Alaska's Nuremberg Laws:
Congress Sanctions Racial Discrimination
For the first time in our history, it has been decreed by Congress that a government bureau may seize the possessions of Americans solely because they belong to a minority race. That is the meaning of the Tongass Act, which deprives Alaskans of their land and timber if two or more of their grandparents were Indians, and which quietly became law on August 8, 1947.
In the House, the Tongass Timber Bill had been passed through a parliamentary maneuver at an early morning hour, usually devoted to prayer and to receiving communications, when hardly a dozen members were in their seats. In the Senate, four efforts to pass the bill by “unanimous consent” had failed. One by one the Senators who objected were threatened or cajoled into acquiescing; the final surrender came at two o’clock in the morning in the last minutes of the 1947 session of Congress, when Senator Watkins of Utah, head of the committee that had considered the bill, wearily announced, at the prodding of Senator Taft, that he would not let his grave doubts as to the constitutionality of the measure stand in the way of its enactment.
About the Author