ashamed that, in the time they have lived as wards of the United States, we have done so little for them. They want to keep their independence and they want both the United States and Canada to observe the treaties made with them. New York State has not treated her Indians well, and now the Federal Government, through certain bills introduced in Congress, would seem to be willing to condone the wrongs done to the Indians by the State Government.
Every one of us, as citizens, should want to treat fairly this small minority group in our midst. The way we treat them is not simply a national question. The treatment of minorities everywhere is really an international question today. Wherever there is discrimination or injustice, the other nations can turn upon us and point out that, when we complain of what anyone else does, we had best look at ourselves more clearly and remove the beam from our own eye before we attempt to remove the mote from our brother's eye.
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Speaking of New York, I wonder why there is not a more general desire to see the St. Lawrence Seaway begun and carried through to its completion. I realize that New York City may be fearful that this will syphon off some of the traffic which now goes through that port, but it seems to me it would greatly increase traffic everywhere. Since our military engineers have recommended it and since we have been negotiating with Canada about it for a long time, I should think the time had arrived to stop talking and do something.