Jim Crow Guide: The Way it Was

by Stetson Kennedy 1959

Newspaper clippingsAcknowledgements

This book owes much of its comprehension to the devoted research assistance of Elizabeth Gardner and to voluminous news clippings generously provided through the years by my friend Jack Price of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The photographs by Hungarian-born Marion Palfi - a protégé of Edward Steichen and Eleanor Roosevelt - were taken during a southern tour with me in 1947. They are published here for the first time, through the courtesy of her husband, Martin Magner, and the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.

My thanks, too, to Dr. Ann Henderson of the Florida Endowment for the Humanities for her belief that this and others of my earlier works have meaning for today. And, were it not for my wife, Joyce Ann, I might not have been around to see them back in print.

Stetson Kennedy, 1989

 


Why This Guide

While there are many guides to the U.S.A., this is the only one, which faces the fact that despite the affirmation of the American Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, in America in reality some are more equal than others.



Nearly a third of all Americans have been relegated in some degree to secondclass citizenship because of their race, colour, nationality, religion, or politics, and are treated accordingly.

At the same time, the twothirds who count themselves among the firstclass citizenry are more or less expected to conduct themselves in certain fashion in their relations with the less fortunate.

The privileges and immunities of firstclass citizenship, and the penalties and restrictions of secondclass citizenship, are established by an ensemble of national dispositions, state statutes, municipal ordinances, judicial findings, police practices, private regulations, social pressures, and mob violence.

Generally speaking, firstclass citizenship is limited to nativeborn white Protestant Gentiles. Certain of these regard as secondclass citizens America's 17 million Negroes, 6 million Jews, 5 million Puerto Rican emigrants to the mainland, 1 million MexicanAmericans, half million American Indians, 150,000 Japanese, 100,000 Chinese, 50,000 Filipinos, and a few thousand Hindus, Koreans, and others. Besides these, there are Uncle Sam's colonial subjects in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Panama Canal Zone, Virgin Islands, and a number of Pacific islands.

Ever since Europeans first arrived on the North American continent five centuries ago it has been public policy that this was to be a white man's country. This policy has found expression in a fourfold program:
Photo by Marion Palfi, courtesy Center for Creative Photography, University1. Extermination of the native American Indians, with the tribal remnants confined to desert reservations as wards of the government.

2. Exclusion of Asian, African, and other colored immigrants as unassimilable.

3. Segregation, including legal prohibitions against the marriage of Negroes and other nonCaucasians with white persons.

4. Discrimination, sometimes of genocidal proportions, against various minorities.

And so you can see that other guides, irresponsibly recommending hotels, restaurants, tours, entertainment, and so on, without taking into account the existing taboos, can actually get you killed. But this Guide tells you everything you need to know about getting along in America, according to the category in which you find yourself.



Chapter 1 - No Room For Redskins

If you're a real American that is, an American Indian you're lucky to be alive. For whether he really believed it or not, the white man has acted on the principle that "The only good Indian is a dead one". This was certainly one of the foundation stones upon which the white European invaders of North America and their descendants established and built the republic of the U.S.A.

When in 1492 Christopher Columbus opened the door to the white conquest of the Americas, there were nearly a million native Indians living in what is now the United States. Far from permitting this number to increase, the white man has vigorously pursued both as individual enterprise and national policy a genocidal campaign expressly aimed, until quite recently, at the effective extermination of Indians from the continent.

This campaign consisting of relentless warfare, massacre, confinement, starvation, and neglect was so successful that by 1923 less than a quarter of a million Indians remained in the U.S.A. Since then the pressures have been relaxed somewhat, permitting a certain increase in the Indian population, but with intensified efforts being made to exterminate Indian culture. By 1958 their number was still only half what it was upon the white man's arrival.

As has been characteristic of white imperialism, the European settlers and their descendants in America were inclined to look down upon the native Indians as "pesky redskins", "savages", and "heathens". This attitude, coupled with an avowed desire to convey the blessings of Christianity and European civilization on the "benighted barbarians", salved the consciences of those who went about the profitable business of divesting the Indians of life, liberty, and property.

The genocidal programme likewise called for expropriating or liquidating the Indians' culture. Four sevenths of the agricultural production of the U.S.A. now consists of plants which were originally domesticated by the Indians (the white man has faded to domesticate a single important staple on the continent). Numerous other things, including snow-shoes, toboggans, woodland garments, and even methods of warfare were appropriated from the Indians with scarcely an acknowledgment. On the contrary, American history books and Hollywood movies generally perpetuate the notion that the white man contributed all, the Indian nothing. However, one thing which the white man did introduce-Hollywood and the history books to the contrary notwithstanding-was the practice of scalping one's victims.

