ICT series continues with Ronald Reagan and his Indian 'mistake'

Indianz.Com on YouTube: President Ronald Reagan on American Indians: 'Maybe we made a mistake'

The late Ronald Reagan wasn't known for his Indian policy strides during his time in the White House and is often remembered for a major gaffe overseas.

During a youth forum in Moscow, Russia, which was then part of the Soviet Union, Reagan said the United States gave "millions of acres of land" -- in the form of reservations -- to American Indians when in fact it was the other way around. Tribes were forced to cede millions of acres to the federal government through treaties, laws, fraudulent dealings and other actions.

"Maybe we made a mistake. Maybe we should not have humored them in that wanting to stay in that kind of primitive lifestyle," Reagan said at Moscow State University on May 31, 1988. "Maybe we should have said, no, come join us; be citizens along with the rest of us."

The remarks caused an uproar and Reagan later "apologized" for them, Indian Country Today reports in its ongoing series about the American presidency. But there is no evidence he ever made such a statement -- the official statement regarding a 20-minute meeting with tribal leaders at the White House on December 12, 1988, does not mention any sort of regret whatsoever.

And, on that very same day, when reporters asked Reagan why he believed American Indians on reservations were engaged in some form of "primitive lifestyle," he replied: "I don't recall saying that."

Both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times reported on Reagan's apparent memory lapse.

Read More on the Story:
Alysa Landry: Ronald Reagan: ‘Maybe We Should Not Have Humored [Natives]’ (Indian Country Today 10/4)

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