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United States. Office of Indian Affairs / Annual report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the years 1921-1932
([1921-1932])

Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for the fiscal year ended June 2, 1921,   pp. [1]-69 ff. PDF (26.8 MB)


Page 25

COMMISSIONER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS. 
AS TO INDIAN COMPETENCY. 
The general course of treaties, agreements, and legislation has 
been in line with the purpose of reserving definite areas of land as 
tribal estates and of allotting therefrom as rapidly as possible free- 
holds in severalty, with the aim of inducing by this transfer of tri- 
bal to individual holdings a 'departure from old communal traits 
and customs to self-dependent conditions and to a democratic con- 
ception of the civilization with which the Indian must be assimi- 
lated if he is to survive. 
In the process of allotting lands to the Indians, and the sale of 
such surplus as they do not need, many reservations have acquired 
a mixed population of both Indians and whites which has hastened 
local self-government, public schools, and other social, civic, and 
industrial benefits to the backward race. 
Various reservations indicate this evolution, and some are now 
practically merged with white settlements and show but little racial 
divergence in the prevailing customs and activities. There are, it 
is true, a few exceptions to this transforming process, as in some 
semiarid portions of the Southwest where tribal relations must 
largely  continue until existing  physical conditions have been 
changed. The Navajo country is the most bpnspicuous of these 
exceptions and for some time to come will call for exceptional con- 
sideration, particularly as regards education, health, and such in- 
dustrial advancement as the physical character of the country will 
permit. But the general out-work of the reservation system, with 
certain curable defects, is in the right direction. 
As is well known, the law provides for issuing to the Indian a 
trust patent upon the land allotted to him, which exempts it from 
taxation and restricts him from its sale or encumbrance until he is 
declared competent to manage his business affairs, when he may, 
upon application, receive a patent in fee and be free to handle or dis- 
pose of his land the same as any white citizen. 
It is doubtful if a satisfactory method has been found for deter- 
mining the competency upon which to base a termination of the trust 
title. Applications for patents in fee have too often been adroitly sup-
ported by influences which sought to hasten the taxable status of the 
property or to accomplish a purchase at much less than its fair value, 
or from some other motive foreign to the Indian's ability to protect 
his property rights. 
Notwithstanding the sincere efforts of officials and competency com- 
missions to reach a safe conclusion as to the ability of an Indian to 
manage prudently his business and landed interests, experienceshows 
that more than two-thirds of the Indians who have received patents 
in fee have been unable or unwilling to cope with the business acumen 
coupled with the selfishness and greed of the more competent whites, 
and in many instances have lost every acre they had. It is also true 
that many of the applications received for patents in fee are from 
those least competent to manage their affairs, while the really com- 
petent Indians are in large numbers still holding their lands in trust. 
It is evident to the careful observer that degree of blood should not 
be a deciding factor to establish competency, as there are numerous 
instances of full-bloods who are clearly demonstrating their indus- 
trial ability by the actual use made of their land and who are 
shrewdly content with a restrictive title thereto that exempts them 
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