AUGUST 4, 1950
HYDE PARK, Thursday—I understand that the Association on American Indian Affairs, Inc., has just called on the United States Senate to strike out of the pending Alaskan statehood bill a provision which they say would deprive the Alaskan natives of their land rights.
To many people this may seem a purely domestic affair between us and the natives of Alaska, just as what happens to the Indians in the United States on the reservations may seem to us a purely domestic affair. But, having listened to it being discussed in Committee 3 of the United Nations General Assembly, in no very friendly manner, by our colleagues from the USSR and Yugoslavia and other countries, I realize that our treatment of these minorities is no longer a domestic question. It touches our standing and the faith we inspire in the people of Asia, Africa and the Near East.
If we are so careless of the rights of minorities within our own sphere of influence, how can they trust us, and know that we will think of them and of their rights and freedoms in other areas of the world?
There is another twist, however, to this particular situation in Alaska because, in addition to the injustice which Mr. Oliver LaFarge claims we might do to the Alaskan natives, we are perhaps undermining our own defense positions in those areas, for it is the native outposts which must watch and give the first alarm should there be aggression from without our territory along our long northern coast line.
Apparently this clause in the statehood bill would repeal our nation's 1936 confirmation of the right of Alaskan natives (Aleuts, Eskimos and Indians) to the clear title to their land and resources.
I believe that both Alaska and Hawaii should be admitted to statehood, but if, in doing so, we harm the rights of any groups of citizens in these new states, the prestige of our nation will suffer in the world as a whole.
The rights that we confirmed to the natives were granted to them in 1867 when Russia ceded the territory to the United States, and it would certainly seem unjust to them to lose these rights. The particular section in the bill which worries the Association on American Indian Affairs is section 5, part 1 of the statehood bill which prohibits confirmation of Aleut, Eskimo and Indian land titles.
It says: "Pending action by the people of Alaska and the Congress as provided in this Act, no reservation for use and occupancy by the natives of Alaska shall be designated in the territory by authority of any law of the United States".
This is a moment when all of us should be particularly alert and see to it that complete justice and full consideration is given the peoples who are dependent upon the United States. The land in which we live was once theirs and, in the changing civilization of the modern world they found it hard to adjust and hold their own, and have lagged behind the industrialized civilization which has come to replace the plains and forests in which they once lived and roamed.
The world watches our actions!