Because the Indians were thinly scattered, "it was a case where the existing racial and cultural slate could be wiped relatively clean", the historian Dr. Everett Stonequist has observed.

An early pilgrim in Massachusetts, thanking God for a pestilence that wiped out an Indian tribe, wrote in his journal: ''By this means Christ, whose great and glorious works throughout the earth are for the benefit of his churches and his chosen, not only made room for his people to plant, but also tamed the hearts of the barbarous Indians.''

Evidently not content with the rate at which the white man s diseases decimated the Indians, one colonial general ordered his subordinates to wage bacteriological warfare as follows: ''You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets in which smallpox patients have slept, as well as by other means that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.''

In like vein, a pioneer immigrant to California wrote at the time: "I often argued with Good regarding disposition of the Indians. He believed in killing every man or well-grown boy, but in leaving the women unmolested. It was plain to me that we must also get rid of the women.

In the opening up of Oregon to white settlement, even Methodist clergymen expressed no regret at seeing Indian women being clubbed to death and Indian babies dashed against trees by white settlers. One Oregon settler named Beeson wrote: ''it was customary [for the whites] to speak of the Indian man as a buck; of the woman as a squaw; until at length in the general acceptance of the terms, they ceased to recognize the rights of humanity in those to whom they were applied. By a very natural and easy transition, from being spoken of as brutes, they came to be thought of as game to be shot, or as vermin to be destroyed.''

In Colorado, an early legislature seriously considered adopting a law providing for cash bounty payments for ''the destruction of Indians and Skunks''. At the outset of the white conquest of North America, the competing European imperialist powers of Spain, France, Great Britain, and Holland all followed a policy of dealing with the various American Indian tribes as nation-to-nation. Since the American Indians had traditionally looked upon the land as a communal asset, it was relatively easy for the European powers to defraud them of it by "treaty" or "purchase" for some trivial amount. It was thus to the advantage of these powers to acknowledge that the Indians were the original owners of the land, since in subsequent deals among themselves these powers could then transfer with some semblance of legality the lands they had 44 acquired" from the Indians.

But as soon as the white settlers bad thrown off the yoke of European imperialism, the new republic tended to drop the old diplomatic approach of dealing with the Indians as nation-to-nation, and instead decided to dictate its will by force of arms. As Chief Justice Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court put it, the Indian tribes were no longer to be regarded as independent nations, but rather as ''domestic dependent nations''.

To facilitate imposing its will upon the native Americans, the white republic of the U.S.A. in 1824 established an Indian Office as an adjunct of its War Department. The so-called Indian Wars, which continued intermittently until the Battle of Wounded Knee in i 89o, were in most instances deliberately provoked by the white settlers and troopers as an excuse for massacring the Indians and depriving them of their land and cattle. Official records of the U.S. Government are replete with instances of treaties and truces being violated by whites, including U.S. military commanders in the field. Many U.S. Army generals felt their country's honour was not at stake when they betrayed flags of truce and other confidences of the Indians. This sentiment found expression as national policy when the U.S. Congress in 1871 forbade the Government to enter into any further treaties with the Indians.

The subjugation of virtually all tribes had been completed by 188o, with the only respite for the redmen coming during the Civil War of 1861-5, when the white Americans were busy killing each other. With the Indians disarmed and reduced to military impotence, the U.S. Government herded the remnants of the tribes on to "reservations" on the principle that it was "cheaper to feed them than to fight them''.

The official U.S. policy, according to William Christie MacLeod in his book, The American Indian Frontier, became ''merely to keep the Indian at peace pending his gradual dying off from more insidious causes than the sword or bullet''.

From time to time, U.S. agents resorted to more direct methods of extermination. For example, a Government agent who in 1866 hanged a recalcitrant Indian, upon being called to report the matter, replied: ''Indians sometimes have to be dealt with severely and promptly. I made no mention of the execution in my report of Indians, as I did not know whether others could see the necessity for it that I did, and thought it as well to say nothing about it to the authorities at Washington.''

U.S. General Ord, in his report to the War Department in 1869, said he "encouraged the troops to capture and root out the Apaches by every means and to hunt them as they would wild animals".

