John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks to Representatives of American Indian Tribes.

August 15, 1962

WE WANT to express our very warm welcome to all of you. I must say the list of tribes that are represented here really are a litany of celebrated American history. We have here representatives of the Creek Tribe, the Mohawks, the Narragansetts, the Sioux, the Arapahoe, the Cherokee, Palm Springs, Winnebago, three affiliated tribes, Oneida, and we have some from Alabama, Virginia, Florida, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Oklahoma, California, and the Southwest.

I want to express our very warm welcome to you, and I also want to say how interested all of us are in the conference which was held in Chicago. I know that those of you who are vitally interested in American Indians are not concerned only with the extraordinary past but also the present and the future and the opportunities which are going to be available to the younger American Indians who will be coming along who we want to live very fruitful lives.

In your Chicago declaration, you reiterated-which of course was unnecessary-your strong love for this country of which you are the first citizens. So I hope that this visit here which is more than ceremonial will be a reminder to all Americans of the number of Indians whose housing is inadequate, whose education is inadequate, whose employment is inadequate, whose health is inadequate, whose security and old age is inadequate--a very useful reminder that there is still a good deal of unfinished business.

One of the first supplemental appropriation bills I signed last year after becoming President was a special appropriation for building Indian schools. There are still some hundreds and thousands of Indian boys and girls who are inadequately schooled, and we do not wish to add that disadvantage to any other disadvantages which they may have in fulfilling their hope of living very useful lives as citizens of this country.

So I want to congratulate all of you for the work you are doing; for the interest you are showing in your fellow Indians, because your presence here reminds us all of a very strong obligation which any American, whether he was born here or came here from other parts of the world, has to every American Indian. So we are glad to have you.

Your visit is the most recent of a long series of visits stretching back to the beginning of the 19th century when other Indians had visited American presidents, bringing with them really the same message which has been partially answered but not fully. We are very glad to have you.

[At this point Robert Burnette of Rosebud, S. Dak., a member of the Sioux Tribe, called on Dennis Bushyhead of Bartlesville, Okla., a member of the Cherokee Tribe, to read the Indian "Declaration of Purpose." Mr. Burnette, on behalf of the 90 tribes represented, then presented the pledge to the President. He expressed thanks for the new housing programs and increase in credit for the Indian people, reminding the President, however, that the Congress had moved very slowly on some of the legislative programs dealing with the Indian people. The President then resumed speaking.]

I appreciate that message about the Congress. They know you are watching them well. We are glad to have you here.

Note: The President spoke to the delegates from the American Indian Chicago Conference at noon on the South Lawn of the White House.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks to Representatives of American Indian Tribes. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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