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Read the full speech that activist Ruth Muskrat Bronson addressed to President Coolidge regarding education for all Native Americans in 1923.

At the 2018 ANTIQUES ROADSHOW event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a guest named Jennifer brought in a dress and moccasins that were worn by her great-great-aunt, Ruth Muskrat Bronson, during a visit to the White House in December 1923. The dress and moccasins were accompanied by an early photograph of Bronson, a photograph of Bronson and President Coolidge at the White House, and the original speech Bronson presented to the president.

The content of the speech, which focused on the request for civil rights for Native Americans, prompted Coolidge to invite Bronson back to the White House at a later date:

“... She wanted the president to hear from an Indian what the real Indian problem was, and it wasn’t what the other people were calling the “Indian Problem.” She wanted everyone to accept Native Americans as Americans and to allow them to be educated just like everyone else,” Jennifer said to Bruce M. Shackelford, who appraised the items.

Shackelford estimated the insurance value of Jennifer's complete collection of items at between $8,000 and $12,000.

Read the full speech below!

Speech by Ruth Muskrat Bronson, 1923


Mr. President:—

This volume of the “Red Man in the United States” is presented to the “Great White Father” in behalf of the many Indian students of America. It is a book which bears the best we have to offer —the story of our struggles and our tragedies, of our victories and our developments. The volume presents the results of an exhaustive investigation made under the auspices of what is now known as the Institue of Social and Religious Research. It gives for the first time a comprehensive account of the social, economic, and religious conditions among my people, as they are today. It is the only study of its kind that has ever been undertaken, and it will perhaps remain unique in this respect since we may reasonably hope that when the time would ordinarily be ripe for another such study, what is known as the “Indian Problem” will have ceased to exist.

Back on the Cheyenne Reservation in Oklahoma Indian women have worked with loving and painstaking care to make this gift worthy for the “Great White Father,” weaving into this beaded cover the symbolic story of our race —the story of the old type of Indian, greeting with the hand of friendship the founders of this great nation, and the story of the new Indian, emerging from his semi-barbaric state, till his soil, and building for citizenship under the guidance of the school.

Mr. President, there have been so many discussions of the so-called Indian Problem. May not we, who are the Indian students of America, who must face the burden of that problem, say to you what it means to us? You know that in the old days there were mighty Indian leaders —men of vision, of courage, and of exalted ideals. History tells us first of Chief Powhatan who met a strange people on the shores of his country and welcomed them as brothers; Massasoit, who offered friendship and shared his kingdom. Then appeared another type of leader, the war chief, fighting to defend his home and his people. The members of my race will never forget the names of King Philip, of Chief Joseph, of Tecumseh. To us they will always be revered as great leaders who had the courage to fight, “campaigning for their honor, a martyr to the soil of their fathers.” Cornstalk, the great crater, Red Jacket of the Senacas, and Sequoyah of the Cherokees were other noted leaders of our race who have meant much in the development of my people. It was not accidental that these ancient leaders were great. There was some hidden energy, some great driving inner ambition, some keen penetration of vision and high idealism that urged them on.

What made the older leaders great still lives in the hearts of the Indian youths of today. The same potential greatness lies deep in the souls of the Indian students of today who must become the leaders of this new era. The old life has gone. A new trail must be found, for the old is not good to travel farther. We are glad to have it so. But these younger leaders who must guide their people along new and untried paths have perhaps a harder task before them than the fight for freedom our older leaders made.Ours must be the problem of leading this vigorous and by no means dying race of people back to their rightful heritage of nobility and greatness. Ours must be the task of leading through these difficult stages of transition into economic independence, into a more adequate expression of their art, and into an awakened spiritual vigor. Ours is a vision as keen and as penetrating as any vision of old. We want to understand and to accept the civilization of the white man. We want to become citizens of the United States, and to have our share in the building of this great nation, that we love. But we want also to preserve the best that is in our own civilization. We want to make our own unique contribution to the civilizations of the world ——to bring our own peculiar gifts to the altar of that great spiritual and artistic unity which such a nation as America must have. This, Mr. President, is the Indian problem which we who are Indians find ourselves facing. No one can find our solution for us but ourselves.

In order to find a solution we must have schools; we must have encouragement and help from our white brothers. Already there are schools, but the number is pitifully inadequate. And already the beginnings toward an intelligent and sympathetic understanding of our needs and our longing have been made through such efforts as this book represents. For these reasons to-day, as never before, the trail ahead for the Indian looks clear and bright with promise. But it is yet many long weary miles until the end.

It is out of gratitude for the opportunities of education and culture which has been afforded us by the interest of the white man, and out of our love for this nation to which we are eager to contribute our best, that this book is presented to our “Great White Father” in behalf of the Indian students of America.

Author Melanie Albanesi
Melanie Albanesi is a digital production assistant for ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.