Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Francis Paul Prucha
Robert P. Hay
Few administrations can match that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's in its energy and drive to do something positive for the nation . In Indian affairs this situation was particularly evident. Strong personalities received a mandate to carry into action programs that had been smothered for years by disinterested or inept administrators. The Indian Office under Commissioner John Collier was an exciting and innovative place to be, for the door was always open to new and promising ideas as cultural leaders from at home and abroad came to share their experience and plans .
Indian administration under the direction of Commissioner Collier seemed guide,d by what English artist William Blake had written in 1804. Blake pointed out that "He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars. / General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite , and flatterer" (Jerusalem). These words offer a rationale for New Deal Indian administration as Commissioner Collier directly involved himself and his programs in Indian life.
The Indian Arts and Crafts Board, an aspect of New Deal Indian policy , was one vehicle by which the ''minute particulars" of Indian life could be improved. The multitudinous economic and cultural variations of the many Indian tribes demanded that any attempt to preserve and to promote Indian culture be done with painstaking care . This important and delicate work was given to the Indian Arts and
Crafts Board by Congress in 1935. What followed certainly could not have been predicted.
The attempt to promote Indian arts and crafts and thereby to help the Indians financially and to preserve the Indians' culture is important because the effort reflects an unselfish devotion to a new set of ideals on the part of individuals working in and with the Indian Office between 1935 and 1945. Preservation rather than destruction of Indian life and values became the guiding principle behind this official attitude. Such an attitude was not conceived by the Roosevelt administration; instead this policy was the product of independent critical thought and experience developing over some forty years . What was startlingly new was the energy and skill with which New Deal personnel set about the tasks involved in implementing such a policy.
How Commissioner Collier, Indian Arts and Craft Board General Manager Rene d'Harnoncourt, and their supporters addressed themselves to the important problem of preserving a future for Indian arts and crafts is the subject of this study . The study ends with the year 1945, the end of Franklin Roosevelt's administration and the John Collier Indian Commissionership; 1945 effectively concludes an imaginative period in the administration of Indian affairs. The method of approach is basically narrative with the topical method used where overlap might lead to confusion.
Surprisingly, no previous scholarly studies have been made of t his vital aspect of New Deal Indian policy. Part of t he reason may be that only recently did the Indian Arts and Crafts Board release its records for the New Deal period to t he National Archives.
My interest in American Indian history was nurtured and sharpened by Fr. Francis Paul Prucha, S.J., from Marquette University, to whom many thanks are due. Other members of the history department at Marquette played an important role in this project. Assistance in the pursuit of this study came unhesitatingly from the staffs at the Marquette University library; the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, library; the National Archives, particularly Robert M. Kvasnicka; the Library of Congress; the Princeton University library; the Yale University library; and the Institute for Government Research in Washington, D.C.