Date of Submission

Spring 2016

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Historical Studies

Project Advisor 1

Helen Epstein

Abstract/Artist's Statement

This project seeks to encourage further scholarship on Eleanor Roosevelt’s involvement in Native American affairs. It hopes that said scholarship could be used to create a foundation of work for historical and social organizations with the mission of carrying on Roosevelt’s legacy. It seeks for such work to be used and developed in innovative programming so that Native American voices and stories will be included in history, rather than forgotten as they so often are. It is of my opinion that Roosevelt’s involvement in Native American affairs is relevant and integral to all organizations concerned with Roosevelt. As is exemplified by Roosevelt’s involvement in Native American affairs, which are outlined in this project, Roosevelt would have hoped to leave a legacy behind which does not silence Native voices or histories. Instead she clearly would have fought to encourage, preserve, and publish them for the world to see, and would have pressured others to do the same.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s activism in Native affairs was not as pronounced as her activism with African Americans or workers’ rights, however it is worth looking further into, especially to understand Native and U.S. relations better during Eleanor Roosevelt’s time, to expand upon the foundations of the National Congress of American Indians, and to better understand Eleanor Roosevelt’s deeply held ideals and her social justice “tool kit,” if you will. What was special about Eleanor Roosevelt’s engagement had to do with her emphasis on community building, on setting and holding precedents, on seeing projects through, and on building relationships and alliances. By studying Eleanor Roosevelt’s relationship in Native affairs, as it evolved over time, we are also looking at one of the best historical examples of these four human rights “tools.” And perhaps it is easier to examine these tools, how they developed and changed, with the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Native Americans than with Eleanor Roosevelt and any other group, because at no single time was there a profound amount of Americans either for or against Native American rights - there was always an uncertainty from government officials and the public about “what to do with our American Indians,” which made the actions of influential people like Eleanor Roosevelt, all the more important to history. It is hard to say ER was a champion of Native American rights, but it is even harder to say that she did not have a hugely significant role in Native American affairs.

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