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John Collier papers

Call Number: MS 146

Scope and Contents

The materials contained in this section of the John Collier Papers cover the years from 1922-1933, and are chiefly concerned with Collier's affiliation with the American Indian Defense Association (A. I. D. A.) in those years. Shortly after the Association's official incorporation in May 1923, Collier became its executive secretary, and he served in that capacity until 1933 when he resigned in order to become Commissioner of Indian Affairs. With few exceptions the materials from this period deal with Indian affairs and the work done on behalf of the Indians by the A. I. D. A. and other concerned organizations and individuals.

Series I, "Correspondence of John Collier," pertains almost exclusively to Indian matters. In particular, there is a large amount of correspondence dealing with the Pueblo Indians, who were of special concern to Collier. Correspondents include prominent lawyers (Louis Marshall, Richard H. Hanna), United States Senators (Lynn Frazier), Congressmen (James A. Frear), authors (Mabel Dodge Luhan, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant), and others who devoted their energies to Indian causes.

Series II, "Correspondence and Papers of Others," contains letters exchanged between correspondents other than John Collier. In general, the letters here are concerned with the same issues that are dealt with in Series I, and they appear, for the most part, to have been sent to Collier either by the author of the letter or by its recipient for the purpose of keeping him informed on matters of interest to him in his capacity as executive secretary of the A. I. D. A. It is often difficult to tell exactly how these letters reached Collier. The following persons appear to have sent him significant quantities of their correspondence:

  1. Stella M. Atwood
  2. Alida C. Bowler
  3. Charles de Y. Elkus
  4. Haven Emerson
  5. Charles Fahy
  6. Lynn J. Frazier
  7. James A. Frear
  8. Howard S. Gans
  9. Chauncey S. Goodrich
  10. Albert A. Grorud
  11. Richard H. Hanna and Fred E. Wilson, Attorneys at Law
  12. John R. Haynes
  13. Antonio Luhan
  14. Mabel Dodge Luhan
  15. Nathan R. Margold
  16. Louis Marshall
  17. Lewis Meriam
  18. Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant
  19. James W. Young

Of particular interest in this series are the papers and correspondence of Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant. Her correspondence contains original letters to and from such notables as Ernest Gruening, A. A. Berle, and Herbert Croly. Her papers include notes, articles, stories, and a typescript of a play.

Series III, "Subject File," contains notes, drafts of speeches, memoranda, circulars, newsclippings, and other materials grouped together by subject. Of particular interest are the materials relating to the Flathead Indian powersite controversy, as well as a large amount of material concerning the Pueblo Indians.

Series IV, "Office File of the A. I. D. A.," contains copies of American Indian Life, the regularly published newsletter of the A. I. D. A., as well as memoranda, mimeographed bulletins, minutes of meetings, and other materials related to the A. I. D. A. The materials contained in this series do not, however, constitute a complete collection of A. I. D. A. publications for this period.

Series V, "Writings and Research Materials," consists of writings by John Collier including pamphlets, magazine articles and a poem. The remaining materials of the series are pamphlets, magazine articles, and unpublished typescripts written by people other than Collier relating, for the most part, to Indians. In addition, there is a collection of newspaper clippings.

The second part of the John Collier Papers covers the years 1933 to 1945 when Collier served as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Much of the material in this part of the papers deals with the Wheeler-Howard Bill, which formed the basis of Collier's "Indian New Deal." There is also a large amount of material on the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest.

This part of the papers is not, however, a complete record of Collier's term as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. In his later years Collier would answer most requests for information about his term as Commissioner in the following manner: "I possess no papers. Leaving the Indian Office in 1945, I took no records with me; and such fragments of record as I have possessed were never assorted or filed." (TLC to D. L. Parman 1965 Jan 18) Collier obviously did take some records with him, but they appear to have been stored on his son's farm and they are definitely not a complete record of the years 1933 to 1945. What material there is has been divided into four series:

I Correspondence

II Memoranda and Reports

III Commissioner's Subject File

IV Addresses and Writings

The first series, Correspondence, is a fairly complete record of the period from 1933 to 1945. Collier's office staff appear to have had a rather complex filing system for correspondence, but the original order was lost when the papers were packed for storage.

The series is divided into two sections: an alphabetical file and a chronological file, The alphabetical file consists of incoming letters filed under the name of the author. Extra copies of some of Collier's replies are also filed with many of these letters. The chronological file consists of carbon copies of Collier's letters and memoranda filed by date. The chronological file appears to be complete, beginning in February 1933 and ending in March 1945. The alphabetical file is probably not a full record of Collier's incoming correspondence, although the earlier years appear to be more complete than the later years.

