|91. Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill for the Aid of the Navajo and Hopi Indian Tribes|
April 19, 1950 |
I HAVE today signed S. 2734, a bill authorizing a long-range economic rehabilitation program for the Navajo and Hopi Indian Tribes.
The passage of this act is an important milestone in our Government's administration of Indian affairs. It represents a carefully developed plan for dealing with the unsolved economic problems which have delayed the social advancement of this large segment of our Indian citizens. For these Indian groups it also represents a significant forward step in self-government--a principle to which the American people are deeply devoted.
The enactment of this bill in its present form is a source of much gratification to me. I found it necessary to veto its predecessor (S. 1407) because of a section which would have placed the Navajo and Hopi Indians under the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the States in which they reside. The step was premature; it was not desired by the Indians themselves; and it might have placed in jeopardy both human and property rights of the Indians.
At the time I returned S. 1407 without my signature, I stated that I would be glad to approve a bill that incorporated the desirable features so necessary to the future welfare of these Indian groups, if the Congress should see fit to pass a measure without the objectionable provisions.
The present bill (S. 2734) is in substance the predecessor bill without the provisions to which I objected. It authorizes improvements which will help the Indians achieve greater economic stability, will provide better educational opportunities, and will lead to the improvement of their health. Among other helpful provisions is one which gives the Navajo Tribal Council greater control over the expenditure of tribal funds. The act also authorizes the Navajo Indians to adopt a constitution, which would enable them to exercise broad powers in the management of their own affairs.
It is reassuring to learn from the telegram of the chairman and vice chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council, urging approval of the bill, that the "Navajos look forward with hope to the Government's commitment to help them solve their economic and social problems." I assure the members of the Council of my continued interest in their efforts toward economic and social advancement. I particularly invite their attention to section 8 of the bill which states the intention of the Congress that the tribal councils and the Indian communities affected by this program shall be kept informed and shall be consulted as the program develops. I also wish to assure the members of both the Hopi and Navajo Tribes that their religion and social customs will be fully respected in accordance with this Nation's long-established laws and traditions.
I believe that the economic development program outlined in this bill will start the Indians of the Navajo and Hopi Reservations on the way to economic self-sufficiency, which has been too long delayed. It is my sincere hope that the Congress will promptly appropriate the full amount requested in my 1951 budget to initiate this program.
NOTE: As enacted, S. 2734 is Public Law 474, 81st Congress (64 Stat. 44).
Provided courtesy of The American Presidency Project. John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.