Meriam Report

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MERIAM REPORT, published in 1928, was a survey of conditions on Indian Reservations in twenty-six states. It was financed by the Rockefeller Foundation and supervised by Lewis Meriam of the Institute for Government Research (Brookings Institution). The survey team consisted of ten experts in various fields, including sociology, family life and women's activities, education, history, law, agriculture, health, and research methods.

Titled The Problem of Indian Administration, the Meriam Report was called the most important treatise on Indian affairs since Helen Hunt Jackson's Century of Dishonor (1881). The idea of commissioning a study of Indian administration began in 1913, when Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs Frederick H. Abbott suggested to the Board of Indian Commissioners that the government seek advice on how to make the Indian Office more efficient. In 1925 two members of the board, Warren K. Moorehead and Hugh Scott, offered separate plans for the office's reorganization. Others on the board urged the improvement of Indian health. Ultimately Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work proposed that the Rockefeller Foundation support a survey by the Institute for Government Research.

Scholars disagree over whether or not the Meriam Report was a harbinger of the Indian New Deal. Some regard it as a precursor of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Margaret Szasz called it "the symbol of a definitive response to the failure of fifty years of assimilation policy." But Donald Critchlow claimed that Meriam and his associates were efficiency experts and that their recommendations contrasted sharply with the radical program of John Collier and the American Indian Defense Association (AIDA). The AIDA wanted to end individual ownership of land and to move toward tribal ownership by restoring allotments to the reservations from which they had been drawn. Rather than call for an end to allotments, the Meriam Report said allotments should be made with extreme conservatism.


Brookings Institution, Institute for Government Research. The Problem of Indian Administration. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1928.

Critchlow, Donald T. "Lewis Meriam, Expertise, and Indian Reform." Historian 43, no. 4 (1981): 325–344.

Fritz, Henry E. "The Board of Indian Commissioners and the Reform of Indian Affairs from the Late Progressive Era to the New Deal." Forthcoming in Making United States Indian Policy, 1829–1933. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Szasz, Margaret. Education and the American Indian: The Road to Self-Determination, 1928–1973. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1974.

Henry E.Fritz

See alsoIndian Policy, U.S.