Ross Emmett, Arizona State University, "Francis Amasa Walker and the Indigenous Peoples of North America"

Event Type: 
Friday, October 29, 2021
3:30 PM
113 Social Sciences

Francis A. Walker was known as the "dean" of American economics in the latter part of the 19th century because of his refutation of the "wage fund" theory, his statistical work on the 1870 and 1880 censuses, and his administrative leadership at MIT and on behalf of the fledgling American Economic Association (he was the AEA's first President). More recently, he has become known as one of the American economists who actively supported eugenics-based immigration restrictions for peoples from southern European cultures (see the work of Annie Cot and Robert Leonard). But Walker's three essays on North American indigenous peoples, written just after his service as Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (a position he held at the same time as he was concluding his statistical work for the 1870 Census) have not been re-examined by recent historians of economics. One of the essays was "An Account of the Tribes," written for Walker's 1870 Census Bureau Chief report. The other two essays ("The Indian Question" and "Indian Citizenship") had been published independently after his role with the Census ended. Bound together under the title The Indian Question in 1874, the three essays provided an argument for the removal of indigenous peoples onto reservations, following the Congressional decision to overturn the other doctrine of President Munroe a half-century earlier, that required the United States to make treaties with indigenous peoples. In the process of examining Walker's arguments, the paper also considers the similarities and differences between his eugenicist immigration arguments and his arguments regarding indigenous peoples.