U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Francis Walker said he would prefer to see the Indians exterminated altogether rather than permit them to intermarry with whites. In his official Report of 1872., Commissioner Walker went on:

"There is no question of national dignity, be it remembered, involved in the treatment of savages by a civilized power. With wildmen, as with wild beasts, the question whether in a given situation one shall fight, coax, or run, is a question merely of what is easiest and safest. The Indians should be made as comfortable on, and as uncomfortable off, their reservations as it is in the power of the Government to make them; such of them as behave should be protected and fed, and such as go wrong should be harassed and scourged without intermission....

''It is only necessary that Federal laws, judiciously framed to meet all the facts of the case, and enacted in season, before the Indians begin to scatter, shall place all the members of this race under a strict reformatory control by the agents of the Government.... No one certainly will rejoice more heartily than the present Commissioner when the

Indians of this country cease to be in a position to dictate, in any form or degree, to the Government; when, in fact, the last hostile tribe becomes reduced to the condition of suppliants for charity.''

In practice, the U.S. Army often went beyond this in its handling of the Indians. Carolos B. Embry, in his book, America's Concentration Camps (1958), tells of the treatment of a tribe of Cheyennes captured in 1879: ''In the midst of the dreadful Winter, with the thermometer at forty degrees below zero, the Cheyennes, including the women and children, were kept five days and nights without food or fuel, and for three days without water.''

The establishment of a dictatorship over the Indians was accelerated toward the end of the nineteenth century by an influx of former Army officers into the Indian Bureau. Taking note of this, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in his Annual Report for 1892 said: ''Appointed at first in the capacity of a commercial agent or consul of the United States in the country of an alien people, the Indian agent ... has developed Into an officer with power to direct the affairs of the Indians and to transact their business in all details and in all relations. This is a very curious chapter in our history. There is a striking contrast between, ministers plenipotentiary' appointed by the U.S.A. to treat with powerful Indian nations, and an army officer, with troops at his command, installed over a tribe of Indians to maintain among them an absolute military despotism.''

it was generally assumed by white America that the Indian was the ''vanishing American'' - that in a short time he would become altogether extinct. U.S. Senators learnedly cited the works of Spencer and Buckle to ''prove'' that the Indian was incapable of adapting to the white man's civilization.

''Little can be hoped for them as a distinct people," declared General Sanborn. "The sun of their day is fast sinking in the western sky. It will soon go down in a night of oblivion that shall know no morning.''

(in view of this record, it was little wonder that when in 1957 American politicos began to venture critical observations concerning the sanguinary struggle being waged by France against the Algerian independence movement, thousands of Frenchmen felt moved to write the U.S. Embassy in Paris, calling attention to the fact that whereas the white settlers of America had set out to systematically exterminate the native population, French settlers in Algeria had, through the introduction of sanitation, facilitated a nine fold increase in the native population.)

Wards of the Government

American Indians today are organized into some 300 tribes speaking about 250 dialects. The elder members of the tribes speak no English, and the others are but semi-educated, with very few having any technical training. At least two-thirds of the Indians live on reservations in the desert lands of the Midwest, while less than two percent have become city-dwellers.

American Indians are in the anomalous position of being at the same time citizens of the U.S.A. and wards of the Government, the net result being far from first-class citizenship. The U.S. Congress has adopted no less than 5,000 laws which apply to American Indians as such, and these, together with more than 2,,200 regulations imposed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, regiment the lives of Indians from the cradle to the grave.

Between the years 1800 and 1858 the U.S. Congress passed a series of laws giving the President and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs the powers of absolute potentates over American Indians as subject peoples. These powers included the right to issue or deny passports to persons wishing to visit Indian territory, and to deport from the reservations of anyone ''deemed detrimental to the peace and welfare of the Indians''.

For a long time Indians were excluded from the protection of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, even though these documents explicitly apply to "A persons under the jurisdiction of" the U.S.A. 71fis meant, among other things, that the Indians were held as prisoners on the reservations. it was not until 18gi, when an Indian named Standing Bear defied the authorities, left his reservation, and was arrested by the U.S. Army at the request of the Secretary of the Interior, that the Supreme Court finally admitted that Indians are persons. But it was not until 1924 that Congress saw fit to bestow limited citizenship upon the Indians, in response to a popular demand that they be rewarded for fighting for the U.S.A. in World War 1. However, for a long time afterwards the five states where most Indians live refused to let them vote or sit on juries, the last two states to give way being New Mexico and Arizona in 1948.

