Frank and Dolores Becker
Frank Becker was born in New York City on April 24, 1907 to Frank and Thora Bregartner Becker. A Graduate from Stuyvesant High School and the New York Training School for teachers, Becker received a B.S. from NYU in 1942 and was awarded his degree the same year he was inducted into the Army Air Corps. Becker taught at P.S. 17 before and after WWII and later received a Masters of Arts Degree.
Though he started as a mechanic in the Army Air Corps in 1942, Becker was soon transferred to the 704th training group in Atlantic City, New Jersey to help organize a school for illiterate soldiers. Becker was tasked to teach reading, writing and arithmetic to a mixed group of students that included Greeks, Chinese, Navajo, Pima and Papago soldiers. The largest group of Native American soldiers Becker taught were Navajo. Because many of the Navajo soldiers could not speak English, Roger Davis, an elected leader to the Navajo Tribal Council and Presbyterian missionary, was sent to Atlantic City to act as an interpreter. Together, Becker and Davis made phonographic recordings of the Army Handbook in both English and Navajo. Davis assisted Becker for five weeks staying as a guest of the Presbyterian Hospitality House. Becker later wrote a book on his experiences working with the group of Navajo soldiers titled Navajo Way (1956). The experience also sparked a lifelong interested in the Navajo culture as well as awareness of many of the problems facing the Navajo community in regards to education and health.
Following the war, Becker visited Arizona and New Mexico with his family in in the fall on 1947. Frank had Frank met Dolores in the early 1940’s through mutual friends and the two were married December 27, 1944. Dolores, born August 6, 1913, had passed the New Jersey bar in 1936 and had been practicing law in the juvenile court system. After meeting Frank she also took an active interest in Native American culture. The family visited Gallup, Window Rock and Indian Wells, where they visited with Roger Davis, making particular note of the schools they visited. On the return from this trip, Becker wrote passionately on the failing of the U.S. government to fulfill its obligations to the Navajo people, particularly in the area of education. Frank and Dolores both joined several organizations, most notably the Indian Association of America, dedicated to helping Native Americans advocating especially for WWII Veterans returning home and education. Additionally, Frank wrote many columns, letters to the editor and speeches on both his experiences teaching Navajo soldiers during the war as well current issues facing Native American communities. Dolores appeared on several TV shows in the 1950’s directed towards younger audiences explaining Native American cultures.
Frank Becker died November 11, 1979 in Shokan, NY and Dolores died on March 6, 2010 leaving behind a daughter and a son.
Additional Information on Frank and Dolores Becker provided by their daughter Thora Becker.
Indian Association of America
According to its constitution and by-laws, The Indian Association of America was originally founded in Denver, Colorado by Dr. Vincent “Red Fox” St. James and Dr. George C. Stagg in 1924. Red Fox, who claimed to be Blackfoot but whose origins are undetermined, had previously been a founder of the Tipi (Tepee) Order of America, an organization that blended ritual aspects closely related to Freemasonry with the pan-Indian movement dedicated to advocacy work for the welfare of Native Americans. The Indian Association of America mimicked this model with some of its stated objectives being; to promote better understanding between the races, to study the Indian cultures of America, to foster education for American Indians, to provide direct help in emergencies faced by American Indian communities, to protest laws detrimental to American Indians and to promote the observance of American Indian Day.
Though previously active, the Indian Association of America was officially incorporated in the state of New York in 1950 as a non-profit organization. Frank Becker took over as “Great Sachem,” or President, in October of 1950 and led the organization until its dissolution in 1968. Its magazine, Smoke Signals, began publishing bi-monthly in June of 1949 with Dolores Becker serving as editor for the entirety of its run between 1949 and 1961. Frank Becker acted as a contributing editor and later as an advisory editor. The Indian Association of America formally dissolved in March of 1968.