Vignette > John Collier


John Collier (May 4, 1884 – May 8, 1968), a sociologist and writer, was an American social reformer and Native American advocate. He served as Commissioner for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the President Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, from 1933 to 1945. He was chiefly responsible for the “Indian New Deal,” especially the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, through which he intended to reverse a long-standing policy of Cultural assimilation of Native Americans. Before going to Washington, from 1923 to 1933 he and his wife lived in Blithedale Canyon near the Lee Street Station when he was executive Secretary of the American Indian Defense Association.   Thirteen Indian Chiefs visited him there – see photo.

His interest in Indian affairs began in 1920 when he spent a year at the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico studying their history and current life.  By 1921 he concluded that Native American culture was threatened by the encroachment of the dominant white culture and policies directed at their assimilation. In 1922, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) appointed him the research agent for its Indian Welfare Committee. The GFWC took a leadership role in opposing assimilation policies, supporting the return of Indian lands, and promoting more religious and economic independence.