“What distinguishes the American Indians from other native groups is . . . the nature of their relationship with a government which, while protecting their welfare and their rights, is committed to the principles of tribal self-government and the legal equality of races.”
Felix S. Cohen, Chairman, Board of Appeals, United States Department of Interior (1942)
“[T]he objective of Congress is to make the Indians self-supporting and into good individual American citizens . . . . You cannot have a good American citizen . . . unless you have a good citizen of the State.”
United States Representative Antonio M. Fernández (D., New Mexico) (1949)
“While all this red tape is being untangled, one in need dies without assistance.”
These three quotations come from a period in modern American history often remembered for economic depression and war, but perhaps most remarkable for the accompanying changes in governance. Building on Progressive Era innovations, America's federal system became ever more “cooperative”— that is, marked by intricate federal-state personnel and revenue sharing. Meanwhile, Americans witnessed the steady expansion of central state authority. By the 1940s, neither the states nor the federal government enjoyed many areas of exclusive jurisdiction. The federal and state governments' relationships with their subjects were similarly in flux, and the stakes were high. As a result of New Deal social welfare programs, as well as numerous war-related measures, the benefits of state and national citizenship had expanded by the late 1940s. The burdens of citizenship had expanded, too, in the form of higher and broader taxation, compulsory military service, and more government oversight. The stage was set for fierce conflicts over the borders of the nation's political communities and the terms of belonging.
David A. Johnson, Sr., Governor and Chairman of the Gila River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (1949)