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This is Indian country. I recorded educational radio presentation produced by the University of Denver under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcast. This is a story told by Indians in their own words and by those who know Indians well. The story of the American Indian and the modern world which has surrounded him and changed his ancient way of life. This is a story told through tape recordings made on the spot in the Hogan's government buildings beside the roads and in the fields of Navajo and Sioux reservations. And this story recorded in these areas. Will we hope illuminates the whole problem of Indian adjustment to modern American life. Our guide through Indian Country Today is Dr. Ruth M. Underhill professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Denver author and internationally respected authority on her favorite subject the American Indian. On this first program in the series Dr. Underhill introduces you a bayat narrative and
tape recording to a recent history of the American Indian from the time he was placed on reservations dolling to the present day. Dr. Ruth. Under him. We started to Indian country last summer in a station wagon loaded with recording equipment suitcases and food. My companions asked if we should take sleeping bags and I said oh no Indian reservations today there are plenty of respectable places to stay and the Navajo actually run a motel. However the Indians we saw were really an eye opener to me even though I had lived intimately with Indians for years because what we looked for and what we saw were modern Indians. Before I go for it let me introduce you to three samples. The priest is Tony Rainer put a blow in the end of Taos New Mexico. When my car pulled up outside the pueblo I saw a handsome modern shop. Inside was Tony taking stock along with his wife who was a college graduate. As we talked he told me that he'd fought in the war. When you came back they didn't want to man up the road
and I ran around up tonight to start. There was no one here and you know so here we have one type of modern Indian. And at Pine Ridge on the Sioux Reservation I met another. This was Mr. Member of the council. He had come in for a meeting dressed in nice clean blue shirt and western hat. Listen for a moment to our conversation. I understand that you are a gentleman and how many sections do you have together and are you able to meet the payments with the business. Oh yes only Indians are not self employed business men a good many of them work for wages. I talked about that doing this to ask a beer run. And I begin by asking whether employee issue any prejudice against India. Not that there is no prejudice getting in because I found a good worker. You don't have to.
Study to get all these instructions from you just tell him he didn't want to get on the track to tell him what you had to go on and what we try to turn that and you know get on here don't you know he doesn't take you know better kind of student. To do that right is easy and without sweat from his brow I may go out and do it to do it right. There you have some modern Indians and according to statistics they represent a pretty good proportion to Redmond. However there the end product of a long process and often a sad one we all know how the Indians particularly those in the buffalo hunting country fought to keep the huge stretches of blend where they'd been roaming. There was killing and cruelty on both sides and Stanley Lyman an Indian service official feels we did pretty badly. We certainly did mistreat the Indians in the early days there was a time actually when we tried to exterminate all of them and I understand it didn't pay. So they tried to
educate them instead. Anyway there is that feeling in many many Americans that we treated the Indian shabbily and as a result we owe him quite a bit. In recent years we've tried to pay what we owe in lending money and in opportunity. But some Indian still knows the sense of a role. One of them is American Horse son of a famous leader that same name American was claims to be 98 years old. He came out of the one room house where he was staying with his son and six or eight grandchildren. He was dressed for a celebration that day in striped trousers clean Jerry collar tie and straw hat. He said in the car with me in Barrow the interpreter and gave his version of the last big trouble between the Sioux and whites. It's known as the massacre of Wounded Knee aka bear one of the interpreters speaking that morning. Something then we already United States
done the worst. It was hard to get to nice. They sat out here and union coming in from the M&M hot in there surrounded by soldiers right there. The U.S. Army that was just in a meal that was at the time of the ghost. Yes not to my memory so much in the recount I think compliment I mean he had his robe all over his head inside when they disarm and I mean you know you haven't I mean he had a weapon. Some arsonists. Yes. So when they opened they tried to open the row and I don't you know I was in danger so when they reached the gun went off itself. It went off. The soldiers
to that gun point. So why don't they just shot him. Every soldier had his gun going to have you know and then it went literally went OK or shot. Yes. I see. Oh I thought I want to contact us no no no. No. One that he just I think thought that the ghost dance but when the declaration of war the Indians had been dancing the ghost dance under Sitting Bull and yes this is cause from what I'm told by a they tried to disarm the Indians they thought they were getting ready for war. It really was not a declaration of war at all. It was it's a question of whether some hundreds of square miles of our West could have been left intact for a hunting preserve as the Indians wished still if the close between white men and Red were taking place no when we have learned so
