153. Secretary of the Interior Seaton on Termination Policy, September 18, 1958
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240 Obviously, such affirmative action for the great majority of Indians has just begun. Moreover, it should be noted that the foundations laid are solid. Philosophically speaking, the Indian wardship problem brings up basically the questionable merit of treating the Indian of today as an Indian, rather than as a fellow American citizen. Now, doing away with restrictive federal supervision over Indians, as such, does not affect the retention of those cultural and racial qualities which people of Indian descent would wish to retain; many of us are proud of our ancestral heritage, but that does not nor should it alter our status as American citizens. The distinction between abolishment of wardship and abandonment of the Indian heritage is vitally important. . . . Unfortunately, the major and continuing Congressional movement toward full freedom was delayed for a time by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the WheelerHoward Act. Amid the deep social concern of the depression years, Congress deviated from its accustomed policy under the concept of promoting the general Indian welfare . In the postdepression years Congress— realizing this change of policy—sought to return to the historic principles of much earlier decades. Indeed, one of the original authors of the Act was desirous of its repeal. We should recall, however, that war years soon followed in which Congress found itself engrossed in problems first of national defense and then of mutual security. As with many other major projects, action was thus delayed. . . . We may admit the it-takes-time view, but we should not allow it to lull us into inaction. Freedom of action for the Indian as a full- fledged citizen—that is the continuing aim. Toward this end Congress and the Administration , state and local governments, Indian tribes and members, interested private agencies , and individual Americans as responsible citizens should all be united and work constantly . The legislatively set target dates for Indian freedom serve as significant spurs to accomplishment. Congress steadily continues to inform itself, to seek out, delimit, and assist those Indians most able to profit immediately by freedom from special supervision, and it acts primarily to speed the day for all Indian tribes and members to be relieved of their wardship status. A basic purpose of Congress in setting up the Indian Claims Commission was to clear the way toward complete freedom of the Indians by assuring a final settlement of all obligations—real or purported—of the federal government to the Indian tribes and other groups. . . . The basic principle enunciated so clearly and approved unanimously by the Senate and House in House Concurrent Resolution 108 of the Eighty-third Congress continues to be the over-all guiding policy of Congress in Indian affairs. In view of the historic policy of Congress favoring freedom for the Indians, we may well expect future Congresses to continue to indorse the principle that “as rapidly as possible” we should end the status of Indians as wards of the government and grant them all of the rights and prerogatives pertaining to American citizenship. With the aim of “equality before the law” in mind our course should rightly be no other. Firm and constant consideration for those of Indian ancestry should lead us all to work diligently and carefully for the full realization of their national citizenship with all other Americans. Following in the footsteps of the Emancipation Proclamation of ninetyfour years ago, I see the following words emblazoned in letters of fire above the heads of the Indians—THESE PEOPLE SHALL BE FREE! [Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 311 (May 1957): 47–50, 55. Reprinted with permission.] 153. Secretary of the Interior Seaton on Termination Policy September 18, 1958 The first significant break in the termination policy of the federal government came in a radio speech made by Secretary of the Interior Fred A. Seaton in Flagstaff, Arizona, September 18, 1958. Seaton rejected termination without full consent of the Indians concerned. 241 . . . . On August 1, 1953, House Concurrent Resolution No. 108 was adopted expressing the sense of the Congress of the United States to be that of ending the wardship status of Indian tribes as rapidly as possible . Certain additional provisions applied to Indian tribes located in the States of California , Florida, New York, and Texas, and to some other tribes in other States, with relation to the earliest possible elimination of Federal control over their persons and properties. This stands as the most recent congressional declaration upon the subject. Since...