Collier corresponded with a wide variety of people, but the most significant correspondence is with Indian Service employees and various "friends of the Indian." Much of the correspondence from the years 1933 and 1934 is concerned with the problems of establishing Collier as Commissioner and launching his extensive reforms. There is a great deal of correspondence on this and related subjects with Indians and friends of the Indian, including: Stella M. Atwood, Gertrude Bonnin, Charles deYoung Elkus, Richard Henry Hanna, Allan Garland Harper, Anna Wilmarth Ickes, Harold LeClaire Ickes, Oliver LaFarge, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, and Walter Victor Woehlke.

Much of the correspondence in the later years is concerned with the administrative and personnel problems that plagued Collier in his attempt to reform the agency. Much of the correspondence is with Indian Service personnel reporting on trouble with employees and administrative inefficiencies. There is significant correspondence on this and related topics with Sophie D. Aberle, Louis Gay Balsam, C. E. Faris, Sally Lucas Jean, Floyd W. LaRouche, Roy O. Nash, William Zimmerman, and others.

Other topics of interest in Correspondence are Navajo stock reduction and soil conservation, and a dispute with Mabel Dodge Luhan over the administration of the United Pueblo Agency. There is also some correspondence chronicling the genesis and development of the ideas that resulted in the establishment of the Institute of Ethnic Affairs, which Collier headed after his retirement in 1945. Also of interest is the extensive correspondence between Collier and Otto Lomavitu, a Hopi Indian jailed in the 1930's for statutory rape.

The second series, Memoranda and Reports, is a file of memoranda and reports by Collier. Most of these were written for Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes and his assistants. The memoranda date from 1933 to 1937. There are similar materials for 1938 to 1945 filed in Correspondence under Ickes, Harold LeClaire. The reports are bi-weekly communications from the Commissioner on the activities of the Indian Service. They date from 1933 to 1939, when they were discontinued by Secretary Ickes. Both the memoranda and reports are a convenient source for information on the problems and activities of the Indian Service.

The third series, Commissioner's Subject File, contains fragments of what probably were the massive files of the Commissioner's office. Most of the material in this series deals with the Wheeler-Howard Bill and Collier's efforts to secure its approval by the Congress and by the Indians of the United States.

A large portion of material in this series deals with surveys of the social, economic and political conditions of many of the Pueblo Indian tribes of the Southwest. These surveys were conducted for Collier by the author and Indian expert, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant. Also included in this series are many of Sergeant's notes and reports.

In addition, this series contains materials relating to the dispute between Collier and Mabel Dodge Luhan and to the origin of the Institute of Ethnic Affairs.

The fourth series, Addresses and Writings, contains copies of many articles, speeches and miscellaneous notes and writings by Collier. In addition, there are copies of Indians at Work, a magazine published by the Indian Service. This magazine and the other articles and speeches in this series are an excellent source for Collier's ideas and theories about Indians and about the difficulties they faced in the "white man's world."

The third part of the John Collier Papers covers the years 1945 to 1956 and deals largely with the Institute of Ethnic Affairs (IEA). The Institute, founded by Collier in 1945, was described in its prospectus as an "action research agency created to find and to achieve solutions to problems within and between white and colored peoples, cultural minority groups, and dependent peoples at home and abroad." Although most of Collier's experience as executive secretary of the American Indian Defense Association and as Commissioner of Indian Affairs had been with North American natives, his concerns were worldwide. He was interested in the native populations of Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Of special concern to him were non-self-governing territories and dependencies of the United States. The Institute of Ethnic Affairs was to be a vehicle for Collier to express his views on these topics and translate his concerns into effective action.

These concerns, however, were not Collier's alone. Among the Institute's founders, directors, and members were many well-known scholars and public figures, including Louis Adamic, Roger Nash Baldwin, Felix S. Cohen, Clyde Kluckhohn, Carey McWilliams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Clarence Senior.

Collier envisioned the Institute as an expansive social science research agency that would explore many areas ignored by other government and private organizations. The Institute began with an impressive list of proposed projects. For all of these projects Collier stressed the importance of "action research," a method that shared the task of research with the people whose lives were under study. He wanted to apply this technique--which he had used as Commissioner of Indian Affairs--to worldwide studies in health, education, economics, politios, and conservation.

