Franklin D. Roosevelt

Statement on the Wheeler-Howard Bill

April 28, 1934

Dear Mr. Chairman:

The Wheeler-Howard Bill embodies the basic and broad principles of the Administration for a new standard of dealing between the Federal Government and its Indian wards.

It is, in the main, a measure of justice that is long overdue. We can and should, without further delay, extend to the Indian the fundamental rights of political liberty and local self-government and the opportunities of education and economic assistance that they require in order to attain a wholesome American life. This is but the obligation of honor of a powerful Nation toward a people living among us and dependent upon our protection.

Certainly the continuance of autocratic rule, by a Federal Department, over the lives of more than two hundred thousand citizens of this Nation is incompatible with American ideals of liberty. It also is destructive of the character and self-respect of a great race.

The continued application of the allotment laws, under which Indian wards have lost more than two-thirds of their reservation lands, while the costs of Federal administration of these lands have steadily mounted, must be terminated.

Indians throughout the country have been stirred to a new hope. They say they stand at the end of the old trail. Certainly, the figures of impoverishment and disease point to their impending extinction, as a race, unless basic changes in their conditions of life are effected.

I do not think such changes can be devised and carried out without the active cooperation of the Indians themselves.

The Wheeler-Howard Bill offers the basis for such cooperation. It allows the Indian people to take an active and responsible part in the solution of their own problems.

I hope the principles enunciated by the Wheeler-Howard Bill will be approved by the present session of the Congress.

Sincerely yours,

Hon. Burton K. Wheeler,

Chairman, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs,

Hon. Edgar Howard,

Chairman, House Committee on Indian Affairs,

Washington, D. C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Statement on the Wheeler-Howard Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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