Native Americans in the 20th Century

 

 

 

NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY

20TH CENTURY

 

Within the Indian community there was emerging a national Native American leadership which was striving for Indian-conceived solutions to the enlarging social, political, and economic injustices endured by Native Americans.

Briefly during the final decade of the nineteenth century, Native Americans had been at center stage of national concerns.

Powerful citizens marshaled as "Friends of the Indian" and ‘Christian Reformers" had gained for suffering Indians, constrained on repressive reservations, what they believed was the millennium for the cause of better conditions for them.

Through allotment in severalty the Indian as a landowner would surely accomplish that transformation process

which would make him a worthy subject for full assimilation into the societal mainstream.

However, this hope quickly became a mocking disappointment.

It failed because of the inability of many Indians to cope with the alternative life-style the new order required; because of Indian intransigence;

because of callousness and greed of Angle-Americans who dispossessed over half of the allotted Indians of their land before the reform program had been in effect for twenty years;

and because of nonproductive public attitudes.

Public View and Practice Toward Indians

At least four nonproductive attitudes toward Indians found voice and following in the period 1900-1930.

One held by many citizens, derived from an unrealistic view, perhaps depraved hope, and based on ignorance rather than fact,

contended that the "Indian problem" was about to be resolved by the steady decline in aboriginal population to the point that Indians would vanish as an ethnic entity.

Figures from a recent census showed from an estimated 1,500,000 at Contact, the Indian population had declined to 250,000.

Excessively high death rates, particularly infant mortality and loss of mothers at birth,

shockingly low life expectancy because of poverty and degradation induced by their government-imposed life-style,

plus the move of an estimated 60,000 Indians into the societal mainstream, corroborated the view the Indian was a vanishing American.

Rather than express regret or some national shame over this apparent trend, most citizens felt relief.

However, even while the "vanishing American" view was most current,

the Indian population decline had halted and a steady increase soon provided an growing Native American demographic base so that by 1970 the aboriginal

population of the United States had returned nearly to its original level.

Another nonproductive attitude that worked against a better life for Indians was the pervasive inertia that followed the zealous crusade for allotment in severalty.

The reform spirit spent itself soon after adoption of the Dawes Act.

And a decline in public interest in Indian welfare was shown by the decline in membership and contributions to reform organizations,

Many leaders and most rank-and-file members of Indian reform groups considered their work completed by 1900 although their interest and oversight were still needed just as much to assist Indians in adjusting to the new conditions.

Reformers’ interest in the Indian waned, and they turned to other matters.

Congress, rarely a bold formulator of public opinion but for the most part a follower of civic will, reflected this trend of growing disinterest in support of better conditions for Indians.

On several occasions after application of the General Allotment Act, national legislators nearly refused to appropriate funds for support of Indian education, money

which in most cases belonged to the tribes and was only held in trust by the federal government, as a manifestation of the growing determination to "resist special concessions to red men."

This rapid cooling of zeal has been characteristic of Angle-American reform movements—

a spate of private and public indignation at abuse, evil, injustice, a corpus of corrective laws,

inevitably followed by decline of advocate interest,

permitting no essential continuing attention and oversight,

and generally defeating the reform because those or that which the reform legislation was designed to regulate and control soon find ways to evade or manipulate the reform.

Today’s reforms inevitably become the subjects of tomorrow’s reforms.

Thus allotment in severalty did not produce the ultimate in prosperity and transformation touted by reformers.’

Attitudes of citizens of western states with large Indian populations, continuing the early frontier prejudice, were by and large nonproductive.

Westerners wanted lands and the timber, minerals, and farming and grazing resources they contained.

And they spared no effort to possess them.

Most Angle-Americans refused to accept Indians as fellow citizens or to permit them to enter the mainstream of society which "Friends of the Indian" had advocated.

Native Americans generally were denied basic constitutional rights, including the vote, and were subjected to discrimination when they attempted to express citizenship.

Public officials, who should have been better informed, also reflected an unrealistic attitude toward Indians.

Interior Department personnel, responsible for managing Indian affairs, who could be expected to be sufficiently informed to fulfill their administrative function, all too frequently manifested complete lack of essential understanding of ethnic matters.

But perhaps the crowning ignorance of the age on the true state of Native Americans in the United States was expressed by Secretary of State Robert Lansing to the British government in 1913 in connection with British-American claims arbitration proceedings.

The British government, on behalf of Cayuga Indians in Canada, was seeking compensation for the Cayugas

because the state of New York, in violation of the treaty concluding the War of 1812, had seized their lands and disposed of them as state property.

Lansing, in his defense of treatment accorded Native Americans by the United States and the state of New York, declared,

that system the Indians residing within the United States are so far inept that they live under their own customs and not under the laws of the United States;

that their rights upon the lands they inhabit or hunt are secured to by boundaries defined in amicable treaties between the United States and

United States had terminated the treaty process with Indian nations in ,and Native Americans had been subjected to detribalization since

Exploitation Continuum

twentieth century brought Indians no respite from private and public

,exploitation and abuse.

Greedy non-Indians continued to prey upon allotted tribal resources.

And for the most part, federal and state laws and decisions denied Indians full citizenship and equal protection

and them to accept a patently unfair, discriminatory dispensation of justice.

For instance were territorial and state laws and court decisions in favor of Indians; occasionally Congress passed a statute which was modestly protective of Indian rights, and now and then a federal tribunal would render on in favor of Indians.

However, for nearly three decades of the new y, the federal government as primary trustee for Native American and property was basically indifferent to its charge.

.The period from 1900 to 1934 was a time of continued divestment of Indian to allotted lands.

Most divestment was by state action, particularly in Oklahoma, the old Indian Territory, where local politicians in league with county judges shamelessly desecrated public trust,

cruelly abused their wards, and extorted their property, largely land, with impunity.