Under the treaties whereby the Indians were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and placed on reservations, the Government of the U.S.A. solemnly promised the tribes that they would be permitted to govern themselves and make and enforce their own tribal laws. As has been noted, however, the U.S.A. soon violated this agreement by establishing a military dictatorship over the reservations.

The constitutions adopted by the tribes and approved by the U.S. Government specifically assure the Indians the right to hold their own elections. But since 19so the Government has repeatedly interfered, directly and indirectly. For instance, in the Blackfeet election of 1952, reservation superintendent Guy Robertson insisted that the election be conducted by Bureau agents. He mobilized his Bureau police, shut down the voting places set up by the Indians, tried to strike 1,000 names from the voters' lists, and confiscated Indian funds to pay for the mock poll which he conducted. The Bureau in Washington not only upheld his action, but asserted its right to take similar steps at any time in the future.

The U.S. Government has also intervened in tribal elections by flooding the reservations with- propaganda for or against certain candidates (according to their subservience to the Government). This happened in the Blackfeet elections of 1950 and 1952, and in the Choctaw election of 1952, among others. When the Association on American Indian Affairs wired the Interior Secretary, asking whether such intervention bad his approval, he replied that it had.

The American Bill of Rights guarantees that all citizens shall have equal rights under the law. American Indians, however, have never enjoyed this right, even after they were declared to be citizens. The Social Security laws, for example, provide that the Federal Government shall match whatever sums are provided by the states for benefit payments to the aged, the blind, and dependent children. And yet Arizona and New Mexico have been given these U.S. funds even though they refuse to pay any pensions whatever to their Indian citizens. Indians were also excluded from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's housing and other loan programs until, in 1950, 24 tribes united in protest.

Another gross discrimination lies in a Federal prohibition against the sale of alcohol to Indians in any form-even in hair tonic or vanilla extract. Any liquor dealer caught selling to minors or Indians must forfeit his license. (Sometimes this prohibition has been enforced by bar-tenders against persons of Asian extraction, such as Filipinos and Japanese-Americans, in the mistaken belief that they arc American Indians.)

Efforts in recent years to persuade Congress to repeal this paternalistic prohibition have been opposed by the Bureau. But at the same time Bureau agents have given the Indians to understand that if they will surrender their tribal courts, the Bureau will endorse their demand for an end to liquor prohibition. The tribes of Montana have protested that repeal of liquor prohibition ''should not be made conditional upon acceptance of state taxation, the elimination of tribal law-and-order codes, or any other surrender of Indian rights''.

During the 12 years Franklin D. Roosevelt was President of the U.S.A. (1932-I945) and Harold Ickes was Secretary of the Interior, the Indian made substantial progress. But this trend has been reversed ever since 1950, when Dillon Myer was appointed Commissioner of Indian

Affairs. A former U.S. State Department official, Myer achieved notoriety as head of the War Relocation Authority, which herded Japanese-Americans into concentration camps during World War II.

Upon being made head of the Indian Bureau, Myer promptly fired its most capable officials and replaced them with men who had carried out his orders in the concentration camp agency. A superintendent who was said to be too "soft" with the Indians and Eskimos of Alaska was replaced by a former F.B.I. agent; a former concentration camp warden was made superintendent of the Montana Blackfeet reservation. As Ickes later commented: "A blundering dictatorial tin-Hitler tossed a monkey-wrench into a mechanism he was not capable of understanding."

As if to further fulfill this characterization, Myer asked Congress to give his Bureau agents the right to carry arms and make arrests and searches without warrants, for violations of Bureau regulations both on and off reservations. Not even F.B.I. agents or U.S. marshals have such arbitrary powers. There is no more reason why Indians should be arrested for violating Indian Bureau regulations than why women and children should be arrested for violating regulations of the Women's Bureau or Children's Bureau.

The way American Indians were robbed of one of the richest continents on earth has few parallels in the annals of Empire. Since the Indian had always looked upon his lands as a communal asset, the full implications of the white min's peculiar concept of land as private property were not immediately apparent to him. In a typical transaction between the white man and the red, the island of Manhattan, on which the bulk of New York City now stands, was purchased for 24 dollars' worth of trinkets. It was customary in negotiating such purchases for the white men to first ply the redmen with alcohol until they became so intoxicated they did not know or care what they were signing. When such devices failed, the whites simply bought the signature of any Indians who might be available, regardless of how little right they might have to dispose of the land in question. Then, armed with such documents (and firearms), they simply drove the Indians from the land. The bulk of the continent, indeed, changed hands through military conquest without even token payment being made.

