193. Memorandum From Foreign Service Officer Peter Orr to the Chairman of the Secretary’s Task Force on Affirmative Action (Moose)1


  • AMERICAN INDIAN: Native American—Most Neglected and Perhaps Most Discriminated Minority of All Minorities

On June 16, 1977, two colleagues and myself appeared before the Task Force to convey the views of the Asian-American Caucus on various subjects on which the Task Force is currently conducting a review.2 On this occasion, you may recall that (since the Task Force had invited and received views from other minority groups, e.g., black, Spanish-speaking, and Asian-Americans) I called the Task Force’s attention to the American Indians; and I strongly urged them not to neglect in its review of native Americans: the American Indians. Due to the time factor, Mr. Chairman, you asked for a paper in lieu of an oral presentation from this group. Hence, it is in this connection that this memorandum is being submitted for the Task Force’s consideration.

Before I continue on this subject, I wish to point out that I’m not a representative of American Indians nor any of their interest groups or organizations (they have none because there are only one American Indian FSO and two FSS in the Foreign Service). Therefore, all views and comments set forth in this memorandum are mine, based on personal study. Also, my comments are restricted to the Department and the Foreign Service proper; it does not include AID, USIA or ACDA.


The statistics emphatically indicate that the Department and the Foreign Service have chronically neglected, and indirectly (if not directly) discriminated against the American Indians. Without question the Department has paid little or no attention to recruiting American Indians into the Service; this fact was also noted in the February 1977 report released by the Clark, Phipps, Clarke and Harris, Inc.3 which stated that:

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“Although BEX includes visits to schools with high American Indian and Asian-American enrollment, recruitment of these two groups does not appear to be as systematic or as focused as for other groups (black, hispanic and women).”

The following data on American Indian employees in the Department and the Foreign Service as of 12/31/76 will substantiate the aforementioned findings:

Pay Plan Grade No. Employed
FSO 5 1
FSS 4 1
FSS 7 1
Total in the Foreign Service— 3
GS 6 1
GS 7 1
GS 8 3
GS 9 1
Total in the Civil Service— 6
Total FS/GS— 9

Furthermore, not only are there only a handful of American Indians employed in the Department but, also, all of them are in lower grades, as well.


“. . . We are now struggling to enhance equality of opportunity. Our commitment to human rights must be absolute . . . and human dignity must be enhanced.”

—President Carter

January 20, 1977


“I am also on record expressing deep concern about human rights, abroad and at home . . . including dedication to and involvement in Equal Employment Opportunity within the Department as dictated by ethics and law.”

—Secretary Vance

March 15, 1977

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Without question the Department and Foreign Service’s performances in practicing human rights and equal opportunity has been less than desirable. This fact was noted by President Carter during his visit to the Department on February 24, 1977:

“I think, to be perfectly frank, that the State Department is probably the Department that needs progress more than any other.”6

As we all very well know, the current administration has courageously, and rightfully, placed human rights (or equal opportunity) as one of its highest foreign policy priorities. Of course, the Department and the Foreign Service are charged with implementing it. But, I question whether the Department can effectively, sincerely and honestly be able to persuade other nations to enhance equal opportunity and human rights for their citizens when the President himself has stated (correctly so) that the Department has a very bad record in the equal opportunity area for our own citizens.

And the Americans who have been, and still are, treated the worst are the native Americans, the American Indians. This group of citizens, as statistics indicate, is the minority among all minorities, and the most neglected and least known by the Department. The Department probably knows more about the Bhotia tribal people in Nepal and the Bobo tribe in Upper Volta than it does about the Pueblo Indians of Arizona or the Tsimshians of Alaska, even though the Foreign Service is mandated by law:

“The Congress hereby declares that the objectives of this Act are to develop and strengthen the Foreign Service of the United States so as . . . to insure that the officers and employees of the Foreign Service are broadly representative of the American people and are aware of and fully informed in respect to current trends in American life.”

—Sec. 111(2) of the Foreign Service Act of 1946, as amended7

Therefore, I can only emphatically conclude that the Foreign Service has failed to carry out the legal mandate of the Congress. And I certainly hope that the Task Force will come up with a meaningful and an effective plan to fulfill the legal requirement as specified in the Foreign Service Act and the Equal Employment Act of 1972.8 I don’t believe I would be overly exaggerating if I state that most of us in the Department would consider American Indians more aliens and strangers than Canadians or Frenchmen. Therefore, at this point I would like to furnish a [Page 771] very brief statement on the status of American Indians in the United States.


WHO IS AN INDIAN—To be designated as an “Indian” eligible for basic Bureau of Indian Affairs services, an individual must live on or near a reservation or near trust or restricted land under the jurisdiction of the BIA, and be a member of a tribe, band, or group of Indians recognized by the Federal Government, and/or be of one-fourth or more Indian descent. By legislative action, the Aleuts, and Eskimos of Alaska are also referred to as American Indians.

CENSUS FIGURES—According to the U.S. Census for 1970 there are 792,730 Indians and 34,378 Aleuts and Eskimos in the United States. The BIA estimates that 478,000 Indians were residing on or near reservations in 1970.

