My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Monday—I have said so much in my columns about the sad situation of our American Indians and the unfortunate things that happen to them that I am glad to be able to report some good information for a change. It comes to me from Assistant Secretary of the Interior William E. Warne.

Mr. Warne tells me that one of the last official acts of former Secretary Julius Krug was the designation of three reserves to protect the native land of the villages of Hydaburg, Shugnak and Kobuk and Point Barrow, Alaska.

He also informs me that the native residents of these villages must vote on these proposed reserves under the Act of May 1, 1936, but he feels that these reserves will not only protect the interests of the natives, but may also provide a technique for settling land claims in many parts of Alaska. If this is so, it should aid in the development of the territory.

Mr. Warne points out further, however, that while this preservation of native land rights is an important step, it must be followed by other steps, including an expanded credit program. The natives must increase their present income, since it now falls far below the general level of other inhabitants in Alaska. To do this they must obtain adequate financing to develop and to utilize their resources, to establish business corporations and associations and to apply the instruments of modern technology to increase their present incomes.

It is quite evident, too, that they will need help to point out to them where they must obtain skilled management from the outside to start them off correctly. I hope the Interior Department will watch over these enterprises, even beyond helping to obtain the necessary loans.

The natives evidently have one good practical example before them in the experience of the village of Hydaburg. That village secured a loan of nearly $200,000 from the revolving credit fund for the construction of a cannery to be operated by the village. This loan has been paid in full and the plant has already been enlarged. The cannery has provided employment not only to the natives of Hydaburg, but also to the natives of other villages, especially one of the very poor villages called Kasaan.

If the Indians are to be able to get what they need from this revolving credit fund, Congress must raise the present level of authorizations and appropriations. The authorizations at present are for $12,000,000 and appropriations of $9,599,600 have been made. The Department of Interior will seek to obtain an increase in both these figures from Congress.

Authorization without appropriation is valueless. And I hope very much that in this one bright spot Congress will see fit to make the record so good that it may serve as a model for other places where we do not do as well at the present time in dealing with our American Indian situation.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL