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Excerpts from Speeches       Proceedings and Debates       Hearings       Committee prints and reports

Red Lake delegation meeting Walter Mondale at Bemidji Municipal
Airport, July 4, 1967; credit: Minnesota Historical Society

As a member of the Subcommittee on Indian Education, Senator Mondale was a strong advocate for American Indians and a harsh critic of federal Indian policy. The retention of and respect for Indian culture was a strong theme throughout all his work. "The present educational system for the American Indian is a tragedy," stated Mondale in a Subcommittee hearing, "and it is a responsibility for which almost exclusive blame rests with the federal government." He was dismayed when a representative from the Mesquakie Tribe of Tama, Iowa testified that the people of his tribe were never consulted on decisions made about their children's school and that, in fact, the schools were directed by boards on which Indians could not serve because they were not eligible to vote in the school board elections: "I think this is a disgrace. These parents have no control whatsoever over their children or what their children grow up to be."[1]Indian Education, 1969: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Indian Education. Part 1. 91st Cong., 1st sess., February 18, 19, 24 and March 27, 1969 in Washington, D.C.; April 11, 1969 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Senator Mondale's work on the final report of the Subcommittee on Indian Education led to the passage of the Indian Education Act, signed into law June 23, 1972. Of his contribution, Senator Kennedy (D-MA) said, "I believe he has contributed more to the work in the field of Indian education than any other member of this body."[2]92nd Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 117 (February 25, 1971) at 3954.

Senator Mondale mustered votes, led Senate debates, and generated public support on behalf of Indians in several areas, including funding for public housing and urban health programs. In 1966—his first term in the Senate—he successfully fought for public housing on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota. Senator Harris (D-OK) addressed his colleagues in the Senate, "This occasion was truly a break-through. It marked the first public housing to be built on any of Minnesota's reservations. And for that, Senator Mondale ought well to be proud. For there has been no harder worker for the Indian than the junior Senator from Minnesota."[3]89th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 112 (July 28, 1966) at 17431.

Throughout five consecutive Congresses, Senator Mondale sponsored or cosponsored a bill that laid the groundwork for the return of approximately 28,700 acres of land to the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. The final bill, S. 1327, declaring that lands be held in trust for certain Indian tribes, including the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, White Earth Reservation, was approved October 20, 1975.

Excerpts from Senator Mondale's speeches on American Indian rights: [Top]

"No Indian can grow to have and enjoy a full life, on or off the reservation, when he is forced to live any part of his life in hopelessly substandard conditions." 89th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 112 (July 28, 1966) at 17432.


Left to right: Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, an unidentified aide, Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota (center), a second unidentified aide and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts confer during a Congressional hearing on Indian education; credit: Minnesota Historical Society


Speakers prepare to give testimony during a Congressional hearing on Indian education; credit: Minnesota Historical Society

"The statistics are appalling. But one can become immune to statistics. One cannot become immune, though, to the stories of Indian schoolchildren being disciplined with handcuffs, of school counselors 'counseling' students with jail referral slips, of teachers punishing Indian students for speaking their native languages, of teenagers committing suicide in order to escape the life they dread.

The Indian Education Subcommittee looked at these incidents. We studied the statistics. And we determined that the education afforded Indian Americans was a 'national tragedy'." 91st Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 116 (September 23, 1970) at 33427.


Protest Against the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1970; credit: Denver Public Library, Western History Department

 

 

 

"In this age of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations it is easy to brush aside the protests of a small group. But I think it is important we pay special attention to the Indians' complaints because they are primarily asking for nothing more than the fulfillment of promises previously made by our Government." 91st Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 116 (April 10, 1970) at 11253.



Sister Louise and her students at St. Mary's Mission School, Red Lake Nation: Portraits of Ojibway Life; credit: Charles Brill (University of Minnesota Press)

"I believe that if anything has resulted in the tragedy of the lives of the American Indians—and it can only be called tragic—it has been that through the education programs we have tried to make good white men out of them, educating them with white teachers and with the English language and with no respect for their culture, no textbooks or curriculum that teaches them pride and confidence in themselves.

In the management of their lands, we have done the same. We have permitted them to use but not own the land—under control, once again, of the white man.

This runs, it seems to me, throughout this tragic and failure-ridden history of the Nation's policy with respect to the American Indian. It has been thought up with no principle and has been, I think, a cruel and unutterably, unfair failure. In my opinion, if there is one thing we must do to change this policy, it is to start assuming and accepting the fact that the Indians are human beings and Americans, having the same rights, the same opportunities, and the same need for pride in themselves, their culture, and their background as anybody else." 91st Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 116 (December 2, 1970) at 39600.


Presentation of Charles Brill's Indian and Free to Walter Mondale by the Red Lake Indian delegation, 1983; credit: Minnesota Historical Society

 

 

"The dropout level, the failure to perform at grade level, the truancy level, the unemployment level, the problems in mental illness, alcoholism, and suicide have all resulted, as the Senator's late brother said [Robert Kennedy], in making America's first Americans the last Americans.

There are other elements, but we must begin with an education that entails, first of all, respect for different languages and cultures, and accepts them for the value they still have for Indian children.

I do not think there is any chapter in our history more sordid than our treatment of the American Indian. This legislation is an important and meaningful step to do something about that situation." 92nd Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 117 (February 25, 1971) at 3954.



Rice Harvest, White Earth Reservation, 1963; credit: Becker County Historical Society



"Until we begin to treat Indian citizens with respect, until Indian parents are given the same power—to control the direction, the quality, and the nature of the education given to their children—that we have expected and practiced with our own children from the beginning of this country, there simply will not be a system of equal education for the American Indian children." 92nd Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 117 (October 8, 1971) at 35647.



Senator Walter Mondale (center) at a dinner held during a series of Congressional hearings on Indian education; credit: Minnesota Historical Society
Selected U.S. Senate proceedings and debates on American Indian rights, 1965-1976: [Top]
U.S. Senate hearings on American Indian rights in which Senator Mondale participated: [Top]
  • Indian Education: Hearings Before the Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, pt. 1, 90th Cong. (1967 and 1968).

  • Indian Education: Hearings Before the Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, pt 2, 90th Cong. (1968).

  • Indian Education: Hearings Before the Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, pt. 3, 90th Cong. (1968).

  • Indian Education: Hearings Before the Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, pt. 4, 90th Cong. (1968).

  • Indian Education: Hearings Before the Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, pt. 5, 90th Cong. (1968).

  • Indian Education, 1969: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Indian Education, pt. 1, 91st Cong. (1969).

  • Indian Education, 1969: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Indian Education, pt. 2-Appendix, 91st Cong. (1969).

  • Equal Educational Opportunity - Part 2: An Introduction, Continued: Hearings Before the Select Committee on Equal Educational Opportunity, 91st Cong. (1970).

  • Federal Lands in Trust for Tribes in Minnesota and Wisconsin: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 92nd Cong. (1971).

  • Education Amendments of 1971: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Education, pt. 4, 92nd Cong. (1971).

  • Submarginal Lands and Trust Lands for Certain Indian Tribes: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 94th Cong. (1975).

Selected Senate committee prints and reports on American Indian rights: [Top]

    Committee Prints

  • Staff of Subcom. on Education, 90th Cong., Quality Education for American Indians, a Report on Organizational Location (Comm. Print 1967).

  • Staff of Special Subcom. on Indian Education, 91st Cong., Education of American Indians, A Survey of the Literature (Comm. Print 1969).

  • Staff of Subcom. on Indian Education, 91st Cong., Education of American Indians. Vol. 1: A Compilation of Statutes (Comm. Print 1969).

  • Staff of Subcom. on Indian Education, 91st Cong., Education of American Indians. Vol. 2: Field Investigation and Research Reports (Comm. Print 1969).

  • Staff of Subcom. on Indian Education, 91st Cong., Education of American Indian. Vol. 3: A Compendium of Federal Boarding School Evaluations (Comm. Print 1969).

  • Staff of Subcom. on Indian Education, 91st Cong., Education of American Indians. Vol. 4: The Organization Question (Comm. Print 1969).

  • Staff of Comm. on Education and Labor. House; Comm. on Labor and Public Welfare. Senate, 94th Cong., Compilation of Federal Education Laws, as Amended Through Dec. 31, 1974 (Comm. Print 1975).

  • American Indian Policy Review Commission, 94th Cong., Report on Indian Education (Comm. Print 1976).

  • Committee Reports

  • Comm. on Labor and Public Welfare, Education Amendments of 1971, S. Rep. No. 92-346 (1971).

  • Comm. on Labor and Public Welfare; Comm. on Interior and Insular Affairs, Indian Education Act of 1971, S. Rep. No. 92-384 (1971).

  • Comm. on Labor and Public Welfare, Education Amendments of 1972, S. Rep. No. 92-604 (1972).

  • Comm. on Labor and Public Welfare, Education Amendments of 1972, S. Rep. No. 92-798 (1972).

  • Comm. on Interior and Insular Affairs, Indian Submarginal Lands Transfer Act, S. Rep. No. 94-377 (1975).

  • Congressional Research Service Reports

  • Stephen A. Langone, Cong. Research Serv., Education of American Indians. Vol. 2: Field Investigations and Research Reports (1969).

  • Cong. Research Serv., Education of American Indians. Vol. 4: The Organization Question (1969).

  • David Osman and Marcia Scott, Cong. Research Serv., Compilation of Federal Laws Authorizing Education Assistance Explicitly for American Indians and Other Native Americans. (Legislation as Amended Through Dec. 31, 1975) (1976).


Endnotes:[TOP]
  1. Indian Education, 1969: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Indian Education. Part 1. 91st Cong., 1st sess., February 18, 19, 24 and March 27, 1969 in Washington, D.C.; April 11, 1969 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
  2. 92nd Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 117 (February 25, 1971) at 3954.
  3. 89th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 112 (July 28, 1966) at 17431.