1923: US repression of indigenous cultures


as posted to sovernet-l by James Craven

Office of Indian Affairs--Washington

Supplement to Circular No. 1665
February 14, 1923
Indian Dancing

To Superintendants:

At a conference in October, 1922, of the missionaries of the several religious denominations represented in the Sioux country, the following recommendations were adopted and have been courteously submitted to this office:

1. That the Indian form of gambling and lottery known as the 'ituranpi' (translated 'Give Away') be prohibited.

2. That the Indian dances be limited to one in each month in the daylight hours of one day in the midweek, and at one center in each district; the months of March and April, June, July, and August be excepted.

3. That none take part in the dances or be present who are under 50 years of age.

4. That a careful propaganda be undertaken to educate public opinion against the dance and to provide a healthy substitute.

5. That there be close cooperation between the Government employees and the missionaries in those matters which affect the moral welfare of the Indians.

These recommendations, I am sure, were the result of sincere thought and discussion, and in view of their helpful spirit, are worthy of our careful consideration. They agree in the main with my attitudes outlined in Circular No. 1665 on Indian Dancing.

Probably the purpose of paragraph 2 can be better fulfilled by some deviation from its specific terms according as circumstances or conditions vary in different reservations. Likewise, the restrictions in paragraph 3 may reasonably depend upon the character of the dance, its surroundings and supervision. I would not exclude those under 50 if the occasion is properly controlled and unattended by immoral or degrading influence.

The main features of the recommendations may be heartily endorsed, because they seek lawful and decent performance free from excess as to their length, conduct, and interference with self-supporting duties; because they urge cooperation towards something better to take the place of the various dance, and because they suggest the need of civilizing public sentiment in those white communities where little interest is taken in the Indians beyond the exhibition for commercial ends of ancient and barbarous customs.

After a conscientious study of the dance situation in this jurisdiction, the efforts of every superintendent must persistently encourage and emphasize the Indian's attention to these political, useful, thrifty, and orderly activities that are indispensable to his well-being and that underlie the preservation of his race in the midst of complex and highly competitive conditions. The instinct of individual enterprise and devotion to the prosperity and elevation of family life should in some way be made paramount in every Indian household to the exclusion of idleness, waste of time at frequent gatherings of whatever nature, and the neglect of physical resources upon which depend food, clothings, shelter, and the very beginnings of progress.

Of course, we must give tact, persuasion, and appeal to the Indian's good sense a chance to win ahead of peremptory orders, because our success must often follow a change of honest conviction and surrender of traditions held sacred, and we should, therefore, especially gain the support of the more enlightened and progressive element among the Indians as a means of showing how the things we would correct or abolish are handicaps to those who practice them. We must go about this work with some patience and charity and do it in a way that will convince the Indian of our fidelity to his best welfare, and in such a spirit we may welcome cooperation apart from our Service, especially from those whose splended labors and sacrifices are devoted to moral and social uplift everywhere.

The conditions in different reservations or sections of the Indian country are so unlike in important respect that I hesitate to attempt improvement by an administrative order uniformly applicable, as am, therefore, sending with this appeal to the Indians of all our jurisdictions to abandon certain general features of their gatherings, as indicated, and to agree with you as to the general rules that shall govern them.

I feel that it will be much better to accomplish something in this way than by more arbitrary methods, if it can be done, and therefore desire you after one year's faithful trial to submit a special report upon the results with your recommendations.

The accompanying letter should be given the widest publicity possible among the Indians, and if necessary additional copies can be supplied for that purpose.

Please acknowledge the receipt hereof.

Sincerely yours,


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