restricted access Chapter VIII: Epilogue: John Collier and Indian Reform
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

C h a p t e r V I I I Epilogue John Collier and Indian Reform Because it lacked a clear theoretical foundation, Indian policy in the first quarter of the twentieth century developed into a series of troubleshooting measures designed to deal with particular problems. Simply put, it was not a single, all-encompassing policy, and so it failed to satisfy nearly everyone interested in the conduct of Indian affairs. Native American peoples, placed in marginal political positions, continued in a steep economic decline. There was an obvious need for direction in the formulation of a new Indian policy. Out of this search for another paradigm in Indian affairs, a new movement for Indian reform grew up in the early s. Prophetically, the movement began in the artist-intellectual white community of Taos, New Mexico, and found its champion in John Collier. Collier came to the forefront of a new Indian reform movement, bypassing Native American spokespersons and other whites who had a great deal more experience in Indian affairs, because he formulated a new philosophical basis for the direction of American Indian policy. He was also able to enlist a number of influential people in his cause. But most of all Collier was able to put his ideas, often in severely modified form, into action when he became commissioner of Indian Affairs in . Collier first cast himself into the turbulent waters of Indian affairs in , when he became involved in the battle to stop the passage of the Pueblo Indian Land Act. On July  of that year, Senator Holm O. Bursum of New Mexico, with the full support of Secretary of the Inte- *final holm pages 5/18/05 4:29 PM Page 182 rior Albert Bacon Fall, introduced the bill, as its supporters argued, to quell a series of disputes over Pueblo land titles.1 Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican War in , Congress confirmed the ownership of certain lands to the various Pueblo peoples of the newly created territory of New Mexico. Additionally, the Pueblo people were individually recognized as citizens of the United States. As citizens, some of the people sold land to white settlers without hindrance from the federal or tribal governments. Additionally, there were numerous whites who had squatted on Pueblo Indian lands without the benefit of a legal sale or title. Between  and , a number of people involved in Indian affairs began to question the right of the Pueblo Indians, even as citizens of the United States, to sell parts of the tribal estate; they also examined white claims to what was Indian land. In , the Supreme Court, in U.S. v. Sandoval, decided that the Pueblo peoples, regardless of their U.S. citizenship, were to be treated as wards of the federal government.They therefore had been incompetent since  to negotiate the sale of their lands.2 The Bursum bill essentially sought to end the problem by confirming not the Indian title but all non-Indian land claims. Collier immediately launched a campaign to defeat the Bursum bill. He, along with Stella Atwood, who was chairperson of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs’ Indian Welfare Committee, wrote several articles for Sunset and Survey magazines protesting the bill.3 They also enlisted several members of the Taos artist-intellectual community , including authors Witter Bynner and D. H. Lawrence, to write tracts in opposition to the proposed legislation.4 Eventually public opinion was rallied to the Pueblo cause, and the bill was killed.5 The next piece of legislation that caught Collier’s attention was even more insidious than the Bursum bill. On January , , the Indian Omnibus Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. The bill authorized the secretary of the interior to appraise tribal property , pay Native Americans the cash value of their assets, and terminate responsibility for all lands held in trust.6 In essence, the bill was a logical conclusion to the crumbling vanishing policy. It would have immediately and irrevocably cancelled all treaties, court decisions, and laws relating to the protection of Native American landholdings. Native Americans, in theory, would then be free from government control and placed automatically in the white competitive world. — Epilogue — — 183 — *final holm pages 5/18/05 4:29 PM Page 183 The bill floated through the House in fairly quick order and was sent to the Senate. There it met its demise in the hands of Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. During the debate on...


Subject Headings

  • United States -- Social policy.
  • Assimilation (Sociology) -- United States -- History.
  • Indians of North America -- Government relations.
  • United States -- Politics and government.
  • Indians of North America -- Cultural assimilation.
  • Indians of North America -- Politics and government.
  • United States -- Race relations.
  • Indians in popular culture.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access