New Deal for Indians; Three Tribes Moves to Incorporate

Washington, D.C.
July 1, 1936

“I do believe that no one exceeds him in knowledge of Indian matters or his sympathy with the point of view of the Indians themselves.” Those are the words that Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, uses to describe the new Commissioner of Indian Affairs, John Collier. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the Collier appointment in 1933, he knew that Indian policy would change for the better because Collier had long been an energetic defender of Indian rights.

In his executive actions Collier has reversed policies that have existed for a half-century. He believes that the culture and ways of Native people should be preserved and cultivated, not attacked and abolished. Thus, he has reversed the land allotment system under which non-Indians have gained much Indian land. His hope is that Indian land will remain as Indian lands.

Amid great controversy and a flurry of church opposition, he has issued a directive, which states, “No interference with Indian religious life or ceremonial expression will hereafter be tolerated.” The old ways are deemed good ways. Collier has also insisted that New Deal work and relief programs be used to improve depressed conditions on the reservations. A special Indian Civilian Conservation Corps (ICCC) is in operation and is presently enrolling young men on North Dakota’s reservations. The ICCC will work to improve land management among Native peoples.

Collier considers his most significant achievement to be the recently passed Indian Reorganization Act which incorporates the principle of self-determination. If tribes so decide, they are now encouraged to establish their own constitutions and self-government.

In North Dakota only at Fort Berthold have the people voted to establish constitutional forms of government and to incorporate into the Three Affiliated Tribes. At Turtle Mountain and Fort Totten the people have decided to wait. On Standing Rock the decision not to reorganize is based on the fact that since 1914 the tribe had been operating under a constitutional form of government that was serving the people well.

By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

Grade Level

2-5, 7-12

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change