One reason why the Indians agreed to accept the paltry compensations offered was a formal assurance that they and their descendants would not be taxed by the American Government. Since 1950 however, the Indian Bureau has been urging Congress to start taxing Indians.

The reservations to which the Indians were confined in and around the American desert embraced some of the most worthless land in the country. Under a concept unique in American law, these reservations were regarded as hereditary, but held in trust for the tribe by the U.S. Government. The Indians were forbidden to sell, rent, or lease the reservation lands, or to sell minerals, timber, oil, fish, cattle, or agricultural products from them without the prior consent of the Government. in other words, Indians were put in the same legal class as congenital idiots deemed incapable of handling their own affairs.

When it was discovered that some portions of the Indian lands contained oil and other valuable resources, something had to be done to enable the white man to lay hands on these riches. So in 1887 Congress passed the General Allotment Act, which was hailed by some as a "Red Man's Emancipation Proclamation". The Commissioner of Indian Affairs, it seems, was complaining bitterly that the Indians still thought in terms of "we" instead of "I" in dealing with land. The new law "gave" the tribes title to 138,000,000 acres, and provided that after an interim of 25 years much of it was to be given out in parcels to individual Indians. It was assumed, as Senator Dawes put it, that this taste of private property would create in the red men "that spirit of selfishness which was the main motivation of white civilization".

Private interests were so eager to get hold of the best of the Indian lands that Congress in 1891, 1902 and 1907 amended the Act, speeding up distribution of the land to individual Indians-and its equally speedy acquisition by whites.

The U.S. Government itself bought much of the land, paying the Indians $1.25 an acre for it; this was justified by the assertion that the Indians were a vanishing race, and would not long need land. in 1923 the Indians' land holdings bad decreased two-thirds in acreage, and four-fifths in value. By 1933 they had been relieved of 86,000,000 of their better acres, retaining only 52,000,000, half of which was desert and serni-desert wasteland. Since 1949 Indian land holdings have again decreased, though the Indian Bureau has not published the figures. But in 1957 the truth leaked out: Indian holdings had gone down to 20,000,000 hectares, and three-fourths of America's Indians were altogether landless or owned too little land for self-support.

In numerous instances, Bureau agents have defrauded the Indians by selling themselves Indian land at far less than its market value. In a 1952 case, certain Bureau officials sold themselves a tract of Blackfeet timberland in Oregon worth 400,000 dollars for 13 5,000 dollars, paying an additional 25,000 dollars "commission" to a third party who served as an intermediary to hide the fact that Bureau agents were the real purchasers. Even though this transaction was exposed in the Press, the guilty officials were kept on their jobs.

In spite of everything, the Indians' tradition of communal ownership of the land still survives the centuries of effort by the white man to eradicate it. The U.S. Government, however, has not given up. In 1952 the Commissioner forbade individual Indians to give land to their tribe or even to sell it to the tribe at less than market price.

Besides the land which has been taken from the Indians, many millions of additional acres have become involved in white man's litigation as to who is the rightful owner. In order that these contested acres might be exploited, Congress has authorized the Indian Bureau to lease them. The Bureau permitted overgrazing on 37,000,000 acres, mostly by absentee sheep-raising corporations. This caused erosion to set in, with a 50 per cent loss in carrying capacity.
On paper, the Indians are supposed to be given priority by the Government when Indian-owned lands are offered for lease; but in practice this priority is a dead letter. For many years the Blackfeet have been trying to get into the sheep-raising business. But only eight small operators of the Blackfeet tribe have been granted grazing leases, for which they were charged $5.22 per sheep for a three-year period. At the same time (1950) the Government, over the protests of the Blackfeet, awarded leases to eleven big commercial sheep-raising companies at $2.65 per sheep.

The courts belatedly ordered the eviction of a sheep-raising corporation, which had encroached upon the Pyramid Lake Reservation. But when the reservation superintendent proceeded to carry out the eviction order, he was fired by the Commissioner. The Commissioner acted at the insistence of Senator Pat McCarran (author of America's concentration camp and racist immigration laws), who bad been hired as legal counsel for the sheep-raising corporation.