The Institute's major area of concern was the administration of American territories and dependencies, which included at that time Guam, Samoa, and Alaska. Collier was concerned that dependent peoples be treated fairly and respectfully and that policies be adopted that would end military rule where it existed and promote eventual self-rule. In addition, the Institute planned a study of the administration of Indian affairs in the United States which Collier hoped would be a useful source of information for the administration of other native peoples.

Other projects proposed by the Institute included a study of inter-racial cooperation in the Armed Forces, a study of Mexican labor in the United States, and a study of the impact of foreign economic policies on native populations. An examination of Israel within the geographic, political, economic and ethnic context of the Middle East was also under consideration.

The Institute was unable, however, to pursue many of these projects. Contemporary events and world and national politics forced it to concentrate on some projects, abandon some, and initiate others. Collier was unable to work on many planned projects because his time was unexpectedly consumed in various campaigns and crusades. Materials on these campaigns and programs conducted by the Institute are included in Series II of Part Three.

Although the Institute had a board of directors and many influential members, Collier was its motivating force and prime spokesman. On the other hand, Collier received a great deal of support from several assistants who staffed the Institute's Washington office. They handled the correspondence and record keeping, covered Congressional hearings, and helped put out Institute publications. They often prepared letters and articles for Collier's signature, did research, and acted as his spokeswomen. This was necessary because most of the Institute's activity was in Washington and Collier spent most of his time in New York City. Collier's main assistants were Deloris (Coulter) Cogan, Betty (Winquest) Cooper, Martha (Lowsley) Jay, and Grace Volk.

Budgetary problems, as well as politics, influenced the programs and projects of the Institute. The major sources of income were membership contributions, foundation grants, and receipts from the sale of publications. Funding was always a problem. Through 1950 the Institute was able to maintain an office in Washington and a full-time staff of two. Fundraising became difficult, however, when the Commissioner of Internal Revenue ruled that contributions to the Institute were not tax deductible. Collier believed that the negative tax rulings were related to the Navy's displeasure. with the Institute's work in the Pacific. Although the Institute was able to attract several wealthy contributors, it was never able to amass a substantial financial base for its activities.

As sources of funding dwindled, Collier and his assistants began to work on a volunteer basis. The Institute was forced to give up its office and work out of the homes of Mrs. Cooper and Mrs. Jay in the Washington, D. C. area. These factors limited the operations of the Institute and from 1954 to 1956 it became less active. Although the Institute maintained bank accounts and filed tax papers into the early 1960's, by 1956 it had largely ceased to function as an organization. Collier remained busy, however, and continued to pursue the same goals and interests.

In addition to serving as president of the Institute, Collier taught college courses in anthropology and sociology. He was professor of sociology at the City College of New York from 1947 to 1954 and professor of anthropology at Knox College from 1955 to 1956. Part Three contains material relating to his teaching career and private life.

Part Three is divided into five series. Although the material in these series dates mainly from 1945 to 1956, some series contain material from earlier and later years. The five series are:

I Correspondence

II Programs and Projects

1) American Indians

2) National Indian Institute (NII)

3) Guam/Pacific Trust Territory (PTT)

4) Liberia

5) Point Four Program

6) Spanish Speaking Peoples Project

7) Technical Cooperation Administration (TCA)

8) United Nations

III Office File

IV Addresses and Writings

V Subject File

The first two series, Correspondence and Programs and Projects, are closely related and should be used in conjunction. Series I is correspondence largely related to the IEA's programs and projects, while Series II contains a variety of other material from the Institute's files relating to the same programs. Some correspondence that was originally filed with the material in the second series has been removed and placed in Correspondence. When this has been done a list of the removed correspondents has been filed in the appropriate section of Programs and Projects. This list will direct researchers to most, although not necessarily all, correspondence relating to a certain topic.

Correspondence contains letters to and from Collier and the IEA staff. Although some of the letters are of a purely personal nature, the vast majority are concerned with the founding of the Institute; others deal with routine functions of the Institute such as soliciting and acknowledging memberships. Correspondence of a more substantial nature is concerned with Institute programs and projects, including letters from Collier and his assistants to many political figures, leaders of public opinion, and publications.

Much of the correspondence is concerned with American Indian affairs. Collier carried on an extensive correspondence with many people who shared his opposition to the general Indian policies of the United States in the late 1940's and 1950's. Much of this correspondence concerns specific controversies and problems. Collier also corresponded with many groups of Indians and was in close touch with many Indian rights organizations such as the Association on American Affairs and the National Congress of American Indians. Collier's interest in Indian affairs in Central and South America is reflected in his correspondence with Manuel Gamio and Juan Comas concerning the Instituto Indigenista Interamericano and the National Indian Institute of the United States.