How one instance of huge land appropriation occurred at the highest level.

days before he left the presidency, Theodore Roosevelt, in the name of conservation, issued eight executive orders directing that 2,500,000 acres of red reservation land be transferred to the national forests.

Subsequently lands were restored to the Indian tribes, less to serve justice and more for conservation:

as forest lands they were more easily exploitable under Indian tenure than under federal conservation management.

Private and public interests in states with large Indian populations continued to voice demands that federal officials further relax protective restriction Indian property.

Private groups sought to gain access to Indian tents to exploit them for personal profit; public groups in the states sought to bring tax-exempt Indian lands under state jurisdiction to increase revenues.

Robert L. Owen, mixed-blood Cherokee and one of the senators from the new state of Oklahoma, openly admitted that had worked to remove restrictions on allotments while Oklahoma was still Indian Territory,

and he claimed that he had been instrumental in persuading Congress to pass laws granting citizenship to Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes,

thus ending federal supervision over most of the restricted allotments in the Indian Territory.

During each legislative session, congressmen introduced bills to remove all restrictions on allotments, as they put it, "to set Indians free,"

and to continue the abuse-ridden system of permitting county courts through guardians to control property of minor and adult Indians with restricted allotments,

meanwhile defending the system of wholesale, fraudulent divestment of Indian property in the face of shocking cumulative record of malfeasance, corruption, and abuse of public trust in handling Indian properties.

The pattern of plundering Indian estates, so efficiently applied to the lands of the Five Civilized Tribes, was extended to other tribes across the West.

The Burke Act of 1906 had delegated discretionary authority to the secretary of the interior to remove restrictions on sale of allotments.

Over the years various secretaries of the interior had exercised this function on an individual basis so that between 1906 and 1917 they had declared nearly 10,000 Indians competent and had issued them patents or deeds to their allotments.

Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior from 1913 to 1920, an early advocate of Termination, as the policy of concluding federal oversight of Indian properties was called, was determined to end federal guardianship for as many Indians as possible.

Termination became especially popular in the 1SEiOs, but early in the century Lane reportedly went at issuing "competency clearance" and removing restrictions on allotments "with a vengeance."

In 1917 he appointed a competency commission;

its members traveled to settlements of allotted Indians and made a house-to-house canvas to determine the competency of aboriginal householders, meaning their ability to cope in a white man’s world.

Competency commission members reportedly spent less than fifteen minutes interviewing each Indian.

During Lane’s three-year program (1917-1920), which he called "blanket competency," he issued over 20,000 patents to allottees, discontinuing federal guardianship of their lands.

Most of those Indians released from federal supervision soon lost their land to local Anglo-American bankers, businessmen, farmers, and stockmen.

The outcry against Lane’s easy competency and the accompanying rapid loss of Indian land led federal officials in 1920 to return to a more deliberate, individual process for determining competency.

Besides wholesale appropriation of Native American allotments by non Indians, federal officials continued the process of allotting tribal reservations in spite of compelling evidence that doing so did little to promote Indian welfare.

Each reservation allotted became a new area of opportunity for divestment of individual Indian title.

The northern Cheyenne reservation was the last communally owned tract to be allotted; it was plotted in 1930-1931.

Indians lost control of their lands under other guises as well.

A widely used ploy for appropriating choice tracts of reservation land was the mining claim.

Federal law permitted citizens to enter public lands and occupy plots believed to contain minerals.

As trustees of tribal funds, federal officials continued to deny Native Americans self-determination or a voice in the disbursement of these assets.

Thus officials in the Bureau of Indian Affairs contracted with church organizations to provide Indian education through sectarian schools, committing tribal trust funds for this purpose without consulting Indian owners.

Tribal leaders objected to this unilateral appropriation of tribal property,

and the United States Supreme Court in 1905 ruled that the Bureau of Indian Affairs as principal trustee for Indian property was within its rights.

Federal courts also took a generally limited, restricted view on individual Indian rights.

Foundation for this stance was the Elk v. Wilkins decision, rendered in 18&4.

John Elk, a Sioux, had left the reservation and was gainfully employed in Omaha, Nebraska.

Claiming that he was no longer a member of the Sioux tribe but under United States jurisdiction and thereby a citizen, he presented himself to vote in a local election.

When he was refused a ballot, he filed it in federal court claiming that his rights as a citizen had been violated

Congress granted right-of way lands to the Santa Fe Railway across the Hulapai Reservation in Arizona.

 

Tribal leaders subsequently attempted to recover the land issued to the railroad by right of Indian title.

 

Lower courts held against the Indians, but the United States Supreme Court in 1925 ruled in favor of the Hulapai tribe and nearly half a million acres were eventually restored to the Hulapai tribe.

 

But it was under the local courts that theIndians suffered the greatest travesties and losses of their lands and rights

 

 

Native American Initiatives

 

Indians on allotments and on reservations continued in the twentieth century to seek ways to cope with the new order.

Some sought to achieve competency through education in order to protect their allotments and to find a place in the white society by mastering a craft or a profession.

Graduates of Haskell, Carlisle, Hampton, and the government schools at Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Phoenix acquired special vocational skills which prepared them for productive employment.

The industrial expansion during World War I created jobs for Native Americans, many of them graduates of Indian vocational institutions.

Each year after 1900 the number of Indian children attending school increased.

Most Indian learners enrolled in Indian schools, but under pressure from officials in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an increasing number attended public schools,

so that by 1931 out of a total of 75,000 Indian students, more than half attended public schools.

Native Americans preferred Indian schools and attended them whenever they had a choice.

In the public schools they often drifted in a dominant Anglo-American student body and suffered discrimination which hampered their academic progress.

In the all-Indian institutions their ethnic identity was not a handicap or a source of scorn.

