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62 Yale L.J. 348 (1952-1953)
The Erosion of Indian Rights, 1950-1953: A Case Study in Bureaucracy

handle is hein.journals/ylr62 and id is 366 raw text is: THE EROSION OF INDIAN RIGHTS, 1950-1953:
A CASE STUDY IN BUREAUCRACY
FELIX S. COHENt
O R 450,000 American citizens I who are members of Indian tribes are
probably the only racial group in the United States whose rights are more
limited in 1953 than they were in 1950. The erosion of Indian rights in this
period and the factors which contributed to that erosion can be fairly evaluated
only if we also view the background of Indian progress during the 21-year
period from 1929 to 1950. During that period more than a score of dis-
criminatory restrictions upon Indians were abolished; the size of Indian land-
holdings increased, instead of decreasing, for the first time in American
history; the real income of most Indian families doubled or tripled; and the
Indian death rate was cut in half. During that period the Bureau of Indian
Affairs was a leading participant in almost every battle for Indian rights.
Beginning with the administration of Commissioner Rhoads, appointed by
President Hoover in 1929, the Bureau of Indian Affairs inaugurated a deter-
mined effort to do away with the major legal discriminations from which
Indians then suffered. The Meriam      Report,2 published in 1928, at the re-
quest of Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work, pointed to the two most
serious deficiencies in Indian administration: the exclusion of Indians from
the management of their own affairs, and the poor quality of public services
(especially health and education) rendered by public officials not responsible
to .the Indian people they served.
From 1930 to 1950, the Bureau respected the right of Indians to hold their
own elections and to select their own representatives and attorneys.3 Two or
,Visiting Lecturer in Law, Yale Law School.
Factual information presented in this article for which no specific authority is cited has
been gathered in the author's present capacity as general counsel to several Indian tribes
and to the Association on American Indian Affairs, Inc., and in his earlier capacity as
counsel to the Secretary of the Interior and as Associate Solicitor and Chairman of the
Board of Appeals of the Interior Department.
1. All American Indians, whether or not living on a reservation, who had not pre-
viously been accorded that status, were declared to be citizens of the United States. 43
STAT. 253 (1924), 8 U.S.C. § 601 (1946). The special laws and regulations relating to
Indians are analyzed in CoiEN, HANDBOOK OF FEDERAL INDIAN LAW (4th ed. 1945) (cited
hereinafter as COHEN, HANDBOOK).
2. MERIAw & AssocIATEs, THE PROBLEM OF INDIAN ADMINISTRATION (1928). This
report and other matters briefly mentioned in the following paragraphs are discussed in
more detail in COHEN, HANDBOO 26-7, 83-7.
3. See, e.g., Memorandum of Solicitor, Department of Interior, Jan. 23, 1937, in
which it is declared: A consideration of the general background and purpose of the
Indian Reorganization Act [48 STAT. 984 (1934), 25 U.S.C. §§461 et seq. (1946)] leaves
no doubt that the purpose of the statutory provision in question was to increase the scope

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