DECEMBER 30, 1950
HYDE PARK, Friday—People who are dependent and are not fully able to defend their own interests are always an invitation to exploitation. Even in our own democracy we cannot deny that this has been so. That is why most of us hope that the day will come when all American Indians will be sufficiently well educated to be allowed to enter into the stream of American life as citizens and to take care of their own business. That day, however, does not seem to be very close at hand. Education has been woefully bad where our American Indians are concerned, and, as yet, they are far from being able to look after their own affairs.
It is well, therefore, that many people are interested in the welfare of the Indians. Some are interested in their purely artistic contributions, for the Indians have many expressions of their own art. But, for the most part, people are interested in seeing the Indians integrated into our national life and are working toward again making them full citizens in this land which once belonged to them entirely.
I am quite sure that the new Commissioner of the Indian Bureau, Dillon S. Myer, whom I knew and admired when he was in charge of the relocation camps during the last war, wants to do the best that can be done for the Indians. His experience, however, has not been long with this particular question and he has around him men with whom he has previously worked on other matters. It is possible, therefore, that interested people, wanting to achieve personal objectives, might present Indian affairs to Commissioner Myer in a somewhat misleading manner. In fact, certain bills which already have been presented lead one to feel that this may have been so. The fact that the Indians have been deprived of their right to choose their own counsel, a right which they long enjoyed, is a serious infringement on their liberty.
In certain states it always has been difficult to protect the rights of the Indians and the Representatives from these states quite naturally think first of the rights, or rather the advantages of the other citizens of the state. Now it looks as though an effort is being made to hurry the Indian plan of self-development which has been going on since 1929, and many fear that if the Indian bill presently before the Senate is passed the Indians and their interests will seriously suffer.
Perhaps it would be well for Commissioner Myer to call together some of the organizations and some of the men in this country who have had long experience in dealing with our Indian minority groups. He might be able to clear up some of the misunderstandings that they have about his attitude, and they might be able to help him to a clearer understanding of the interests of the Indians as they see them. Many individuals in this country have been closely associated with the Indian tribes over a long period of years. They have gained a knowledge and a feeling for the Indians that cannot be gained without much study and association, and I think they should be heard.