JULY 9, 1955
HYDE PARK—I have one very constant correspondent in California whose main interest in life seems to be the situation of the Indians in our country, and I am glad to find there is someone who really cares because this is a very crucial time for the Indians.
As we took away their land years ago we gave them treaties that left certain lands in their possession and set down certain rights they would have in perpetuity in relation to our government. They were considered wards of the state and a bureau was set up to look after their affairs and there were always government representatives supposedly helping them on the reservations.
Sometimes these representatives were really interested in helping the Indians and sometimes they were untrustworthy and feathered their own nests rather than helped the Indians. I cannot say that I think we have ever been completely fair in our dealings with the Indians because we cannot point with pride to the fact that they are well cared for. We have neglected the education of some and that is something to be ashamed of.
Now the government has decided the time has come when the Indians cease to be wards of the state. The are to be absorbed into the community as citizens, and my lady from California writes me as follows:
"Members of the 84th Congress are facing the necessity of giving serious consideration to the policy which the U.S. intends to follow in its future dealings with Indian American citizens.
"The questions which must be answered are these:
"Should the Federal government, in accordance with the policy approved by Congress in 1953, end as quickly as possible all its special services to the Indians and all the special protection of their rights and their lands promised by treaties or agreements, without first obtaining the consent of the Indians themselves?
"Or, should Congress repudiate that two-year-old policy and adopt one based on the principle that the consent of a majority of the members of any Indian tribe or recognized band must be obtained before any bill ending government responsibility for them may be introduced?"
She goes on to say that the public must know what the situation really is because otherwise we will not achieve in Congress a humane, responsible and honorable policy on the part of our government in its dealings with the original inhabitants of this country.