much more about other peoples life ways. Perhaps a solution could have been managed without so much fighting. I talked about that with Stanley Lyman whom you heard a few minutes ago. It might be brought up I suppose that although the the whites conquered Indians and took land the Indians had conquered each other and taken the land the further that the sum of sometimes going on that this is a two sided process. Oh yes the the so for example annihilated cluster are very touchy about the fact that the Chippewa. Drove them out of the Great Lakes area early in the history of our country so after which the Sioux drove the Shah Yeah so the Indian had had been fighting among themselves for as a matter of fact as they had all gotten together they could have retired the progress of European civilization in the Americas for much longer than they
did. We'll have the wisdom for a peaceful solution wasn't present. There was some Indians who fought till they were conquered and then signed treaties restricting themselves to reservations. This seemed a great deal of misunderstanding about reservations and they've even been called concentration camps. This is hardly accurate since a concentration camp is a place you can't get out of. Well Indians can leave a reservation a come back do it as they wish. When noble woman was amazed that anyone supposed Indians were not free to leave. I think you're not turning that very hard to understand you to have people think. That in their home we. Can leave the reservation. I mean I think that IBM must be corrected because. You think so own anything keeps them in they have to have special permission. You almost have to go into Washington. Can and have. A
long time since that was true. I must admit that in early days after the fighting it sometimes was it was true. The reason was that when a group left the reservation some scalping was likely to occur. How if it was true only with the groups which had been hostile. There are some Indians who they say never saw the color of the white man's blood. The Papago southern Arizona living in the same country with the first Spaniards. So out of Pueblo villages of Arizona New Mexico. Their land has been set up as a reservation not to keep them on it but to keep people off. The essential point is that it is tax free live and where any tribal member may live. The title so far remains in the government. Just because the Indians have not known how to handle real estate. The word superintendent for the Navajo tribe summed it up. The basic ownership is in the land is held in trust by the United States and the people.
Eventually of course in years to come that land will become property. Perhaps I should add also that the government does not support the Indians although many people think it does. It does provide schools roads and hospitals just as a conduit for people who pay taxes. Indians earn their own living but they get the same benefits as whites in Social Security and Welfare donations. The difficulty you know is that the reservations are all too small. It's natural when they were set up for a few hundreds or thousands of people and now they hold tens of thousands. That's especially true of the No. I took the Dr. Phil. Jack had a big handsome hospital the server's Indian race was a vanishing race 20 years ago. That is correct on the reservation and the race was at the rate of approximately 27 individuals per population at the present time. Now the whole race is increasing at a rate of at least one
year. The same is true of the food although in lesser degree they Superintendent James Kauffman told me they were increasing and I asked him I had an increasing rapidly getting their Medicare get in getting better medical care and their more young boys and younger I was growing up there were many. Some years ago. Limitation is too small for the number. Your reservation I would say is too small and small and even future for the number of people. We should be more about what's being done to remedy this situation. Undoubtedly it will mean that some tribal members must leave just as soon as in a farming family often go out to seek their fortune. The ones who leave are the forward looking Indians. But I do say it too to show you the disgruntled ones they are the people who like some decayed aristocrats live in the past. Their attitude is that generations ago they were wronged and so they must be taken care of for it. American horse whom you met a
few minutes ago is of that opinion. He spoke through the interpreter both with tears in their voices. To begin with the United States government made a treaty with the nation the government promised and that was never said. Just take this pocket right number as part of you know part of it. And why only part of it. Mike Hanna in the heart of a Colorado used to be our country but we just revert back to nest and government Hall said God all my hoes say they have it shows Sasaki
points because you know that used to be our stalking ground you could teach us that me people have lived in our nation that used to be. We have the right to become American civilization. Historians might not agree with American forces idea of Sioux territory but they would have to be impressed with his beautiful gesture. Each one is impressive as if on a classic statue. Nix my car drew up at the little frame house where James luckier lives. I had reminded him that the government took care of the Sioux for a good while. Well the government gave by treaty really got one promised them their promise and promise. Only through head
like it was they promised rations and you know the Indians could put them where they stand then you know I stood it was true and it did yeah. The mystique about what was in the treaty shows clearly enough how little understanding there was between the two parties when those arrangements were made. As far as I know the government did not promise to support any Indians forever because it was felt that in a few years they could support themselves by forming many groups really did do that. So much bombing before the whites came and they have continued. But this would had a magnificent 200 years a buffalo hunting never took to phone me nor do anything else much. Here is a picture of the old life by Charles Rock who lives a little frame house in Pine Ridge village. Be all and wait let me see. Yeah and they're really pretty kind
and nice and I think Funny what a natural right there. And I have read it. Play on and confrontation came. Maybe you think you're in the concentration here. You could go out do you want to do because I go out and got it when you could go away from here if you want to do. I wanted to but my land and my family every week and my tv say we stop push to get a right handed and I beat and handle. Oh man handle transportation
