Our Indians Not Yellow

Immediately below this headline in the December 28, 1914 edition of The New York Times was, “Cato Sells Banishes Books That Teach Them They Are Mongolians.” Judge Cato B. Sells was the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at the time and was putting publishers on notice that the Bureau of Indian Affairs was not going to purchase books for the government schools for Indians that stated that Indians were of the Mongolian race. Sells stated that he had been “advised by the best authority that the Indians are classed by the anthropologists as a distinct race, commonly designated as the red race, or as red men, in contradistinction to the white (Caucasian), yellow (Mongolian), brown (Malay), and black (Negro) races of people, and that he proposes to do everything in his power to oppose an arbitrary classification advanced by a few publishers of school books which classes the Indian as Mongolian.”

He reached that belief that the Indian was not a Mongolian “after personal investigation and consultation with F. W. Hodge of the Bureau of Ethnology in the Smithsonian Institution.”

Apparently, there was a movement afoot at that time to reduce the number of racial classifications and the elimination of American Indians was one of them. I am not an ethnologist, but from what I can tell from perusing the internet, Sells was ultimately unsuccessful in keeping Indians designated as a separate race. He likely did have a financial impact on some textbook publishers.

Cato B. Sells

Cato B. Sells

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