In the early twentieth century, Indian schools also became more attractive.

First, school administrators were moving away from the nineteenth-century Bureau of Indian Affairs position of eradicating all sign of Indian culture and began to permit instruction in it.

And in 1916 Commissioner of Indian Affairs Cato Sells said the bureau should have

"taken into account those abilities of the Indian student with which he is peculiarly endowed and have come down to him as a racial heritage;

his religion, art, deftness of hand, his sensitive artistic temperament."

Thus, with official sanction, educators at Haskell in 1908 permitted Indian students to present an exhibit titled "The Indian, His Capabilities and Achievements, His Arts, Music, Customs, and Religion."

There followed formation of the Department of Native Indian Arts at Carlisle, and by 1912 freshman students were learning about famous Indian leaders while seniors were studying "Sociology Applied to the Indian Race" and "Native Industries."4

Another primary reason why Indian students preferred Indian schools was the rise of strong, nationally recognized athletic programs at Haskell, Carlisle, and Hampton.

Jim Thorpe, the Potawatomi-Sac and Fox Indian, whose legendary feats in baseball, football, and track won him recognition as the world’s greatest athlete, had quickened Native American interest in competitive athletics.

 

Indian school programs came to include varsity competition in baseball, basketball, football, and track.

 

And Native American athletes at carlisle and Haskell regularly received national recognition for outstanding performance.

 

Those recognized as All-American football players included John Levi, Louis Weller, Buster Charles, and Pete Hauser.

 

Indians of all ages on allotments, reservations, and in towns and cities all across the United States found a source of ethnic pride in the widely reported exploits of young Indian athletes.

 

By 1910 it was estimated that 10 percent of the Indian population had achieved some measure of economic and social success.

However, most Native Americans hovered between acceptance and rejection of the new order, hesitantly holding to the old customs but considering a change in life-style.

Some Indians withdrew to their allotments or reservations, seeking refuge from the maelstrom of change in Indian customs and religion, or in alcohol.

And an increasing number of Indians turned to the peyote cult which was flowering into the Native American Church.

In the reservation era, the peyote cult had succeeded the Ghost Dance as the new hope of Native Americans.

Worshipers used the fruit of the peyote cactus as a sacrament in their service;

it was believed to transmit power to the worshiper and bring "internal peace and harmony rather than competition and conflict."

Peyote cult practice stressed personal rehabilitation and integration from following the Peyote Road,

a strict code of behavior requiring strength of character, integrity, and honor in interpersonal relations, a high level of personal performance and achievement,

abstinence from alcohol-the bane of so many Indians in those trying times—

and emphasis on self-reliance, self-support, and economic independence, in short, responsible living. 5

Local, state, and federal authorities, even some tribal leaders, scorned the peyote cult’s mysticism and power endowment,

denounced its use as a pernicious diversion, and attempted to suppress it.

They were supported by missionaries who, finding the cult a powerful threat to their attempts to convert Indians to Christianity, denounced peyote as a harmful, debasing, sinful, habit-forming drug.

Peyote exclusionists were so determined to crush the cult that, besides harassing Native American followers, they lashed out at the cult’s few Angle-American defenders.

Thus James Mooney, an anthropologist and advocate of the Indian’s right to freedom of worship, including use of peyote, was prohibited by a federal order from conducting anthropological research on the Kiowa reservation.

Federal officials attempted to eradicate peyote from Indian communities by including it with alcohol among those items forbidden on Indian reservations.

And officials in the Department of Agriculture assisted Bureau of Indian Affairs agents by banning the importation of peyote from Mexico, the principal source.

But these measures failed because sufficient peyote reached Indian users.

Finally in 1922 the commissioner of Indian affairs informed Congress that "legislation is urgently needed to control the growing and harmful habit among the Indians of using peyote."

Thus at the urging of Congressman Carl Hayden of Arizona, the United States House of Representatives regularly adopted resolutions banning use of peyote, but each time the bills failed in the Senate.

State action against peyotists began in Oklahoma, the former Indian Territory, where the cult had been born among the Comanches and Delawares.

In 1898 the territorial legislature adopted a statute forbidding possession and use of the exotic cactus fruit.

By 1923 the legislatures of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Utah, Kansas, Nevada, and Colorado had adopted similar laws.

Opposition to use of peyote came from Indians, too, particularly practitioners of traditional Indian religion, who viewed the cult as heresy.

By 1940 the peyote cult has been banned on the Navajo Reservation, on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, and on the lands of Taos Pueblo by action of tribal councils.

These suppressive efforts had the predictable effect of abetting the peyote cult. James Mooney and several Oklahoma peyote cult members took steps to protect the nativistic religion.

First, in 1908, as a result of intense lobbying by the old Quahada Comanche war chief Quanah Parker, a confirmed peyotist, the Oklahoma legislature repealed the 1898 statute banning use of peyote.

Next the peyotists sought to obtain a state charter which would provide the cult a legal status and, hopefully, guard it against threatening state and federal rules and laws.

In 1918, after a series of intertribal conferences, peyote leaders applied for and received from the state of Oklahoma a charter authorizing the peyote cult to function as the Native American Church.

This elevated status for peyotists sanctioned by state action provoked strong opposition across the nation among Christian religious bodies,

which in turn caused members of the Native American Church to seek a national charter, claiming that the use of peyote in their worship was sacramental like the Christian eucharistic use of bread and wine.

Peyotists added that their worship was a valid exercise of the constitutional right of freedom of religion.

Slowness of federal officials to respond to the peyotists’ appeal for a national charter led them to launch an evangelical drive in Indian communities throughout the West for more members and thus increased strength.

Many of the converts were young Indians, including large numbers of graduates of Carlisle, Haskell, Hampton, Chilocco, and other Indian schools.