but we can do it right now. Then the main tank there and he was comped. You know what I know it means they feel they couldn't handle me after I think someone would have to take a. Matter of competence has been a bone of contention for a long time. On some reservations land was actually parceled out and handed over to Indian heads of families. Since Indians had a very different system of lend us from that of the whites the Indian sometimes sued his land. Perhaps for a bottle of whiskey and then he became a public charge. So guardians were often appointed as is done for money. Now perhaps Mr Rock really is competent and ought to handle his own affairs. In that case some adjustment could be made. But if he has loans from the government naturally he can't sell any more than I can sell a refrigerator on which I'm doing installments. I talked about these plates of the suit with Mr James Kaufman their superintendent.
Now you also told me that they really feel they have a grievance that when the council meetings they talk a good deal about the white man's game to them in some measure. What you're about and you should be supported for the rest of the tribal life. No I don't think that they feel that way about it. It's their belief that they have been treated unjustly and that their creators haven't been cared for and that the government does own them something that I think they feel like they're stealing money. Every generation gets and more system should be given. That's the sewage attitude with you know both things were different. The Navajo in addition to hunting and raiding had always had were that of raising sheep. In fact there was a time when they were rich in flocks. The overpopulation of sheep in people now
makes that difficult. So I had a little trouble finding disgruntled people among the Navajo until I hit on old Joe never sleeps. He lives in a one room floored in the dusty western border the reservation where my car drew up by his own in a cloud of dust. He was crouched outside under a rickety arm. With his children and grandchildren he was dipping food with their fingers. Out of two battered aluminum cook pots. The interpreter who had been asked to find out how he felt about the change from past to present so he couldn't get Joe to talk about anything but wanting some new shoes. But three or four years all kind of support from his grandchildren. He was the medicine that brought him by his. Class that he really from the. State from the state from the federal government. Now you know she's the best you know one.
And a crane Yeah very few. And if it were not for the track you work you know that. I'm. Going to quit that. And then. He. Said yes I think. And then I think it would have been better in the old days before she production he would have been poor like this. Yes. You can see that the new situation really is hard on Joe in from the days he would have killed a deer and made himself some moccasins or one of his young relatives who would have done it. Now the young relatives are mostly off working. They don't help with his support or with the
phone. Also as a medicine man he has lost patients because so many go to the white doctor. His problem hasn't much to do with the truth. He's having the same trouble that some white farmers and craftsman had as times change and he gets help from the state as they do. His real difficulty is the fact that Navajo families are now breaking up due to the call of money from outside the reservation. Reed Wynnie another Navajo had a different complaint. He fears that the government may soon turn the reservation over to the Indians and let them run it for themselves. You don't know if you go for this but when I was pessimistic governor when we don't have much education we can't. So my parents reacted 20. 20. Yeah but now when I hear my government what kind of well a good deal of
that is here and you know it nothing's happened. Yeah turn us loose way and we're going to have a hard time. I know you've heard the disgruntled people onto reservations the Sioux in the Navajo. They were all old men in contrast I'll bring you some of the younger in the priest as Ray Whiting sheriff's deputy in Brighton Colorado. He says so but he no longer lives on the reservation. I asked how he felt about the changes. Well in all the time I've known reservation I've seen no progress whatsoever on the reservation anybody makes progress whatsoever seems to leave the reservation. What do you think that's due to is it the government that holds people to know it's the opposition of the elders to changing their ways they expect people to support them and they figure everybody owes them something they don't want to make any progress. Now Gordon Dexter Washoe Indian He is chief clerk on the Pine Ridge Reservation sitting and is this going to neat business suit looks like the kind of office man you
might meet anywhere. He feels like quiting that a good deal of the trouble is with a pseudonym so there's approximately. See a total population of eleven thousand resident population of 11000 approximately one third are living on some sort of federal or state welfare benefits. That's a big proportion. Yesterday I asked Mr. Dexter how it happened that the Sioux in contrast to some of the tribes seemed so especially ready to sit down and accept support. He had thought about that. It was necessary to confine these people who had been used to roaming over a very wide area to get their food and clothing. It was necessary to confine them to this relatively small area. It is applied Ridge Reservation. And then
in combining them there are all manner of obtaining their food was cut off. So it was necessary to feed. They were issued and only other staples. And in that way. A good many years the government you know wanted to keep him here had to feed them and provide other necessities. So I suppose there was a whole generation that got used to and do things I do and I think the whole question here it took over a hundred years to create this attitude and the situation amongst. And I believe in take about that long to solve.
