John Collier, American Indians and Action Research

“The American society is physically, religiously, socially, and aesthetically shattered, dismembered, directionless”

-John Collier

Before British came to India, Indians believed in multicultural diversity. Europeans then were ethnocentric and believed that god had given them mandate to educate millions of ignorant Asians. Europeans took this task very seriously and called it “Whiteman’s Burden”.

“We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”

-Thomas Macaulay

Situation was not very different in US; European settlers believed that Red Indians should assimilate into European culture.


John Collier was American anthropologist, who had different view, he studied American Indian tribes and came to conclusion that assimilation will destroy Red Indian culture proposed concept of multicultural diversity, so called “Indian New Deal”.  The major goal of this deal was to reverse the traditional goal of assimilation of Indians into American society, and to strengthen, encourage and perpetuate the tribes and their historic traditions and culture.

John Collier shattered myth of “Whiteman’s burden” by exposing the greed of Europeans.

“The Indian let the ownership of his allotted lands slip from him. The job of taking the Indian’s lands away, begun by the white man through military expeditions and treaty commissions, was completed by cash purchase—always of course, of the best lands which the Indian had left.”

-John Collier


The method that he used to study American Indian tribes came to be known as “Action Research” i.e. do scientific data based research and based on finding of research take action, post action reflect on outcome and use findings to further improve action plan.

Kurt Lewin, founding father of Organisational Development, borrowed concept of Action Research from John Collier and used it field of OD. Action research along with system based approach and humanitarian values became basic foundation of Organisational Development.



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