By 1930 it was estimated that at least half the nation’s Indian population were Native American Church members.

As Native American Church evangelists carried their message of hope for distressed Indians northward,

substantial portions of the tribes in Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, and Colorado committed themselves to the demanding discipline of the Peyote Road.

Winnebago converts exercised considerable influence on the sect’s practices, particularly the inclusion of Christian elements.

By the late 1920s, the Native American Church, functioning as a composite of Indian and Christian practices

including a sacramental life centering on use of peyote, the ultimate power source, required no appreciable written doctrine, theology, or tenets.

The worship practice varied widely from one congregation to the next, but the purpose was universally acknowledged:

to promote personal reconstruction and betterment, preserve Indianness, and provide awareness among all Native Americans of their ethnic affinity.

Thus the Native American Church became a powerful force in an emerging pan-Indian movement.

With the appointment of John Copier, a strong advocate of self-determination for Native Americans, as commissioner of Indian affairs in 1933, the bureau no longer attempted to eradicate the Native American Church.

Other Indian initiatives of the early twentieth century included emergence of an articulate Native American secular leadership committed to pan-Indian interests and welfare.

From the 10 percent or so of Indians who had achieved some measure of success and joined the middle class came the secular Indian leaders who fashioned reform goals and programs.

They included Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Apache physician; Henry Roe Cloud, Winnebago teacher and tribal leader; Thomas L. Sloan, Omaha lawyer; Arthur C. Parker, Seneca anthropologist; Dr. Charles Eastman, Sioux physician, and his brother the Reverend John Eastman; Laura Cornelius, Oneida social reformer; John M. Oskisson, Cherokee author; Gertrude Bonnin, Sioux writer and musician; and the Reverend Sherman Coolidge, an Arapaho. Called "Red Progressives,"

this Indian cadre accepted education and hard work and adapted their attitudes, values, and habits to those of the larger American society.

They established a national secular pan-Indian movement.7

In 1911, with encouragement from Professor Fayette McKenzie, sociologist at Ohio State University, leaders of eighteen tribes, including Montezuma, Roe Cloud, Sloan, Parker, the Eastman brothers, Cornelius, Oskisson, Bonnin, and Coolidge, met at Columbus, Ohio on October 12, Columbus Day, and founded the Society of American Indians.

During the formative deliberations the Indian delegates demonstrated a "strong sense of pride in being Indian";

the proceedings were full of "references to the virtues of the Indian past," their orations a "mix of nostalgia...for aboriginal life and progress."

However, most of the delegates conscientiously attempted to deemphasize tribalism and to stress pan-Indianness.

Some delegates insisted that "racial and tribal identity were complimentary," but most were willing to permit racial identity to replace tribal identity.

They applied evolutionary doctrine to Indians and "viewed ‘the race’ as in the process of working itself up the evolutionary ladder."

Society of American Indian members placed strong emphasis upon education as the means to advance and achieve primary goals of ethnic improvement.

The organization’s bylaws committed the society to promote advance in "enlightenment which leaves him as a free man to develop according to the natural laws of social evolution," to preserve the Indian race’s

history and to obtain citizenship for Indians and "the rights thereof," and to investigate Indian problems and "obtain remedies."

The Society of American Indians stressed Native American self-reliance, self-help,

and initiative as the foundations for Indian betterment, the already well-established expectations of the Peyote Road,

and it regularly denounced the Bureau of Indian Affairs for its failure to assist Indians to achieve these virtues.

Subsequent meetings of the Society of American Indians produced proposals for Indian improvement.

Gertrude Bonnin, educated at Earlham College and the New England Conservatory of Music, a regular contributor to Harpers Magazine and Century Magazine, advocated establishing "social betterment stations," similar to settlement houses among the urban poor, in allotted Indian settlements and on reservations.

The first station opened at Fort Duchesne, Utah, among the Utes with Ms. Bonnin in charge.

She stressed Indian home improvement.

Cornelius, the Oneida, submitted a plan to convert reservations into "self-governing industrial villages" along the lines of Mormon settlements.

Society of American Indian members agreed that in keeping with the evolutionary principle, vocational-industrial development for Indians should match their respective stages of development and readiness.

Society of American Indian officials established the organization’s headquarters in Washington where they could maintain suveillance over laws and administrative rulings pertaining to Indians.

The society published a quarterly journal beginning in 1913, the Society of American Indians Magazine edited by Parker;

in 1916 its name was changed to American Indian Magazine.

This publication attempted to popularize Indian reform plans including self-governing industrial villages

and social betterment stations on reservations, provided information on public affairs of concern to Indians,

and stressed a curious blend of Indian nationalism and Indian commitment to American patriotism;

its editor advocated use of the flag salute and singing of the "Star Spangled Banner" by Indians at public gatherings.

The American Indian Magazine also pressed for national recognition of Native Americans by observing an annual American Indian Day, to be held on June 22, the time of the "moon of the first fruits."

Only New York, Connecticut, and Wisconsin observed American Indian Day.

The Society of American Indians was part of the strong wave of social fraternalism in American society during the early twentieth century.

Thus to promote pan-Indianism it sponsored the Descendants of American Aborigines, modeled after the Daughters of the American Revolution,

and the Grand Council of American Indians, its symbols the American eagle and a lighted torch, bearing some resemblance to the Odd-Fellows Lodge.

Member insurgency and the issue of peyotism weakened the impact of the Society of American Indians on public opinion and reform policy.

Carlos Montezuma became the most divisive force in the organization.

A zealous advocate of public education and rapid assimilation for Indians, the Apache physician scorned the Society of American Indian’s advocacy of the evolutionary process,

and he opposed Indian schools for teaching Native American crafts, dances, traditions, and attempting to preserve and transmit Indian culture.