In fact the motto which Mr. Dexter proposed for this was Root Hog or Die. I got the same general picture from Bob Bennett and the other employees in the Sioux Reservation and he's also an important official in the National Congress of American Indians. Well I think the objective of the government have has always been for the people to become integrated in truly. American society and as we discussed earlier the basic problem one is one of adjustment from an old culture into another culture. And it doesn't make any difference what you call it as these people become adjusted they begin to take their place mostly on an individual basis and while there is a lot of concern of what might happen to our what happen to their property once they attain social economic literacy well then they'll take care of their property themselves as many are doing on an individual basis whether going to cities and buying homes and paying taxes and so forth so I think terminations is just another one of the
several names such as adjustment and readjustment and simulation and integration in various phrases which have been used to describe a what everyone thinks I think is a good basic objective. So I think it finally resolves itself down to an individual basis and Azeez individual opinions acquire social economic and political literacy they leave the reservation. And I bought one half means I've already terminated their special relationship with the federal government. If it was good for them I certainly think it's probably good for the rest of the Union people but as I said before we do have the basic problem of helping them in their cultural adjustment. That's what a suit leader thinks and a white official male because after years with the Navajo agrees. Well I've always felt that the only real solution for the Navajo was to cease to be a Navajo to get off the reservation and become a citizen just like everybody else and and
make us live in the same way as other people. Forget that he is and have a home in other words you don't think there can be any compromise between keeping the Navajo way of life and having the prosperity of a white man. On the reservation you mean. Either way I don't think so. So the young Indians are looking forward to a life in common with the whites. And in this future every white citizen can help. I will let Bob Bennett and I did some ways devote our time mostly to the younger malleable groups on the reservation and we're hoping that any group or any association whether to government state or anything that comes in contact with people whether it's a routine matter or whether just go page and Ali will be getting over to them the social and economic facts of the culture which for which they faces them and which they're going to be drawn into and we hope that the union people will accept this
guidance and leadership because we feel if they don't that they will eventually lose all of this to their own culture but if they understand the Western European culture then they can find out where their own culture will fit into it. You just heard Indian country the first of a series of recorded programs featuring Dr. Ruth Underhill author and noted authority on the American Indian. Next time engine country will tell you about the exploits of the American Indian in war time. The problems or has brought him. Into the country was produced by the University of Denver undergrad something Educational Television Radio Center. This program was distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasting. This is the Radio Network.
Indian country
On Indians past and present
Producing Organization
University of Denver
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
In the first program of this series, Dr. Ruth Underhill speaks to Native Americans from the Sioux and Navajo peoples and seeks to understand how they have adjusted to life in modern America.
Series Description
The problems of social adjustment in the attitudes and through the words of the modern Native Americans.
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Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Navajo Indians.
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Interviewee: Whiting, Ray
Interviewee: Dexter, Gordon
Interviewer: Underhill, Ruth, 1883-1984
Producing Organization: University of Denver
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-51-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:07
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Chicago: “Indian country; On Indians past and present,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 3, 2024,
MLA: “Indian country; On Indians past and present.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 3, 2024. <>.
APA: Indian country; On Indians past and present. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from