When we forget great contributors to our American history-when we neglect the heroic past of the American Indian-we thereby weaken our own heritage. We need to remember the contributions our forefathers found here and from which they borrowed liberally.
When the Indians controlled the balance of power, the settlers from Europe were forced to consider their views, and to deal with them by treaties and to her instruments. The pioneers found that Indians in the Southeast had developed a high civilization with safeguards for ensuring the peace. A northern extension of that civilization, the League of the Iroquois, inspired Benjamin Franklin to copy it in planning the federation of States.
But when the American Indians lost their power, they were placed on reservations, frequently lands which were strange to them, and the rest of the nation turned its attention to her matters.
Our treatment of Indians during that period still affects the national conscience. We have been hampered-by the history of our relationship with the Indians-in our efforts to develop a fair national policy governing present and future treatment of Indians under their special relationship with the Federal government.
Before we can set out on the road to success, we have to know where we are going, and before we can know that we must determine where we have been in the past. Is seems a basic requirement to study the history of our Indian people America has much to learn about the heritage of our American Indians. Only through this study can we as a nation do what must be done if our treatment of the American Indian is not to be marked down for all time as a national disgrace.
--John F. Kennedy
Introduction to "The American Heritage Book Of Indians"