The IEA's program in Guam and the Pacific Trust Territory forms another major topic of correspondence. Collier and his assistants carried on an extensive correspondence with many native Guamanians including Concepcion C. Barrett, Jose M. Flores, Francisco B. Leon Guerrero, Simon A. Sanchez, and A.B. Won Pat; and native Samoans Peter Tali Coleman, Tele Tautalatala and M. T. Tuiasopo. Much of this correspondence concerns recruiting members for IEA, lobbying activity, and ascertaining the political, economic, and social conditions of the islands. There is also a large amount of correspondence about Guam and the Pacific Trust Territory with many individuals and publications.

Other topics of correspondence include the case of Dihdwo Twe of Liberia, the Point Four Program, and the Technical Cooperation Administration. There is some, but substantially less, correspondence about the Spanish Speaking Peoples Program and the United Nations. Collier's views on the social sciences, action research, and general philosophical questions are explored in his extensive correspondence with H. Adrian C. Dobbs, Ronald Lippitt, and Ward Shepard. Collier's interest in autonomous groups and communities is explored in the above correspondence as well as in correspondence with Maria Rogers.

Also of interest in Correspondence are letters planning strategy and tactics to achieve the Institute's goals. The correspondence between Collier and his assistants is particularly valuable in this regard and provides many insights into Collier's methods and motivations. This correspondence also reveals the frustrations and difficulties encountered in implementing the Institute's programs.

Among the significant correspondents in Correspondence are:

Louis Adamic (38 items), Roger Nash Baldwin (144 items), Willard Walcott Beatty (21 items), Oscar Littleton Chapman (34 items), Felix S. Cohen (67 items), Armando Cortesao (16 items), James E. Curry (30 items), Vine V. Deloria (13 items) H. Adrian C. Dobbs (96 items), Manuel Gamio (72 items), Theodore H. Haas (30 items) Harold LeClaire Ickes (131 items), Bruno Lasker (29 items), D'Arcy McNickle (16 items), Carey McWilliams (38 items), Otto Tod Mallery (82 items), Ralph Nader (3 items), Maria Rogers (33 items), Eleanor Roosevelt (23 items), Emil J. Sady (31 items), Clarence Senior (35 items), Ward Shepard (163 items), Dihdwo Twe (56 items), Richard H. Wels (80 items), Walter Victor Woehlke (29 items).

Some correspondence is filed in other series in Part Three. Series II contains some correspondence relating to the National Indian Institute. Series III contains some correspondence relating to IEA's difficulties with the Commissioner of Internal Revenue and some letters ordering Institute publications. Additional correspondence with some of the people listed in this series may be found in Parts One, Two and Four.

Collier's and the Institute's intense interest in non-self-governing territories and underdeveloped countries is reflected in Series II, Programs and Projects. This series contains a wide variety of material on subjects which constituted the main program of the Institute. The series is arranged into eight subject areas. Although the material in these eight sections varies widely, most sections contain statements by the Institute and others promoting or opposing legislation, copies of letters to politicians and publications, copies of legislation, press releases, articles, and newspaper clippings. The following is an outline of each subject area and materials relating to it in Series II.

1) American Indians

Collier devoted twenty-five years to working for the Indian and was alarmed by the general trends of United States Indian policy in the late 1940's and 1950's. He was concerned that many reforms instituted while he was Commissioner of Indian Affairs were being abandoned and that treaties were in danger of abrogation. Thus, he and the Institute found themselves battling an onslaught of legislation that threatened Indian treaty rights, lands, and civil liberties. They successfully opposed a "rider" to the Navajo-Hopi rehabilitation bills that would have taken away many of the Indians rights and privileges. They also opposed the "Bosone resolution," which authorized a study to determine which Indian tribes were "competent" to be "set free" from federal supervision.

Perhaps the most serious threat to the Indian, however, was the "termination" bills that were part of the government's policy in the 1950's to end federal responsibilities for Indian tribes. The Institute worked hard to modify or defeat a number of these bills and, in addition, proposed legislation of its own. One bill proposed by the Institute would have required the consent of Indian tribes before any change was made in their relationship with the federal government.