INDIAN TRIBES—There are 266 Federally recognized Indian tribes, bands, villages, pueblos and groups in the mainland states. In addition, there are 216 Native Alaskan communities served by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, thus bringing it to a total of 482 Indian tribal entities with which the Federal Government has a special trust relationship.

The ten largest Indian reservations (excluding Alaska) in order of size are: Navajo, 13.8 million acres; Papago, 2.7 million acres; Hopi, 2.4 million acres; Wind River, 1.88 million acres; San Carlos, 1.8 million acres; Fort Apache, 1.6 million acres; Pine Ridge, 1.6 million acres; Crow, 1.5 million acres; Cheyenne River, 1.4 million acres; Yakima, 1.1 million acres.

ECONOMIC AND EMPLOYMENT STATUS—The Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates that in 1975 the per capita average income of Indians living on Federal reservations was estimated to be $1,520. About 40% of the potential labor force was unemployed, and half of these were actively seeking employment. 63% of all American Indians employed by the Federal Government are employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

ADDED BACKGROUND NOTES ON INDIANS—With the ending of the Civil War, and the adoption of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, came the end of slavery, and citizenship and constitutional protection of blacks. While these actions were being taken by the Congress, ironically and tragically the U.S. Army gave added emphasis to removing Indians from east to the west of the Mississippi River as dictated by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and President Jackson’s directive of 1834. With such well known military victories as the Battle of Wounded Knee, the U.S. Government succeeded in relocating the American Indians and, thus, finally, came the reservation system which no doubt was worse than the detention camps of WWII [Page 772] for Japanese-Americans (another bleak chapter in U.S. history). In 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, granting citizenship to all Indians.

In light of what has been hitherto said, then comes the question of what the Department must do in order to achieve the legislative objectives of Section 111(2) of the Foreign Service Act, as amended; and the Equal Employment Act of 1972 with specific reference to the American Indians.


As it was noted earlier the Department has devoted little or no effort to recruiting American Indians. A result of this is quite obvious: number of Indians employed by the Department and the Foreign Service as of December 31, 1976:

GS 6

Why hasn’t the Department devoted more attention to recruiting American Indians into the Service? I would have to say because (1) the Indian population is small; hence, why bother; (2) only a handful could probably qualify for the Service, since only a few attend university. Nevertheless, if the Department is in fact going to promote human rights and equality of opportunity, then it must change its attitude toward the weak and small group of American Indians. The following information may be of help in recruiting American Indians:

EDUCATION—In 1974–75 approximately 15,500 Indians were attending colleges and universities on BIA scholarships. The National Educational Research Center estimated in 1970 there were about 27,600 Indians attending undergraduate schools and 1,608, graduate and professional schools. In FY–75 the Bureau of Indian Affairs allocated $31.2 million for Indian higher education. In addition to BIA there are eight other Federal Departments and agencies, e.g., Office of Education, involved in providing some sort of assistance to American Indians.

Colleges and universities with large enrollment of American Indians are:

—New Mexico, Univ. of

—Arizona State

—Arizona, Univ. of

—Univ. of California at Berkeley


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—Washington, Univ. of and State Univ.

—Colorado, Univ. of and State Univ.

—Utah, Univ. of

—Brigham Young Univ.

The following schools of higher education are operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs:

—Haskell Indian Junior College

—Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

ASSISTANCE OF THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS—It is my understanding that the major objective of the BIA is to protect and advance the welfare of American Indians and Alaskan Natives. Therefore, the Bureau will assist and advise whoever wants to promote the welfare of American Indians. Aside from its central office in Washington, there are 12 regional offices and 82 agencies located throughout the U.S. As of June 30, 1976, BIA had 15,431 permanent employees of which 63.7% were American Indians. The Department, therefore, should:

—Seek the assistance and advice of the BIA in recruiting American Indians;

—Request BIA to detail two or three Indians from that agency to the Department (BEX) for recruiting assignment;

—The Department could recruit American Indians who are employed by the BIA for employment in the Foreign Service through FSR/JO or Mid-level programs.9

RECRUITING AMERICAN INDIANS THROUGH NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS—There are approximately 20 national non-profit American Indian organizations. They range from specialized professional organizations, e.g., Indian Nurses Assoc., Social Workers, law, etc., to the broader area of civil rights, congressional and government relations. Soliciting assistance from these Indian organizations would be an excellent means of attracting qualified Indians to the Foreign Service. Major Indian organizations that are located in Washington are:

—Institute for the Development of Indian Law

927 15th St., N.W. #200

Washington, D.C. 20005

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—National Congress of American Indians

1430 K St., N.W. 7th Fl.

Washington, D.C. 20005

10—National Tribal Chairmen’s Assoc.

1701 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. #207

Washington, D.C. 20006

A complete list of Indian organizations may be obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Public Information.

RECRUITMENT VIA OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES—In addition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, there are several other departments and agencies that have special programs for American Indians. The Department can certainly work through these agencies, as well.

—Commerce Department

Office of Indian Affairs, Economic Dev. Adm.