And Montezuma was the most persistent and bitter Indian critic of the Bureau of Indian Affairs;

he blamed it for the sad plight of Indians, and he demanded its immediate abolition.

His vituperative ranting alienated the membership which he subsequently accused of being in surreptitious league with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

He denounced American Indian Day as a "farce and worst kind of fad."

He warned, "It will not help the Indians, but the Indians will be used as tools for interested parties. To the Indian it is a laughing mockery because he does not enjoy freedom, but is a ward and is handicapped by the Indian Bureau."

Montezuma established Wassaja, a monthly publication to disseminate his fury against the Bureau of Indian Affairs and what he rated as "innocuous programs" of the Society of American Indians.

During the 1915 Society of American Indians conference at Lawrence, Kansas, he delivered his most bitter public attack on the Bureau of Indian Affairs in a polemic titled "Let my People Go." "

Peyotism also came to the fore at the Lawrence meeting.

Representatives of 25 tribes from the old Indian Territory, South Dakota, Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota heard peyote advocates complain of increasing pressure and harassment from federal officials and missionaries and overt interference with worship services.

They urged that the delegates join them in a formal protest against what they claimed was an unconstitutional invasion of their right to freedom of religion.

However, the majority of delegates refused to support the peyotists and shortly the Society of American Indians went on record as favoring federal legislation to outlaw the use of peyote.

Thus Montezuma’s attacks on Society of American Indian programs for improving conditions among Indians and the withdrawal of peyotists weakened the organization.

Its leaders persisted in maintaining its life in the Post World War I era by taking up the self-determination theme which President Woodrow Wilson advocated for the peoples of the world and applying it to themselves.

Their stress was on cultural pluralism in American society and the claim that the United States was a "nation of nations."

Indian leaders also attempted to convert the Society of American Indians into a national political pressure organization but they failed because Indians "did not possess the power or the willingness to act together as a significant pressure group.

A substantial number of Indians lacked the right to vote."’"

As the Society of American Indians became increasingly moribund,’~Red Progressives" created new groups to carry on the cause of Indian reform.

In 1926 they formed the National Council of American Indians.

Bonnin as president attempted to rally Indian voters but met with only minimal success, largely in Oklahoma and South Dakota.

This organization advocated a federal ban on the peyote religion and the Native American Church, it took a moderate stand on the Bureau of Indian Affairs,

and its leaders cooperated with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs to agitate for Indian reform during the ]ate 1920s.

However, continuing factionalism robbed the National Council of American Indians of essential vigor and membership strength to succeed as an alternative force in Indian rehabilitation.

Yet, with all their differences, the "Red Progressives" kept alive the spark of interest to reform the national government’s policy for Native Americans.

They provided an indispensable continuum of hope during the 1920s which enlarged during the 1930s into the most comprehensive Indian policy reform in the nation’s history.

THE INDIAN MAGNA CHARTA

In 1934 Congress approved the Wheeler-Howard Bill (Indian Reorganization Act) hailed by its advocates as the Indian Magna Charta.

Its adoption marked the climax of a bitter contest waged throughout the 1920s between Indian protectors and reformers—led by John Collier and Gertrude Bonnin-

and obscurantists and exploiters of Indians—led by Albert B. Fall and Charles H. Burke.

The reformers had been able to reduce some of the immense power of the exploiters, which centered in an insensitive Congress and an uncaring bureaucracy,

during the 1920s wringing from a reluctant national administration a few modest improvements in Native American welfare.

Then in 1934 they won their signal victory through passage of the Indian Reorganization Act, their cause riding on the momentum of the New Deal commitment to transform the nation.

The Antagonists During the early 1920s Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall was principal spokesman for the obscurantist element.

The former senator from New Mexico was a staunch advocate of the business community’s unhindered access to mineral and petroleum resources on reservations.

Fall’s choice for Commissioner of Indian Affairs was Charles H. Burke, former congressman from South Dakota and author of the Burke Act

which chilled Native American citizenship hopes and emasculated the trust features of allotment in severalty by making access to restricted allotments a matter of administrative discretion.

The New York Times described Burke as a "rugged individualist" with a "frontiersman’s" attitude toward Indians.

Hubert Work, Fall’s successor in 1923, was as honest as Fall was corrupt but just as ethnocentric.

Along with Christian missionaries he sought to stamp out Indian culture, particularly native religion and the peyote cult.

He bent to reformers’ demands only after they applied great pressure upon him.

Fall, Burke, and Work had strong support from the Indian bureau which at the time had over 200 employees in Washington and 5,000 field workers (teachers, vocational instructors, and general agents), a high ratio of personnel to the 250,000 Indians living on reservations.

The move for reform of Indian policy threatened their jobs, and they closed ranks behind their administrative superiors.

More and more, public opinion was formed by mass-circulation national periodicals and newspapers.

Shrewd obscurantists resorted to magazine and newspaper interviews to justify their positions.

The Saturday Evening Post, School Life, and Good Housekeeping regularly carried articles antagonistic to the emerging Indian reform movement.

In addition, the obscurantists were backed by several church publications including the Missionary Review, which carried articles written by missionaries working among the Indian tribes.

They called Indians "pagan worshippers in desperate need of Christianity and described the difficult task they faced in attempting to overthrow native religion and the peyote cult.

Obscurantists were particularly concerned with Indian dances which they thought showed Indian recalcitrance, defiance, and ethnic corruption.

Those who defended ethnic pluralism and the Indians right to worship as they chose, including dancing, were denounced as "anti-American, and subversive... agents of Moscow."

It was charged that they encouraged the persistence of "Indian paganism" and heathen cults which were "horrible, sadistic, and obscene."

Further, they were accused of attempting to Weaken and discredit the United States government.