Collier and the Institute also kept up with the activities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Collier was strongly opposed to the policies of Dillon S. Meyer, Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the early 1950's and a leading proponent of the "termination" program. He and Meyer engaged in a dispute over proposed attorney contract regulations that would have restricted the right of Indian tribes to freely retain the attorneys of their choice.

So much of the Institute's time was consumed in these unforeseen campaigns that it was unable to begin its planned study of American Indian administration. In 1951 and 1952, however, the Institute did publish the Southwest Indian News Letter, a small paper designed to keep Indian tribes informed about important legislation and subjects of common interest. Lack of support from some Indian tribes and financial difficulties forced the Institute to halt publication.

This section contains material relating to some Indian tribes and to legislation affecting Indians. This material includes copies of letters and bills, reports on bills, and statements of position by the IEA and others. There are also a number of press releases which were used to rally support for IEA positions. Also included are many "letters to the editor" by Collier and the IEA staff on Indian topics and legislation.

This section has been grouped into a number of subsections, including sections on specific Indian tribes or groups of Indians. Most of the subsections concern bills, laws, or policies that the Institute was promoting or opposing. Other subsections deal with policies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other Indian topics.

2) National Indian Institute

The National Indian Institute was an organization created by executive order in 1941 as the United States representative in the Inter-American Indian Institute, a group devoted to the welfare of all Indians in the western hemisphere. When Congress failed to fund NII in 1945 and 1946, the Secretary of the Interior transferred its administration to the Institute of Ethnic Affairs. While NII was associated with the Institute various projects were carried out, including a linguistic survey of Guatemalan Indians and recording Indian music in Mexico. The Interior Department re-assumed responsibility for NII in 1950.

There are few papers in this section relating to the projects that were carried out while NII was under the direction of the Institute. There is, however, a great deal of correspondence, memoranda and other material relating to the founding of NII and the Inter-American Indian Institute and the transfer of NII to the Institute of Ethnic Affairs. Much of this material dates from 1941 to 1945 and is not part of IEA's records; it has been kept with the post-1945 Institute material because it is closely related to it. Also included in this section are agendas and minutes of NII board meetings and materials on the first and second Inter-American Conferences on Indian Life in 1940 and 1948.

3) Guam/Pacific Trust Territory

The Institute was very active in seeking the transfer of the administration of Guam, American Samoa and the Trust Territory of the Pacific from the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Interior. It worked for the passage of organic acts for these territories and supported greater civil liberties and opportunities for their peoples. The Institute's program on Guam was very ambitious, with active recruitment and a large membership. A newspaper, the Guam Echo, was published for members on Guam.

This section contains copies of bills, reports on bills, and statements by Collier and the Institute on Guam and the Trust Territory of the Pacific. Most of these materials are arranged into groups by sessions of the United States Congress; there are six groups for the 79th through 84th Congresses. This section also includes materials on the Guam Assembly "walkout" protest in 1949, the Hoover Commission report on Guam and American Samoa, and the United States Commercial Company's economic survey of Micronesia. A number of "letters to the editor" by Collier and others are in this section.

4) Liberia

Collier and the Institute became deeply involved with Dihdwo Twe, a Kru tribesman and leader of the Liberian aborigines. Twe attempted to run for president of Liberia in 1951, but was disqualified on a technicality and charged with sedition. Collier and the Institute worked to mobilize international support for Twe to assure his safety. They also worked to publicize what they considered to be the "dictatorship" of Liberian President Tubman.

This section contains copies of press releases and "letters to the editor" concerning Liberia and Dihdwo Twe. A number of pamphlets and clippings about Liberia are also included in this section.

5) Point Four Program

Collier and the Institute supported the Point Four Program, President Truman's "Marshall Plan" for underdeveloped countries. Collier was concerned, however, about the potentially diastrous social and economic upheavals that could result from poorly planned and administered Point Four Programs. He and the Institute planned to study similar enterprises and analyze their successes and failures. They hoped to determine how such programs could be made most compatible with the aspirations and human welfare of the native populations.

This section contains plans for the "case records" study of Point Four type enterprises and a number of statements by Collier on the program.

6) Spanish Speaking Peoples Program

In 1946 the Institute took over the property, records, funds, and personnel of the Spanish Speaking Peoples Project of the Office of Inter-American Affairs. The Institute planned to pursue a program that would encourage self-improvement among Spanish speaking people and make both public and private agencies aware of the problems of Spanish speaking minorities. Funding for the program was exhausted in 1947.

