JF Ptak Science Books Post 1256
Nothing makes “discovery” itself than re-discovery, with the important element being “forgetting”. Some important thnigs in the history of science have been “forgotten”, or not remembered, actually, little reported–like Mendel’s work on genetics and the re-discovery of penicillin. And the flying shuttle. And so on.
This small pamphlet, New Opportunity for Indians (1933), may look like a solidified reverse misprint: “opportunity” rather than its plural, and singular “Indians” for its plural, and identifies what may be one of the most forgotten things in American history. (The pamphlet is available at our blog bookstore.)
The fact of the matter is that Native Americans had been basically forgotten during the last forty years or so, squandered away onto removed reservations with little support or money or time or effort.
In 1926 the Bookings Institution authorized a study of the condition of American Indians, with Lewis Meriam and his team responding with their report The Problem of Indian Administration in 1928. It was the first statistical and analytical survey of its kind in eighty years (though the special volume of the 1890 census Indians Taxed and Indians Not Taxed comes close, though without a particular analytical thread) and was a general indictment of the government’s treatment of the Indian.
We find most of the following in just the first dozen pages or so:
--“the health of the Indians compared with that of the general population is bad.”(page 3) and that tuberculosis and trachoma were widespread, and infant mortality high.A major contribution was poor health facilities and the lack of Indian language understanding by the health care providers.
--“The hospitals, sanatoria, and sanatorium schools maintained by the Service, despite a few exceptions, must generally be characterized as lacking in personnel, equipment, management, and design.”(page 9) And that “the government, through numerous on- and off-reservation health --“the most important single item affecting health is probably the food supply.”
--“The income of the typical Indian family is low and the earned income extremely low.” (Page 4.)
--“In justice to the Indians it should be said that many of them are living on lands from which a trained and experienced white man could scarcely wrest a reasonable living.” (Page 5. )
–“The economic basis of the primitive culture of the Indians has been largely destroyed by the encroachment of white civilization.” (Page 6.)
–Little attempt has been made to formulate a broad constructive program for the service as a whole, extending over a long term of years, and having for its goal the general improvement of economic conditions.” (Page 5)
--“The survey staff finds itself obligated to say frankly and unequivocally that the provisions for the care of the Indian children in boarding schools are grossly inadequate.”(Page 11)
And on and on.
Perhaps the most important outcome of the Meriam report was the abandonment of the Dawes Act of 1887, which basically broke up tribal connections and lands, segregating individual families ad incorporating them as yet another American farming family. Franklin Roosevelt’s Indian reorganization Act (1934) ended this practice and allowed for the organization of tribal government and incoporation of land trusts.
But the fact that the Indians had been discovered, and discovered to have been rendered into such poor conditions, and that there was a general consensus to alleviate those conditions and provide better and more uniform health care and food (especially food) and education and tribal independence, it did not mean that getting the money for doing such things would be accomplished.
In this slim pamphlet the outlines for helping Indians are described and failures acknowledged, though generally the planning was scant and rudimentary. The pamphlet did identify “the first essentials tr a satisfactory home life are adequate food supply, proper clothing, and a comfortable shelter”. I think stopping at the “food supply” part would’ve been enough.
There was certainly an increase in money spent on health care, but the increase wasn’t much to speak of, not really. The pamphlet states that “Indian Health Appropriations” topped out in 1911 at $40,000–or about $6/person/year. The 1933 total was $3.2 million, but that still doesn’t spread out very thickly over 295,000 people.
In any event the pamphlet was not without hope, but that hope seemed to be all it had so far as implementing its new ideas for improvements and services. In a small slug of a mention, “Crippled Services” it is noted that appropriations for the new years would be down $4 million dollars. Unfortunately there is no figure of overall appropriations, so the figure doesn’t mean that much. It did mean though to the author(s) of this pamphlet that even if there was no money there was hope. Unfortunately “hope” doesn’t buy food.
This pamphlet ends with a severe understatement: “the Indian problem is by no means solved either in education, health, making a living or providing a good home, much remains to be worked out”. Indeed.
The full Meriam report can be found here.