Edith M. Dabb, national director of YWCA work among Indian girls, joined the Native American detractors, charging that native dances were a waste of time and that "sentimentalists who dwell on the beauties of the quaint and primitive world do well to remember that primitive beauty is frequently found in close company with primitive cruelty and primitive ugliness."

During an inspection of New Mexico pueblos in 192~ Commissioner Burke publicly excoriated the residents as "half animals" because of "their pagan religion,"

and he ordered several Indian leaders jailed "for violating the Bureau’s religious crimes code."’l

Secretary Work in 1924 inveighed against "gross sexual immorality" which he claimed "accompanies many of the native dances."

He denied that the Bureau of Indian Affairs was trying "to prohibit Indian dances, either as a secular or religious ceremony, Or as an amusement."

However, he expressed the hope "that the Indians may be reasoned away from practices attached to some of them which the public never sees, cannot censor and would not approve, but which tend to destroy the higher instincts that should be safeguarded in any people."l2

The obscurantists were countered by "Red Progressives," who held tenaciously to the cause of improvement of Indian status, and a growing corps of white reformers.

Their leader was John Collier, a social worker who for years had labored to improve living conditions for immigrants in eastern cities.

From his work Collier gained a respect for differing cultures. He also had studied the writings Hamlin Garland which gave him perspective on Native American life.

Garland’s writings in particular inspired Collier’s lasting commitment to protect Indianness, improve Native American status, and promote ethnic pluralism.

Near the turn of the century, Garland lived for several years among the Indians on western reservations. He became fascinated with Native American culture;

he regarded Indianness as a vital resource which enriched national life,

and he applied his literary talents to arouse the public to protect it.

He advocated preserving distinctive Indians arts and crafts by encouraging elders to teach tribal youth silversmithing, weaving, and carving in stone, bone, and clay.

Above all, he urged federal officials to prevent "missionaries from regulating the amusements and daily lives of the natives."’3

Garland concluded that while reservations were bad for Indians, partitioning reservations and assigning individual allotments was worse.

He contended that individualizing the land and separating Indians on isolated allotments demoralized them.

However, because the federal government was determined to proceed with allotment,

he urged agents to settle Indians in clusters of extended families to ease "transition from their old life to the new" and to "lessen rather than add to the weight of their suffering."

Garland insisted that settling Indians in family clusters was desirable because the Native American was a "sociable animal....a villager, never a solitary.

He dreads solitude." One of the most terrifying punishments was to "exile an offender from the group."

He explained, "It is this gregariousness of habit, this love of land, and this deep-seated fear of loneliness," which in part accounted for the near universal Indian resistance to allotment in severalty.

Garland urged that allotments be so arranged as to permit the Indians to "live as the French peasants do, in villages and farm their outlying lands."’4

Collier in 1923 formed the American Indian Defense Association as the agency to effectuate what he regarded as the essentials for Indian policy reform-

citizenship, termination of allotment, improved education and health services,

reestablishment of tribal governments,

reinstitution of Native American self-determination,

and permitting Indians to retain their religion and other native ways.

Thus AIDA differed from the late nineteenth-century "Friends of the Indian" reform organizations in that it stressed cultural pluralism and self-determination and sought to apply social science methodology to the solution of the Indians’ problems.

The Indian Rights Association, one of the few surviving nineteenth-century reform groups, supported the AIDA goal of protecting Indian property.

Otherwise it remained committed to its historic position of eradication of Indianness and thorough Americanization.

AIDA membership included, besides Indian leaders, social scientists and reformers and many authors, artists, and poets.

The reformers, like their obscurantist adversaries, used publications to carry their message to the public.

The New York Times consistently supported their viewpoint. Survey, Current History Magazine, The Nation, Forum, and Sunset Magazine carried articles by Collier, Schultz, Mary Austin, and other reformers denouncing federal Indian policy and urging substantive changes in the management of Native Americans.

The Indian Rights Association, supported by a grant from John D. Rockefeller, published the monthly Indian Truth.

And AIDA published American Indian Life; Collier served as its editor for seven years.

Often the articles by reformers were muckraking exposes.

The most dramatic disclosure was published in 1924 as a pamphlet by the Indian Rights Association titled Oklahoma’s Poor Rich Indians:

An Orgy of Graft and Exploitation of the Five Civilized Tribes-Legalized Robbery.

Gertrude Bonnin, a "Red Progressive" employed by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs,

Charles H. Fabens of AIDA,

and Matthew K. Kniffen of the Indian Rights Association collaborated to expose the rapacious handling of allotted Indians by Oklahoma lawyers, judges, guardians, bankers, and public officials.

Their findings confirmed Kate Barnard’s claim of a local ring of private and public parties robbing and defrauding Indians with impunity.

 

THE 1930’S ON…

A surprising amount of community spirit had survived the generations of attempts to break up the tribes.

Not only did cohesive tribes and bands still exist, but a broader tendeIicy toward pan-Indianism was becoming apparent,

discernible in such items as the spread of the peyote religion.

This cult, organized in 1918 under the name of the Native American Church, uses elements from various sources, including Christianity, and a vision-producing drug of ancient Mexican ancestry, peyote cactus buds;

the church now has members in nearly all tribes, and represents the largest single Indian group in the United States today.

The Federal government also stepped its interventionist policies.

Government representatives went forth and talked with more than 250 tribes and bands, urging them to organize under the new law with constitutions and charters of incorporation,

and offering loan funds for constructive community purposes from a revolving credit program.

Most indian groups cooperated with enthusiasm.

For the first time in history Indian lands were increased, from about 47 million acres to about 50 million;

tribe after tribe pulled itself up by its bootstraps, with the help of the new law, toward a solid foundation for solvency or even prosperity.

Thousands of Indian families were restored to a life of some hope and independence.

