“The Forgotten American” came amidst the blood-drenched Tet Offensive in Vietnam, growing social tumult on the home front, and an exploding budget and inflation spawned by the war and LBJ’s colossal Great Society social programs. No one mistook it for Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Kennedy’s Inaugural speech. But whatever Johnson’s expectations, or lack of them, that a more vigorous effort in partnership with and on behalf of American Indians might succeed in their rising up to an unprecedented place of self-determination and semi-sovereignty within the American body politic, he threw down the gauntlet for just that.
“The American Indian deserves a chance to develop his talents and share fully in the future of our Nation,” the Democratic President declared. The same day, he issued an executive order establishing the National Council on Indian Opportunity (NCIO). According to historian Thomas A. Britten, the NCIO “was an executive-level coordinating body that sought to ensure that federal departments were carrying out the administration’s Indian policy.”
These were not mere pie-in-the-sky dreams. Johnson and his Vice President Hubert Humphrey were deadly serious about the U.S. government picking up its game and helping the Natives to finally and fully share in the opportunities and benefits of American citizenship.
Oklahoma Senator Harris deemed it “the finest message on Indians ever delivered by any high government official.”
NCIO Chairman Humphrey swung into action. Six prominent tribal members took their place as commissioners. Oklahoma’s Harris was one. She had already founded Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity and chaired the Women’s Advisory Council for the War on Poverty.
Without his seeking or even desiring the role of Executive Director, Humphrey insisted that Carmack take it. The lanky former Prof finally said yes, promising to work mornings as BIA Assistant Commissioner and afternoons as NCIO Executive Director!
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.