Few records of this project were found in the Institute's files. This section does, however, contain some letters, memoranda, minutes and notes relating to the project.

7) Technical Cooperation Administration

Collier and the Institute agreed to prepare handbooks on Burma, Ethiopia, and North Africa for the Technical Cooperation Administration. These handbooks--to be based on field studies by psychologists, anthropologists and others--were intended to provide technical assistance workers in foreign aid programs with information on the peoples and cultures of Ethiopia, Libya, and Eritrea. Contracts were signed, outlines and budgets prepared, and personnel hired. Before field research began, however, the TCA abruptly cancelled the contracts. No reason was given, but Collier believed the cancellation was due to opposition in the State Department to the use of social scientists in foreign aid programs.

This section includes duplicate copies of some correspondence relating to the Institute's handbook project, plans and outlines for the handbooks, copies of agreements with the TCA, budgets, and reports.

8) United Nations

Collier and the Institute were deeply interested in the United Nations. Indeed, immediately after the founding of the Institute Collier was named alternate advisor to Abe Fortas, then Undersecretary of the Interior and member of the American delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Collier and Fortas, along with John Foster Dulles and Ralph J. Bunche, worked to bring the problems of dependent peoples and the questions of trusteeships and mandates before the Assembly. They succeeded in getting a resolution passed that supported the political, economic, social and educational advancement of non-self-governing peoples. Although Collier did not attend the General Assembly as a representative of the Institute, he kept Institute members informed about Assembly proceedings and acted in harmony with the Institute's goals.

This section contains letters and memoranda by Collier on his experiences as a member of the American delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations in London in 1945. Also included in this section are plans for an International Scientific Institute for the Advancement of Underdeveloped Areas.

The third series, Office File, contains material on the organization and founding of the Institute of Ethnic Affairs and the records of its day-to-day operations. The series is divided into four sections:

  1. Early IEA
  2. By-laws, Minutes, and Other Files
  3. Fiscal Materials
  4. IEA Press Releases and Publications

The first section contains early plans and proposals for the Institute. Some of this material predates 1945. Also included are announcements and a prospectus for the Institute.

The second section includes copies of the Institute's certificates of incorporation and by-laws. Of special interest are the agendas and minutes of board meetings. Memoranda on proposed projects and promotional material are also in this section. The Institute's membership files and mailing lists are at the end of the section.

The third section contains the financial records of the Institute. Of particular interest are materials relating to the Institute's dispute with the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. In addition, this section includes invoices and orders for Personality and Government, a book by Laura Thompson offered for sale by the Institute.

The fourth section contains copies of press releases, statements, and reprints issued by the Institute. Also included are copies of the Guam Echo, the Southwest Indian News Letter, and the News Letter of the Institute of Ethnic Affairs, which was published from 1946 to 1950 and contained articles by Institute members, book reviews, and announcements. There are copies of Operational Research and Action Research, a pamphlet by H. A. C. Dobbs. Price lists and orders for some IEA publications are at the end of the section.

The fourth series, Addresses and Writings, contains articles, speeches, notes, and manuscripts by Collier. It should be noted that Series II and III also contain many memoranda, statements, and articles by Collier which could be classified as writings. This series, however, contains copies of most of Collier's published and many unpublished writings from 1945 to 1956.

The manuscript of Indians of the Americas is filed in this series along with parts of the manuscript of Patterns and Ceremonials of the Indians of the Southwest. There are also a number of drafts of a manuscript on action research case studies. Apparently an outgrowth of the Institute's Point Four project, the manuscript consists of numerous fragments and is arranged in no definite order.

In addition, this series contains a number of poems by Collier, lectures and other teaching materials, and autobiographical and philosophical writings. Materials that were later used in Collier's memoir, From Every Zenith, are also in this series. There is a section of writings by Collier's wife, Dr. Laura Thompson, at the end of the series.

The fifth series, Subject File, is a file of miscellaneous material on a wide variety of topics which was maintained by the Institute. Much of this material is background information on Institute programs and includes pamphlets, press releases, newsletters, articles, newspaper clippings, etc. There is a large group of material labelled "Point Four File," which was probably used as background material for the Point Four project. Other material relates to the Institute's Indian work, the United Nations, and Guam and the Pacific Trust Territory.

