CIRCULAR NO. 2970—Indian Religious Freedom and Indian Culture

 Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs, Washington, January 3, 1934.

To Superintendents:

On trips to jurisdictions, and through correspondence occasionally received at the Washington office, I have discovered that some Indian Service officals and employees, some missionaries, and many Indians are not clearly advised as to the policy of this office toward Indian religious expression and toward ceremonial and art expression of Indians and the use of Indian native language.

I have discovered that it still is, in some jurisdictions, believed by the Indians that they must secure the permission of the agency before they may hold dance ceremonies of native religious or of folk significance. [cf. Commissioner Burke's circular, 1923 prohibiting/discouraging dances]

There are Government schools into which no trace of Indian native symbolism or art or craft expression has been permitted to enter. There are large numbers of Indians who believe that their native religious life and Indian culture is frowned upon by the government, if not actually banned.

You are directed to give the widest, most effective publicity to this communication and to treat it as an instruction superseding any prior regulation, instruction, or practice.

No interference with Indian religious life or ceremonial expression will hereafter be tolerated. The cultural liberty of Indians is in all respects to be considered equal to that of any non-Indian group. And it si desiable that Indians be bilingual: fluent and literate in the English language and fluent in their vital, beautiful, and efficient native languages.

The Indian arts and crafts are to be prized, nourished, and honored.

Violations of law or of the proprieties, if committed under the cloak of any religion, Indian or other, or any cultural tradition, Indian or other, are to be dealt with as such, but in no case shall punishments for statutory violations dealt with as such, but in no case shall punishments for statutory violations or for improprieties be so administered as to constitute an interference with, or to imply a censorship over, the religious or cultural life, Indian or other.

The fullest constitutional liberty, in all matters affecting religion, conscience, and culture, is insisted on for all Indians. In addition, an affirmative, appreciative attitude toward Indian cultural values is desired in the Indian service.

John Collier, Commissioner

Approved harold L. Ickes

Sect’y of the Interior

Exhibit 5

Report of all Pueblo Council meeting of June 6, 1936