FROM THE ARCHIVE

Ronald Reagan: Maybe we made a mistake

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APRIL 18, 2001

Text of remarks by President Reagan at Moscow State University. May 31, 1988.

"Let me tell you just a little something about the American Indian in our land. We have provided millions of acres of land for what are called preservations -- or reservations, I should say. They, from the beginning, announced that they wanted to maintain their way of life, as they had always lived there in the desert and the plains and so forth. And we set up these reservations so they could, and have a Bureau of Indian Affairs to help take care of them. At the same time, we provide education for them -- schools on the reservations. And they're free also to leave the reservations and be American citizens among the rest of us, and many do. Some still prefer, however, that way -- that early way of life. And we've done everything we can to meet their demands as to how they want to live. Maybe we made a mistake. Maybe we should not have humored them in that wanting to stay in that kind of primitive lifestyle. Maybe we should have said, no, come join us; be citizens along with the rest of us. As I say, many have; many have been very successful.

"And I'm very pleased to meet with them [a group of American Indians who traveled to Moscow], talk with them at any time and see what their grievances are or what they feel they might be. And you'd be surprised: Some of them became very wealthy because some of those reservations were overlaying great pools of oil, and you can get very rich pumping oil. And so, I don't know what their complaint might be."

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