- From the late 19th century to the late 20th century, Native Americans constituted the poorest and most overlooked minority in the United States. They numbered 250,000 in 1900, and the majority of them were located on reservations in the West and Southwest. By 1930, almost half of their territory, more than 86 million acres, had gone to white Americans. Full citizenship was only granted in 1924. In 1928, a federal government report, The Problem of Indian Administration, declared categorically that “an overwhelming majority of Indians are poor, even extremely poor.”The Great Depression, coupled with the effects of drought in the 1930s, exacerbated the already dire conditions. It was not until the New Deal and the appointment of John Collier as Indian Commissioner that the problems of Native Americans began to be seriously considered.Collier was appointed commissioner of Indian affairs in 1933. Using funds from the Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, and Works Progress Administration, he provided for the construction of schools and hospitals on Indian land. He also introduced the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, which halted the sale of land to individuals and enabled tribes to recover unallocated lands. However, not all Native Americans supported the legislation, and Collier resigned in 1945.During World War II, 25,000 Native Americans served in the military, with the largest number of 22,000 serving in the army. They were not segregated, and many served with distinction. Several Navajo Indians served in communications as “code talkers,” as their language was unknown to the enemy. One of the most famous Native Americans during the war was a Pima Indian, Ira Hayes, who was one of the men who took part in the famous flag raising on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. Some 40,000 Native Americans also left reservations to work in defense programs during the war. They continued to leave the reservations during the 1950s.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.
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