There have been many other instances since 1950 of the Bureau's leasing of Indian lands and resources without the consent of the Indians. To cite but one: in 195 1 the Bureau leased to a private concern a valuable building-materials deposit belonging to the Pueblos of San Ildefonso. A tribal representative who appeared at the signing of the contract to protest was bodily thrown out by the Government agent. There is in America an institution known as the U.S. Court of Claims, wherein the humblest citizen may-theoretically-call the highest Government officials and agencies to account for any damages he may have suffered at their hands. Until 1946, no Indian was allowed to come into this court. in fact, in order to sue the Government an Indian first had to obtain the Government's permission through a special act of Congress! But the Indian Claims Act Of 1946 gave Indians a five-year period in which to file claims against the Government for past grievances, after which no such further claims were to be made.

In 1953 ten thousand survivors of the Creek Indians gathered for a pow-wow in a baseball stadium at Atmore, Alabama, to discuss what to do about their 139-year-old claim against the U.S. Government for 29,000,000 dollars. The ancestors of these Creeks were deprived, by military conquest and fraud in the war of 1812, of some 23,267,000 acres of land in what are now the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. Their claim represented $1.25 per acre for lands now worth many billions of dollars. Because of racial discrimination, many of the Creeks attending the conference had to seek lodging hundreds of miles from the scene.

The right of Indians to press claims against the Government was restricted after World War 11 by the refusal of the Indian Bureau to permit them to employ attorneys of their own choosing. just how retrogressive this development was is brought out by the fact that the right of the Indians to freely appoint representatives was recognized in Law 35 promulgated in 1544 by the Spanish Crown. Within five years after 1950, forty tribes complained of being deprived of this right by the U.S. authorities. After several centuries, disputes between the red man and the white continue to arise over the land....

In 1958, Elmer Buckman, white, of Fort Hunter, New York, retained an attorney to seek a court order for the ejection of a band of Mohawk Indians who, he said, were camping on his property. Chief Standing Arrow counter-claimed that the land belonged to 6 people under an ancient treaty, and added that the council of six Indian nations at Syracuse, New York, was backing his claim.

Public as well as private enterprise continues to whittle away at the Indians' holdings. It was also in 1958 that representatives of three nations of Iroquois Indians dressed themselves in war paint, feathers, and porcupine quills and held a pow-wow in Federal courthouse in New York City to protest against the State Power Commission's confiscation of a fifth of their reservation. Wally "Mad Bear" Anderson, of the Tuscarora nation, told newsmen the tribesmen had gone to the courthouse "to let the judge see we are people and will fight for our rights''.

Fashionable but Famished


In many of its treaties with the Indians the U.S. Government committed itself to provide school facilities for their children. The treaty with the Navajos, for example, stipulates that one teacher would be provided for each thirty children. Today, however, less than half of the 24,000 Navajo children of school age are actually in school; and the situation is much the same with other tribes. Among adult Navajos, 85 per cent are still illiterate. Nor is this due to any innate inferiority. Administration of the Goodenough intelligence test has produced the following comparative ratings:

        Hopi    . . . . . . 117                                 
        Sioux   . . . . . . 114                                 
        Zuni    . . . . . . 112                                  
        Navajos . . . . .   109                                  
        White Americans .   101  

Such efforts as have been made to "educate" the Indians have been characterized by ruthless suppression of tribal culture and crude imposition of the white man's ways. Some of the schools have been so unpopular with the Indians that Indian Bureau agents have literally had to kidnap children to put into them; pitched battles have been fought by parents intent upon rescuing their young ones. The Government has also given a free band to all sorts of religious denominations to establish "mission" schools among the Indians; many of these, from which escape is well-nigh impossible, are little better than the worst public orphanages. Overwhelmed by the drabness and drudgery of these institutions, the free spirit of the Indian child is soon broken.

It is impossible to say whether it is more difficult for an Indian to earn a living on or off a reservation. A typical reservation, that Of 4,500 Blackfeet in Montana, embraces 1,200,000 acres; but the land is so arid, and the U.S. Government does so little to assist with its utilization, that the Indians' per capita income each year is only 3 5 5 dollars, and 65 per cent of the tribe are forced to accept Government pensions in order to survive.

Reporting on a 1950 field trip, the Association of American Indian Affairs said: "Housing is a quickly-observable test of general living conditions. The substandard economic life of most Blackfeet Indians is pointed up by Moccasin Flat, a large slum within a stone's throw of the U.S. Government's Blackfeet Indian Agency. Blackfeet housing conditions are characteristic of Indian housing conditions almost anywhere in the country.''