The repayment record for loans from the revolving credit fund was excellent; $20,000,000 was eventually available, including a portion furnished by various tribes from their own trust funds.

Educational opportunities were greatly improved, with more Indian children attending public schools, tuition often being paid the school district by the federal government.

An educated indian was no longer a rarity, Indian college students no longer uncommon.

Native languages, crafts, ceremonies, traditions, were not only permitted but promoted, with a consequent reawakening of interest in what some Indians refer to as the old time religion.

Venerable medicine men journeyed hundreds of miles in almost equally venerable cars or pickup trucks to teach the correct rituals to young people living in towns;

factory workers came home from Detroit or San Francisco to take part in the Sun Dance or the Corn Dance.

By and large the people were still very poor, but there was a difference.

Most communities showed some progress, and many made an astonishingly quick climb out of the slough of a century of despondency.

The tribes, those that were left, had been in a desperate struggle during that century merely to survive:

they demonstrated that they still had a power to help themselves, if they were encouraged to use it.

In ‘World V(Iar II approximately 25,000 Indians served in the armed forces, somewhat more than one third of all able-bodied Indian men between eighteen and fifty;

some first really learned English at this time, or a reasonable GI facsimile thereof,

and thousands had their first real look at the outside world, and went back home full of new notions for their families and the tribal com munities.

But in 1950 the government’s Indian policy was reversed again.

Efforts were made once more to reduce Indian land, and to chop back or break down the tribal societies.

The revolving credit program ground to a virtual halt.

The growth of Indian communities was no longer inspired and aided, but obstructed.

Indians were not urged to work together, but emphasis was placed on individual emigration to large cities to find wage work and, in a word, get lost.

An intensive "termination" program was put into effect, with the idea of removing all federal protection and services from the various Indian tribes as soon as possible, thus bringing about, presumably, their dissolution.

The objective was to get the federal government out of the Indian business .

This reaction was the first ripple of the wave of political reaction in the early 1950s that took its name and fame from the leadership of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The reaction in Indian policy persisted until the decline of "McCarthyism" in the late 1950s, when a gradual return to the previous policy of honest helpfulness to the Indians took place.

Said the principal government expert on Indian legal affairs, the late Felix S. Cohen:

"Like the miner’s canary, the Indian marks the shifts from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere; and our treatment of Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall of our democratic faith."

Only a few tribes were terminated by specific acts of Congress-the most important being the Menominees of Wisconsin and the Klamaths of southern Oregon, both owners of rich stands of timber.

The drive to remove essential services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs brought, among other results, the transferal of Indian health programs to the Public Health Service,

which under an increased budget made a considerable advance in the late 1950s in providing for Indians health services approaching those available to other citizens.

In preparation for expected wholesale termination, a special commission for Indian claims was established in 1947 to clear up all unpaid treaty claims, charges of past fraudulence, and the like.

More than 800 claims were filed; in the first ten years 102 had been decided, recovery being granted in twenty-one claims;

amounts totaling some $40,000,000 have been paid to date, reduced from a total of more than a billion claimed.

Anthropologists and historians who serve as expert witnesses in these cases prepare extremely detailed documents dealing with the history of the tribes involved;

it is expected that these documents will ultimately provide the first thorough history of the Indians of the United States, a side-effect of the work of this commission which may be of more lasting value than the money payments

which it grants.

  • In 1960 a second maJor inquiry into present-day Indian mat-
  • ters, the first since the initial and epochal report of 1928, was

    begun by a group of experts under the sponsorship of the University of Chicago.

    The National Congress of American Indians, an organization of some eighty member tribes, and other Indian spokesmen were invited to a conference in Chicago in the summer of 1961 to help in shaping the course of this study and its subsequent statement of policy by offering some of the points of view of the Indian people.

    Substantial Indian participation in a work of this importance is regarded as the most significant event in the recent history of the Indians.

    The number of Indian men and women in professional life, both in and out of the Indian world, has multiplied remarkably in the past generation.

    Movement back and forth from the Indian to the white world has become immeasurably freer.

    At the same time, the long-standing conviction that sooner or later all Indians would become totally assimilated into the standardized stream of American life has steadily lost ground.

    Most experts today feel that Indian tribes and communities will retain separate identities for a long, long time into the future—and most experts believe that is good, not bad.

    Most Indians today are still very poor, their health is poor, and the general level of education is poor.

    They still own considerable property;

    the 949,000 people on the rolls of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1989 held assets in lands, timber and mineral resources, livestock and agricultural production, business enterprises, and so on, that can be calculated to a very substantial dollar value.

    Other assets, such as water rights, cannot be measured.

    These assets still attract the attention, now and then, of neighboring non-Indians who, in the old frontier phrase, have more gall than character.

    Thefts and attempted thefts, shady deals, and dirty political pool still make for scandals in the Indian business,

    and in much Indian opinion a fair share of the hard core feeling, still vocal, for breaking up the tribes is based on nothing more psychological than an itch for the last of the Indian loot.

    But more and more organizations and interested persons in and out of government are watchful of the indians’ interests,

    and the general public has considerably more gumption about demanding honesty and justice than it had in the tough, violent days of extermination.

    Even so, the shady operators sometimes accomplish their shady operations, simple zeal and persistence winning the day.

    Those indians who live on reservations or restricted trust land do not pay taxes on the land or the income therefrom.

    Those on the membership rolls of the various tribes are, in most matters, under federaljurisdiction rather than state and county jurisdiction.

    In these respects indians are "wards" of the United States. The sense of the term, particularly in modern times, means protection:

    the United States, in return for value received, · has guaranteed to protect various indian peoples from local political discrimination or interference—

    such as the interference of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia that drove out the Five Civilized Tribes.

    For many reasons, most Indians feel they need this federal protection;

    state and local jurisdictions have too often shown a tendency to gnaw away at Indian holdings when they could get at them.

