Paul Moorehead: Let's get back to promoting self-government

John Collier (right), with Elmer Thomas (left), and Claude M. Hirst (center). Photo from Library of Congress

Attorney Paul Moorehead urges Congress to fulfill the original promise of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 by passing a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar, implementing land consolidation and promoting self-government:
Eighty years ago last month, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Wheeler-Howard Act aka the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), devised and championed by then-Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier.

In a February 1934 memorandum prepared for the House and Senate Committees on Indian Affairs, Collier stressed the necessity of enacting broad remedial legislation to combat the disastrous effects of the allotment policy. His memorandum identified two major problems: (1) the creation of “an ever-increasing class of landless Indians” through the alienation of their chief capital asset - their land; and (2) the “break-up of restricted lands into units unfit for economic use.”

Collier’s proposal would have as its over-arching goal the promotion of Indian self-government and it included the following titles: Title I – Indian Self-Government; Title II – Special Education for Indians; Title III – Indian Lands; and Title IV – Court of Indian Offenses. Congress saw fit to approve titles I and III, only.

Looking back at the previous 51 years of allotment, Collier wrote that "It is difficult to imagine any other system which with equal effectiveness would pauperize the Indian while impoverishing him, and sicken and kill his soul while pauperizing him, and case him in so ruined a condition into the final status of a non-ward dependent upon the States and counties."

Get the Story:
Paul Moorehead: The 'Carcieri' Fix Bills Need to Do More (Indian Country Today 7/30)

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