Adding to this, Felix Cohen, Counsel of the Association, has said: "I have seen on a number of these reservations conditions of helplessness, misery, starvation, and preventable deaths which could not be duplicated in the worst city slums in America-not even in the slums of Puerto Rico, which I have visited.''

It was not until 1924 that the U.S. Government established a Division of Health in the Indian Bureau. Even so, the doctors and nurses sent to work under impossible conditions on Indian reservations are underpaid, and many are not fully qualified. The death rate among Indians is far higher than that of other Americans. According to Embry in his book America's Concentration Camps, the life expectancy of the white American has risen to 70 years, and that of the Negro American to 60 years, but the life expectancy of a Papago Indian child is but 17 years, and not much higher in other tribes. Infant mortality is especially high, and such diseases as tuberculosis, syphilis and trachoma take heavy tolls.

A periodic hazard on most reservations is drought, which brings death to herds and Indians alike. By the time the Bureau or Congress acts, both the herds and tribes arc decimated. In a typical drought year, 1951 some 4,000,000 acres belonging to Navajos in Arizona were hard hit, the drought affecting 40 per cent of the tribe's sheep and 3,300 families. When a number of these families grazed their stricken herds in an adjoining reserve controlled by the Grazing Service of the Land Management Bureau of the Department of Interior, Senator Arthur Watkins threatened "there may be bloodshed" unless the Indians went back to their reservation.

It is an old American custom, in passing laws for the relief of the Indians, to attach amendments adroitly calculated to relieve them of their few remaining possessions as well. When Congress in 1949 belatedly passed a relief Bill for the Navajo and Hopi tribes which were dying from starvation, amendments were added to take litigation over Indian lands out of the Federal courts and into state courts, where special interests and racial antipathies have relatively free play. As if this were not enough, still other amendments were added to deprive the Indians of their vital water resources. Though faced with continued starvation, the tribal councils petitioned Congress not to pass the Bill as amended, but Congress passed it anyway.
One of the few enterprises other than stock-raising in which reservation Indians can indulge is to cater to white tourists, either by making handicraft articles, or dressing up in feathers and war paint to pose for snapshots. Arizona and New Mexico, which spend huge sums advertising their Indians as tourist attractions, have also been most adamant in denying Indians their right to vote, social security pensions, etc.

Indians who venture into the white man's world to look for a job encounter many difficulties. Most of them have to be content with farm labor or common construction work, regardless of what skills they may have. As the Rev. David Owl once said: "An Indian can sometimes get a job-if he is twice as good as a white man.''

Far from trying to find employment for Indians through the channels of the U.S. Employment Service without discrimination, the Indian Bureau in 1950 set up a separate Placement Service for Indians, which simply lent Government sanction to the relegation of Indians to menial jobs. In the Southwest, those Indians who speak Spanish instead of English find it doubly difficult to find work.

''The areas in which job discrimination against the Indian is most extreme are areas where rich natural resources are being siphoned off by absentee ownership," Cohen told a Congressional Committee on Fair Employment Practices legislation. "Such is the case particularly in Alaska, Arizona, and New Mexico. The local managers of these absentee corporations are likely to accept the local lines of prejudice, particularly in so far as these lines of prejudice help to keep different groups of employees at each other's throats.

''The same attitudes that reflect themselves in these forms of public discrimination are also reflected in private discrimination in employment. The result of all this is not only to blacken the economic lot of the Indian, but also to blacken the international prestige of the United States throughout the world. For we must remember that what we do to Alaskan natives, who were once Russian citizens, may be far removed from the American public, but it does reach within two miles of Russian soil and Russian eyes and Russian loudspeakers. And what we do on the Mexican border to Spanish-speaking Indians reaches through the length and breadth of Latin America.''

