DECEMBER 31, 1954
HYDE PARK—I finished yesterday the monumental task of going through all my files and turning over to the library everything that I felt they might want and which I could part with at the present time. I found a large number of old pictures, and, more than anything else, I think they recall better the scenes and reminiscences of past years.
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Some time ago I received an invitation to attend the convention of the National Congress of American Indians and, regretfully, I was unable to attend. Now, however, I have a letter from Mrs. Clara Sturgess Johnson of Claremont, California, telling me about the meeting. She says almost 400 delegates and others attended and that there was fine leadership and great earnestness shown by all.
Mrs. Johnson feels it is important that many of us who are non-Indians should remember the history of our whole relationship with the American Indians, and I agree. In 1787 our government policy was stated in Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance of Congress, July 13 of that year, which reads: "The utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians; their lands and properties shall never be taken from them without their consent."
In 1953 certain decisions were made to grant to the Indians the same rights and privileges as other citizens. At the same time certain rights were given the states that would permit them to substitute the states' own civil and criminal codes for the tribal codes and customs and enforcement machinery. Five states were authorized to do this, though certain specified tribes were excepted.
The difficulty about such legislation, however, is that nowhere is it required that the Indians affected should be asked to give their consent, much less even be consulted, before the proposed action is taken.
The tendency is toward turning over to the states all functions in the fields of health, education and welfare and to give up the Indian Bureau in the Federal government. A list was made of the tribes ready to have property management, though trust periods would come to an end when they expired for the "incompetents" and would come to an end for all others as soon as possible.
I am afraid that the talk of "freeing" Indians and making them full citizens is a cloak to make it possible to take a little more away from them. Indians are citizens! They have a right to vote! They serve in the armed forces, and they pay income taxes and other taxes except on their land. This land-tax exemption is usually part of the agreed price received from the Federal government for larger areas given up.
All the Indians ask is that they be consulted and that they give their consent as to the proper time for "termination" of certain agreements, and that each tribe be consulted separately.
It seems to me that "termination bills" remove from the Federal government a responsibility that morally belongs to it and can be properly exercised only by the Federal government and not by the states.
The Indians are opposed to the pending legislation and I hope that something can be done to acquire the consent of the Indians themselves before they are forced to do things which they may not understand and may not wish to have done.