Jun 18, 1934
Congress passes the Indian Reorganization Act, sometimes called the “Indian New Deal.” The legislation reverses the Dawes Act’s privatization of Indian lands, and allows for a return to tribal sovereignty, or local self-government.*
To get better acquainted with the moment in time, we need to know something about Commissioner Collier, his policies and motives.
“John Collier’s appointment as Commissioner of Indian Affairs by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 marked a radical reversal—in intention if not always in effect—in U.S. government policies toward American Indians that dated back to the 1887 Dawes Act. An idealistic social worker, Collier first encountered Indian culture when he visited Taos, New Mexico, in 1920, and found among the Pueblos there what he called a “Red Atlantis”—a model of living that integrated the needs of the individual with the group and that maintained traditional values. Although Collier could not win congressional backing for his most radical proposals, the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 dramatically changed policy by allowing tribal self-government and consolidating individual land allotments back into tribal hands.” **
Next come the question of how these goals are established legally, and who gets to make the choice.
“The bill seeks to consolidate Indian-owned land into tribal or community ownership, while retaining individual use thereof and inheritance rights, but would prohibit sale. It provides for buying additional land, so that, eventually, all Indians desiring it will have some land for their own use. It would permit Indians to organize into self-governing communities under Federal supervision, with extension of responsibility as Indians show capacity for self-rule.
In the words of Commissioner Collier, the bill “strikes a double blow at the two fatal weaknesses of Indian administration across a whole century: first, the dissipation of the Indian estate and the progressive pauperization of the Indians, and, second, the suppression of Indian tribal and social and religious institutions and the steadfast failure of the Government to organize any effective plan of collective action by which the Indians could advance in citizenship and protect their rights.”
Yeshua, thank You for the life of John Collier, and the impact that it had on our state. We remember both his successes and failures to you. Perhaps he was too idealistic and impatient for change? Will You forgive where he offended You, or his neighbors’ conscience, by moving too fast? Will You forgive where he sought to right an offense through legalistic counter-offense? Will You forgive where he fell prey to vanity, thinking his vantage point was unassailable, and resistant to listen to his critics?
Conversely, we bless his successes in shining a light on the usurped lands and unalienable rights of all Native Americans. We thank You that he was willing to push back on the excesses of our capitalistic system, and the offenses of its oligarchy of key players and their companies? We believed in the false gods of progress as defined by Minnesota and its’ economic masters to the exclusion of the 10th Amendment rights of our tribal brothers and sisters; have mercy! Will You bless those like Collier that are the whistleblowers of our collective state conscience?
Further, we have forgotten the benefits and benefactors of our nationhood and its laws. We have forgotten how the best minds of France and England, Greece and Rome, Egypt and Israel gave shape to our laws that have given previously unheard of rights and privileges to common human beings.
We have forgotten that our statehood has, somehow, almost miraculously allowed myriads of cultures and sub-cultures to unite as one people. Though Native systems had their successes, we have since created a place that can incorporate hundreds or even thousands of religions, worldviews, ethnicities, cultures, tribes and languages to co-exist where there had previously only been primarily: Chippewa, Lakota, Nakota, Dakota, Sioux, and Ojibwe. We have failed to practice gratitude, both in the era of the Indian New Deal and the present, the equilibrium achieved over thousands of years of balkanization and racism precisely through the laws of our nation-state! Master, we have thought too long and too much of our own race and too little of the honor You bestowed on all Your children! Have mercy on our arrogance!
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:38
Though this verse points us to Jerusalem, we welcome when Your justice is established across all the families of the nations of the earth! We look forward to a dominion when land and law are apportioned according to Your economy. We invite You, Holy Spirit, to the political state of Minnesota, and to the First Nation’s that occupied these lands before it; come and sort us out? May we be faithful stewards of these, Your Lands, that we temporarily occupy during our brief life spans. May “Mni sotah” truly be a reflection forever of the clear blue waters of human relationships with You, (and each other), made right!
* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
*** “A New Deal for the American Indian,” Literary Digest, 7 April 1938, 21.
**** Schwartz, E. A., “Red Atlantis Revisited: Community and Culture in the Writings of John Collier”. American Indian Quarterly.Vol. 18, No. 4 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 507-531