The attention of the United Nations has been called to the plight of the Pribiloff Indians who live on the islands of St. Paul and St. George off the Alaskan coast. Each year over three million valuable fur seals congregate on these islands to breed. Since 1869 the islands have been held by the U.S.A. as a ''Government reservation set aside for the protection of the Alaska fur seal herd". Actually the U.S. Government acts as an agent for the Fouke. Fur Company of St. Louis, Missouri, towhich the Government has granted an exclusive monopoly for the taking of the islands' seals. This Fur Seal Act Of 1944 provides: "When-ever seals are killed and sealskins taken on any of the Pribiloff islands, the Native inhabitants of the islands shall be employed in such killing and in curing the skins taken, and shall receive for their labor fair compensation to be fixed from time to time by the Secretary of the Interior, who shall have authority to prescribe the manner in which such compensation shall be paid to the Natives or expended or other-wise used on their behalf and for their benefit." The Commissioner has ordained that the Indians are to be credited with I dollar for each skin they deliver. But instead of paying even this paltry sum in cash, the Indians are issued barely enough provisions to keep them alive. These Indians are subjects of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which forces them to work for the Fouke Fur Company and makes it im- possible for them to escape from the islands.

The Indian Bureau itself has in large measure established the pattern for discrimination. Only a relative handful of Indians are employed by the Indian Bureau, despite the training and qualifications of many. Those few who are given jobs are hired in menial capacities, and are rarely permitted to rise to supervisory or administrative positions. One of the very few reservation superintendents who is himself an Indian has been unceasingly hounded by the Bureau-according to the National Congress of American Indians-with charges that his "first loyalty is to the Indians rather than his Washington superiors''.


Commissioner Myer, in his handling of the War Relocation Administration, ruthlessly followed a policy aimed at the dispersion of Japanese-Americans without any regard for their own inclinations. He pursued the same policy with respect to the American Indian.

All this was done in the name of "withdrawal" - that is, in the guise of bringing to an end Government control over Indian life. Withdrawal bills, affecting one state at a time, began to go into the Congressional hopper in 1952. The significant thing about these bills, however, is that to facilitate the withdrawal of the Government from Indian affairs, they would give the Government power to "withdraw" what little remains of the Indians' property.
photo by Marion Palfi, courtesy Center for Creative Photography, UATestifying against such measures before a Senate committee, a member of the Blackfeet tribe said: "We have bad 97 Years of experience with program-makers who came out on behalf of the Indian Bureau and sold us on programs to do away with the Bureau. They all resulted actually in making the Bureau fatter and our own holdings leaner. After three 10-year programs, one 25-year program, and one 5-year program, our people are left with less than 2 per cent of the land we owned 97 years ago. During this period Blackfeet per capita wealth has declined by at least 67 per cent. So you gentlemen can understand why we are very much worried at the prospect of having the Bureau send out another expert program-maker from Washington to improve us any further.''

What Truman's Commissioner Myer begin, Eisenhower's Commissioner Glenn Emmons, a New Mexico banker, projected toward its illogical conclusion. Far from shouldering the Government's treaty commitments to permit the Indians to retain their tribal cultures and self-government, Emmons frankly proclaimed his intention to "take the Government out of the Indian business".

"The policy of the Indian Bureau today has three aspects", the U.S. Information Agency shamelessly wrote. "First, to make an end of all responsibilities assumed by the Government regarding Indians in matters relative to the disposition of their properties; second, to put an end to the Bureau of Indian Affairs; and finally to assimilate the Indians with the other citizens of the states where they reside."


That the Indians are by no means happy over the prospect of being swallowed up by the white man's "American Way" was vociferously brought out at a big pow-wow they held at Claremore, Oklahoma in 1957.

"Unless America's Indians hold on to the land they now own, they are through as Indians", Joseph R. Garry, President of the Congress of American Indians, said.
Perhaps there is hope of a sort in the fact that white America shows but little inclination to open its doors to the Indian, and that 3 0 per cent of those who do venture to leave the reservation eventually go back to it.

"Although sentimental regard for the Indian is now the fashion in America, we do not think of admitting him as an equal", writes Edwin R. Embree of the American Council on Race Relations. "The great American middle classes are so full of color prejudice that Indians, no matter how fully they adopt white ways, will not for many years be accepted into the white world.''


''It is a pity that so many Americans today think of the Indian as a romantic or comic figure in American history without contemporary significance'', comments Cohen in his article ''The Erosion of Indian Rights Since 1950 '' in the Yale Law Review. ''In fact, the Indian plays much the same role in our American society that the Jews played in Germany. 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 democratic faith. ''

Continue on to Chapter 2

 

 

chapters

  • Chapter I
  • Chapter II
  • Chapter III
  • Chapter IV
  • Chapter V
  • Chapter VI
  • Chapter VII
  • Chapter VIII
  • Chapter IX
  • Chapter X
  • Chapter XI
  • Chapter XII
  • Chapter XIII
  • Chapter XIV


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