Collier, John

   Born in Atlanta, Georgia, John Collier was educated at Columbia University and the College de France. In 1907, he became secretary of the Peoples’ Institute in New York City, working with immigrants. He left in 1919 to become director of adult education in California, and when that job collapsed, he went to New Mexico, where he lived for some time with the Pueblo Indians. In 1922, he became a research agent for the Indian Welfare Committee of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. In 1923, he became the executive director of the American Indian Defense Association, working to preserve Native American lands and culture. In 1933, Collier was appointed commissioner of Indian affairs in the Department of the Interior and launched what became known as “the Indian New Deal.”
   Through Collier, the government provided compensation to the Pueblo Indians for lost lands, established relief programs for destitute Indians, and cancelled Indian debts for road building. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 ended the previous policy of land allotments established under the Dawes Act and restored surplus lands to the tribes. It also provided the basis for tribal self-government. However, many tribes did not accept the act, and it was only a limited success. Many of the programs introduced by Collier came to an end in 1939 with financial cuts and particularly with the coming of war in 1941. Critics point out that Collier did not appreciate the complexity of Native American tribal systems nor did he seriously challenge their segregation from the rest of society. He resigned in 1945 and began teaching at the City College of New York.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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