    In all other respects Indians are full-fledged citizens, and have been since a law of 1924 extended citizenship to all Indians born in the United States.

    Some were legally citizens long before that by special legislation.

    They can come and go like any other citizen, vote like any other citizen, and pay takes like any other citizen—

    with the exemption of reservation land, as noted above.

    They can even, since a recent repeal ofthe ancient Indian prohibition law, buy liquor like any other citizen.

    They are—those who retain reservation afilliationss or property in trust status—federal citizens, so to speak,

    and their domain is, in a sense, an extra state scattered piecemeal over the face of the country.

    In this shadow state all services—roads, schools, police, hospitals, courts, public utilities—are furnished either by the federal government or by the tribal organizations themselves.

    In the aggregate this shadow state is somewhat larger in area than Nebraska or South Dakota, and considerably larger in population than Nevada or Alaska.

    Administering this domain is what keeps the government in the Indian business.

    The cost of administration combines the costs that in an actual state would be shared among village, township, city, county, state, and federal expenses.

    This cost, counting total funding to the B[A, the Indian Health Service, and a hatful of other agencies dealing with everything from education and housing to welfare and urbanism, added up to 83.3 billion in 1988.

  • Unfortunately, not all of this trickles down to the Indian people, naturally, since it has to pay its way past many a desk.

    The Indian Self Determination Act of 1975, with amendments passed in 1988, may in time ameliorate some of this fiscal slippage,

    and even more important may provide the tribes with a greater control of their own affairs, as Indian leaders have been wearily requesting for many a long year.

  • Nearly 150,000 Indians live in eastern states, chiefly in North Carolina, Michigan, and New York.

    In 1960, the Six Nations Iroquois in New York lost a long court fight against condemnation of certain of their lands for a New York State project;

    in the course of this battle they proved the stubborn Iroquois spirit was far from dead by turning down cash offers for amounts well above the value of the land.

    Modern Mohawks have made something of a national reputation as structural steel workers.

    Indian Territory fell under the axe of the Allotment Act and became Oklahoma in 1907--Congress refused the name of Sequoyah, desired by the state’s residents.

    The creation of the state brought to an end a hopeless effort by the Five Civilized Tribes to keep the territory they had been promised would be theirs as long as water kept on running. "

    \JC~hat about our people, who are, now, the legal owners!" wrote a Cherokee angrily in 1895.

    "Why the question is easy of answer. Crushed to earth under the hoofs of business gread, they would soon become a homeless throng, more scoffed at and abused than a Coxey’s army."

    Pieces of the territory had been taken away at intervals ever since the arrival of the Civilized Tribes, for other groups of displaced Indians or for white settlement.

    The Cherokee people, numbering more than 230,000, make up the largest tribe by far in the United States and,

    with about a third of this total resident in Oklahoma, comprise the most populous of the many indian groups in that state,

    which also counts large Choctaw and Creek communities, sizeable numbers of Chickasaws and Seminoles, and smaller communities of numerous other Indian nations,

    such as a population of nearly 5,000 still on the Oklahoma Osage reservation.

    Many of these various peoples are more or less assimilated into the general population, and quite a few are doing quite well, although quite a few more are not.

    In the early 1900s the Osage were reckoned among the wealthiest of tribes, with a per capita annual income of $265, most of it from pasturage leases on reservation ]and.

    Then oil was discovered, making each of the 2,229 "headrights" of the reservation land worth real money.

    Oil-rich Osages, surrounded by clouds of con artists, entered the national legend; and for years thereafter Indian oil scandals in eastern Oklahoma entered history.

    The Navaho tribe, over 160,000 persons, nearly all concentrated on or about the vast Navaho reservation at the corner junctions ofArizona, New Mexico, and Utah (105,000 living on the reservation itself),

    is a reasonably representative example of a reasonably prosperous Indian community, prosperous as a community, as a business entity;

    but the 1980 census found more than half the Navaho people still below the poverty level, and nearly half their homes without indoor plumbing and electricity.

    Heaviest populations of native people in the United States are today in California, Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Mexico.

    Largest present-day groups, after the Cherokee and Navaho, are the Sioux, Chippewa (Ojibwa), Inuit (Eskimos), Choctaw, Pueblo, Iroquois, Apache, Lumbee, and Creek, all with populations between 25,000 and 100,000.

    Alaska would rank fifth in the above list.

    The reindeer introduced there by Dr. Sheldon Jackson did so well in later times that the business was pretty much taken over by white trading companies,

    the Eskimos being reduced from independent herd owners to employed herders.

    The depression of the 1930s ruined the industry, and with the help of government loans Eskimos got back the remnants of the reindeer herds.

    Fighting men have come and gone but the people of peace, the Hopis, are still in their country,

    although a missionary stirred up a civil war among them some years ago over the occupation of their oldest town, Oraibi.

    They fought it out with a tug ofwar, and the losers moved.

    They have recently sued the Navahos, who have completely surrounded them.

     

     

    The peaceful Pimas are still along the Gila, as they have been for unnumbered thousands of years.

    They have been the intended victims of some extra-ingenious shady deals, due to those precious Gila waters; but they are still there.

    The great Spanish empire has long since vanished like castles in the air, but Zuni, so easily conquered on that July day centuries ago, is still very real and very present.

  • The tourists who come by the thousands to the Hopi towns,
  • to Zuini, and to the other Pueblo villages, find a value clear apart from the earnest sociological matters that have been the burden of these last pages.

    They find what may be one of the most important of all the American Indian’s contributions—a sense of permanence, the sense of an infinite past that implies an infinite future.

    The thought is comforting, and one for which the world seems hungry.

    It is good to feel that the history of the American Indian, any more than the history of America, is not finished.