The fourth part of the John Collier Papers covers the years 1957 to 1968. Although officially retired, Collier remained busy writing books and articles and maintaining an extensive correspondence. After teaching anthropology at Knox College in 1955-1956, he settled in Taos, New Mexico. He and his second wife, Dr. Laura Thompson, were amicably divorced in 1956 and in 1957 he married his assistant and secretary, Grace Volk. Collier died in May 1968, a few days after his 84th birthday. There is very little material in this part from the two years prior to his death.

Part Four has been divided in two series: I Correspondence and II Notes, Writings, and Personal Papers.

Correspondence contains letters to and from both Collier and Grace Volk Collier. Mrs. Collier often wrote and answered letters for her husband, so her letters are filed under Collier. Although the Institute of Ethnic Affairs was without funds and inactive, Collier continued to work for many of its goals. Most of his time was devoted to the Indians of the western hemisphere and many of the letters in this series are related to Indian affairs. There are many letters from Indians and their attorneys asking for help in lawsuits and disputes. There are also many letters from students and scholars asking for Collier's assistance in research on the Indian Reorganization Act and related topics. Other correspondence is related to Collier's books and writings, and there is also some purely personal correspondence.

Among the significant correspondents in this series are: Willard Walcott Beatty, Rachel Louise Carson, Albert Ellis, Abe Fortas, Manuel Gamio, Rafael Girard, Joe Jennings, Oliver LaFarge, Miguel Leon-Portilla, D'Arcy McNickle, Carey McWilliams, George Marshall, Virginia Mishnun, Gardner Murphy, Philleo Nash, Earl Hawley Robinson, Maria Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt, Emil J. Sady, Michael Scott, Clarence Senior, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, Ward Shepard, Jules Trompler, Dihdwo Twe, Stewart Lee Udall, Dorothy Van de Mark, George Wald, Henry Agard Wallace, Gil Wilson, and William Zimmerman.

Many of these correspondents and others in Part Four also appear in Parts One, Two, and Three.

The second series, Notes, Writings, and Personal Papers, contains Collier's later writings. These include his memoir, From Every Zenith, and On the Gleaming Way, an abridged update of his earlier Patterns and Ceremonials of the Indians of the Southwest. This series includes preliminary writings and notes for From Every Zenith, but no manuscript was found for On the Gleaming Way. Parts of the manuscript for Patterns and Ceremonials are filed in part Three. A number of reviews of From Every Zenith and On the Gleaming Way are also in this series.

Other writings by Collier in this period include a new preface for Los Indios, de las Americas, a Spanish translation of Indians of the Americas. Also filed in this series are manuscripts and printed copies of "Our Mingling Worlds," a series of articles written for the Taos, New Mexico newspaper, El Crepusculo. There are also copies of several other articles and reviews written for other publications. In addition, this series includes miscellaneous notes by Collier on a variety of subjects, including Indians, philosophy, and wilderness areas.

Four volumes of poetry by Collier are filed in this series: The Indwelling Splendor (1911), Harp of the Human (1913), Shadows Which Haunt the Sun-Rain (1917), and Door Succeeds Door (1919). These volumes were found among Collier's later papers and because they predate even Part One, they have been kept in this final part for convenience.

Also filed in this series are letters and papers relating to The Group for a Living Peace of which Collier was chairman. There is also some biographic and bibliographic information on Collier, photographs, and other miscellaneous personal papers. A manuscript on the history of the Camp Fire Girls which mentions and quotes Collier in several places is also filed in this series.


  • 1910-1987


Conditions Governing Access

The majority of Parts I, II, and IV, and of Part III, Series I-IV have been microfilmed. Items not filmed consist of duplicates, some financial records (such as cancelled checks and deposit slips) and “subject files of printed materials which were assembled by Collier or his staff…not germane to an understanding of Collier or his work.” [The John Collier Papers, 1922-1968: A Guide to the Microfilm Edition edited by Andrew M. Patterson and Maureen Brodoff] Only selections from Part III, Series V (Subject File) have been microfilmed. Items which have not been filmed will have no microfilm reel number listed in the inventory and patrons may use the originals of those folders. Otherwise patrons must use Film HM 103 instead of the originals.

Selected correspondence from Part III in box 13A is restricted until 2031 January 1.

Existence and Location of Copies

Parts I, II, and IV, and Part III, Series I-IV, with selected items from Part III, Series V (Subject File) are available on microfilm (59 reels, 35mm.) from ProQuest, Ann Arbor, MI.

