“We are for a vanishing policy,” declared Merrill E. Gates during his presi-
dential address in 1899 to the influential reform group called the Lake
Mohonk Friends of the Indian (1900:12). Gates was echoing the familiar
refrain of Major Richard C. Pratt, the superintendent of the U.S. Indian
Industrial School at Carlisle, who agreed, in part, with the idea that “the
only good Indian was a dead one.” As Pratt saw it, “All the Indian there is
in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man” (1973
[1892]:261). Pratt and Gates were important figures during the so-called
assimilation era, when the federal government fused land allotment to
industrial education in an explicit effort to quicken the slow processes of
Indian evolution from savage pagan to civilized Christian.
In 1928, however, Lewis Meriam explained in his historic report on
the failure of Indian policies that “some Indians proud of their race and
devoted to their culture . . . have no desire to be as the white man is.
They wish to remain Indians.” He explained that many “intelligent, liberal
whites who find real merit in . . . things which may be covered by the
broad term ‘culture’  advocate a policy that goes so far, “metaphorically
speaking, as to enclose these Indians in a glass case to preserve them as
museum specimens for future generations to study and enjoy, because
of the value of their culture and its picturesqueness in a world rapidly
advancing in high organization and mass production.”
“With this view,” Meriam reported, “the survey staff has great sympathy”
(1928:86–87). With the help of John Collier, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s politi-
cally savvy commissioner of Indian affairs, many of the recommendations
Meriam and his staff made found their way into the Wheeler-Howard
Act of 1934. Better known as the Indian Reorganization Act (ira), this
was sweeping New Deal legislation that was meant to curtail future al-
lotments, empower tribal governments, and put structures in place to
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