—Health, Education and Welfare

Indian and Migrant Programs

—Justice Department

Office of Indian Rights

—Labor Department

Division of Indian and Native Programs

—Small Business Administration

Office of Program Assistance

—SENATE, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs

—HOUSE, Subcommittee on Indian Affairs

—SPECIAL CONGRESSIONAL, American Indian Policy Review Commission

A complete list of federal departments and agencies having programs for American Indians may be obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Policy Planning.


The ultimate objective is, of course, to increase the number of FSOs who are American Indians, but in order to achieve this goal it may be necessary to hire them via all pay systems: FSR, FSS and GS as well as traditional FSO route. A qualified candidate could be brought into the service via the FSR/JO or Mid-level Program. Others with proven work performances could be employed in FSS fields and then prepare the employee for lateral entry into FSO. Or, they could be hired as GS [Page 775] and with training could advance and enter the Foreign Service through the Mustang Program.11 The point is that if the Department and the Foreign Service want to have more than one Indian FSO, then it must be willing to open its doors to bring them in under all systems.


An excellent method of orienting and training American Indians for careers with the Department and the Service is through the summer intern and clerical employment programs. It is too late for this summer, but a special effort should be made to attract Indians for next summer internship and clerical programs. A couple of American Indians who are employed at the BIA told me that they might consider the internship program themselves. The Bureau of Indian Affairs would be of tremendous assistance in recruiting candidates for the intern and clerical programs since the Bureau provides financial grants to some 15,000 Indians in higher education. Furthermore, since the Bureau operates two vocational schools, it could assist with recruiting Indians for the clerical program.


Are minorities employed by the Department and the Foreign Service for “window dressing” purposes? I have heard from a number of minorities and non-minorities that it is for that reason minorities are employed by the Department. The recently released Clark Report on minority junior officer program also makes this point.

Even though this memorandum is devoted to urging the Department to employ more American Indians, nevertheless, it would do great harm to the Department and to the individual employee if he/she was employed solely to improve its minority statistics, or what some of us referred to as “window dressing.” In this connection, I recently had a discussion with an American Indian who has been with the Department since 1969 (GS). When asked whether she would be willing to recruit American Indians, her reply was positively, “no”. She explained that she would not have another Indian endure a life of frustration and be treated like “dirt” by the people of the State Department. When asked if she had discussed her working problems with her supervisor, she replied she had but it only does harm because he and others around get unhappy with her when she does. When I recommended that she take her problem to the M/EEO or EEO Officer, [Page 776] she said, “They’re for blacks, and they would not understand me nor be sympathetic to me.”

Some officials in the Bureau of Indian Affairs are aware that American Indians in other departments and agencies are having difficulties. Some do go to the BIA for counseling and assistance with their problems. In this respect, I strongly urge the Department to appoint an individual who is able to relate to and to provide counseling to the American Indians. In this connection, may I recommend Mrs. Marida Bourgin, Chief of Minority Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In my opinion Mrs. Bourgin probably knows more about American Indians than any non-Indian in the Department. Mrs. Bourgin is highly spoken of at the Bureau of Indian Affairs because of her concerted efforts in the Department (CU) for getting it to recognize the American Indians’ heritage, and by sending American Indians on overseas tour as part of the cultural exchange program. Mrs. Bourgin could also make a vital contribution to the recruiting effort.

In preparing this paper on the subject of American Indians, I have tried to be frank, sincere and straightforward (I wonder whether these are best qualities for one to possess in a bureaucratic environment). Nevertheless, even though I am not an American Indian nor a student of Indian Affairs, I wanted to call the Task Force’s attention to the sad state of American Indians. It would be most unfortunate if the Task Force passed over our native Americans in its current review of the Department’s Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Programs. Other minority groups, because of their large numbers and formal organizations, have made impressive presentations to the Task Force, but the American Indians are not that fortunate.

I hope the Task Force will find some useful points in this memorandum, and I do strongly urge the Task Force to give special attention to the American Indians in light of their small numbers and weakness. And as a closing statement I wish to note that the Department and the Foreign Service have been placing far greater value on paper than it does on people; it determines success and promotes its employees on how well they relate to and produce telegrams, airgrams, OMs, etc., rather than on how well they relate to people. The strength and success of nations and institutions are not based on paper dimensions, but rather on human dimensions.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Under Secretary for Management (M), 1977–1978, Box 3, Chron July 1977. No classification marking. Sent through Pinckney.
  2. No minutes of this meeting were found.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. The quote is from Carter’s inaugural address; see Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 1–4.
  5. See Document 186.
  6. See Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pp. 235–245.
  7. P.L. 79–724.
  8. P.L. 92–261.
  9. The mid-level program provided skilled Department employees an opportunity to enter the Foreign Service by means other than examination and helped the Department meet its affirmative action goals for equal employment opportunity.
  10. This association represents 190 federally recognized Indian tribes on matters relating to the Congress and Federal agencies. [Footnote is in the original.]
  11. The Mustang Program was for Civil Service and Foreign Service Specialists seeking entry-level Foreign Service Generalist appointments in one of the four cones: Consular, Economic, Administrative, or Political.