Materials were filmed by ProQuest LLC (formerly Microfilming Corporation of America, then University Microfilms International [UMI]). Each subject/title in the inventory was assigned an item number by the company before filming. Items on the microfilm are identified by these assigned numbers; original box and folder numbers are not referenced on the microfilm. A copy of The John Collier Papers, 1922-1968: A Guide to the Microfilm Edition edited by Andrew M. Patterson and Maureen Brodoff, is available for consultation in the Manuscripts and Archives reference area.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by John Collier has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John Collier, 1966; Grace Volk Collier, 1978; and Katherine Egri, 1989.


Arranged in four parts: I. 1922-1933. II. 1933-1945. III. 1945-1956. IV. 1957-1968; and two additions.


52.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, subject files, writings, memoranda and reports, research materials, and miscellanea, documenting the personal life and professional career of John Collier. His service with the American Indian Defense Association (A.I.D.A.), as United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and as a teacher and author is detailed. Correspondence files include materials with leading political, literary, and social figures. Drafts of books, articles, essays, reviews, and poetry are supplemented with extensive subject files and research materials. Files relating to the Institute of Ethnic Affairs include substantive correspondence and memoranda. The papers of anthropologist Laura Thompson, Collier's second wife, are also arranged in the papers, and date from 1945-1956.

Biographical / Historical

John Collier was born on May 4, 1884 in Atlanta, Georgia. He served as editor of the Journal of American Indian Life from 1915-1919 and as executive secretary of the American Indian Defense Association from 1923-1933. Collier also served as United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs from 1933-1945, established the Institute of Ethnic Affairs and served as its president in 1945, and taught sociology and anthropology at City College in New York City (1947) and Knox College in Illinois (1955-1956). He published several major books and articles on the American Indians until his death in Taos, New Mexico, on May 8, 1968.

1884 May 4
Born in Atlanta, Georgia. Son of Charles A. and Susie (Rawson).
ca. 1898
Conversion to Roman Catholicism from Methodism.
Studied at Columbia University and at the Marine Laboratory, Woods Hole.
Social worker among immigrants.
1906 Oct 20
Married Lucy Wood of Philadelphia. They had three children: Charles Wood, Donald and John, Jr.
Studied psychology in Paris at the Collège de France.
Civic secretary of the People's Institute, New York; editor of its newspaper, The Civic Journal.
Founder and executive officer of the National Board of Censorship. After 1914 the name was changed to National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.
Published The City Where Crime Is Play. Written with Fred M. Stein, a New York banker and philanthropist.
Year spent living "in the North Carolina wilds."
Edited American Indian Life (magazine).
One of the founders, and director, of the New York Training School for Community Workers, an offshoot of The People's Institute.
Director of community organization, state of California.
Director of social science training, State Teacher's College, San Francisco; executive secretary of the American Indian Defense Association.

PART I: 1922-1933

Executive secretary of the American Indian Defense Association.
Began a campaign for legislation conveying the exclusive use of the 30,000 acre Blue Lake mountain area to the Taos Pueblo Indians.
Instrumental in getting the appointment of a special Senate Indian Investigating Committee to conduct hearings on Indian abuses. Report published in 37 volumes.

PART II: 1933-1945

Appointed United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Initiated the "Indian New Deal." Largely responsible for the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act, a program to expand the land base of the tribes.
Enlisted the aid of anthropologists in the conduct and policy of the Indian Service.
Initiated a program of research into Indian life. Laura Thompson, author of Fijian Frontier, was appointed director of the study of five Indian areas: Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, Papago and Sioux.
1943 Aug 25
Married Laura Thompson.
1945 Jan 19
Resigned as Commissioner of the Indian Service.

PART III: 1945-1956

Active in establishing the Institute of Ethnic Affairs. Elected president.
1946 Jan
Drafted, with Abe Fortas, a proposed "Resolution on Non-Self-Governing Peoples" which was passed at a meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations in London and became the basis for United Nations supervision of trusteed and non-self-governing territories.
Appointed professor of sociology and anthropology at City College, New York City.
Published The Indians of the Americas; American Colonial Record.
Published Patterns and Ceremonials of the Indians of the Southwest.
Retired from City College.
Taught at Knox College (Galesburg, Illinois) under a grant of the John Hay Whitney Foundation.
Returned to Taos, New Mexico to live.

PART IV: 1957-1968

1957 Jan 27
Married Grace E. Volk
Published On the Gleaming Way.
Published From Every Zenith (autobiography and memoir).
1968 May 8
Died at Taos, New Mexico
Guide to the John Collier Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Maureen Brodoff and Andrew M. Patterson
April 1973
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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