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North American Studies
Diversity in the U.S. Chapter 7
Terms in this set (9)
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)
The agency of the US government that has primary responsibility for the administration of American Indian reservations
Dawes Allotment Act of 1887
impose white definitions of land ownership and transform American Indians into farmers by dividing their land among the families of each tribe; to give means to survive
Indian Reorganization Act (IRA)
Federal legislation passed in 1934 that was intended to give the Native americans more autonomy
tribes could expand landholdings
A policy by which all special relationships between the federal government and american indians would be abolished
The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act 1975
Increased educational aid to reservations
Increased tribal control over reservation administration
Primarily benefited larger well-established tribal administrative and governing structures
Allowed American Indian tribes to plot their own courses free of paternalistic regulation
Provided the tools and resources to address their problems and improve their situations
1960s and 1970s movement that also stressed self-determination and pride in race and cultural heritage
Washington "fish-in," 1965
American Indian Movement, 1968
Alcatraz Island Occupation, 1969
Trail of Broken Treaties, 1972
Wounded Knee Occupation, 1973
Since the early 1970s, lawsuits and court cases have predominated over dramatic direct confrontations
Indians as bloodthirsty, ferocious, and inhumanly cruel capable of any atrocity
Indians in complete harmony with nature and symbols of goodwill and pristine simplicity
Assimilation and pluralism
A sizable minority of American Indians (28%) speaks a tribal language as well as English
Of the ten largest tribes, 20% speak a tribal language in addition to English
Most Navaho and Pueblo speak a tribal language at home and sizable proportions speak English less than "very well"
I. Chapter Overview
II. Size of the Group
A. There were almost 4.5 million people who claim at least some American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry, but only about 2.3 million if we confine the group to people who select one race only. By either count, the group is a tiny minority (about 1%) of the total US population. The population of American Indians has been growing rapidly over the past several decades, in part due to higher birth rates, but mainly a result of changing definitions of race in the larger society and greater willingness of people to claim Indian ancestry.
III. American Indian Cultures
A. American Indian and Anglo-American relationships have been shaped by the vast differences in culture, values, and norms between the two groups. These differences have hampered communication in the past and continue to do so in the present.
B. The most obvious difference between American Indian and Western cultures lies in their respective conceptions of the relationship between human beings and the natural world. In the traditional view of many American Indian cultures, the universe is a unity. Humans are simply a part of a larger reality, no different from or more important than other animals, plants, trees, and the earth itself.
C. The concept of private property was not prominent in American Indian cultures.
D. American Indian cultures and societies also tended to be more oriented toward groups than toward individuals. The interests of the self were subordinated to those of the group, and child-rearing practices strongly encouraged group loyalty.
E. Many American Indian tribes were organized around egalitarian values. Virtually all tribes had a division of labor based on gender, but women's work was valued, and they often occupied far more important positions in tribal society than was typical for women in Anglo-American society.
F. These different values, compounded by the power differentials that emerged, often placed American Indians at a disadvantage when dealing with the dominant group.
IV. Relations with the Federal Government After the 1890s
A. Reservation Life.
1. Reservations were not run by the tribes but by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), an agency of the federal government.
2. The BIA controlled all aspects of daily life such as the reservation budget, the criminal justice system, and the schools. It even determined tribal membership.
3. The traditional leadership structures and political institutions of the tribes were ignored as the BIA executed its duties with little regard for, and virtually no input from, the people it supervised.
4. Coercive Acculturation: The Dawes Act and Boarding Schools.
a. American Indians on the reservations were subjected to coercive acculturation or forced Americanization. The key piece of U.S. Indian policy was the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887.
b. The intention of the act was to give each Indian family the means to survive like their white neighbors. However, by allotting land to families and individuals, the legislation sought to destroy the kinship, clan, and tribal social structures and replace them with Western systems that emphasized individualism and the profit.
c. The BIA also sent American Indian children to boarding schools sometimes hundreds of miles away from parents and kin. When school was not in session, children were often boarded with local white families, usually as unpaid domestic helpers or farm hands.
d. Consistent with the Blauner (1972) hypothesis, tribal languages, dress, and religion were forbidden. Children at these schools were required to speak English, convert to Christianity, and become educated in the ways of Western civilization.
B. The Indian Reorganization Act
1. The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 broke with the federal policies of
the past. It rescinded the Dawes Act (1887) and the policy of individualizing
2. It provided means by which the tribes could expand their land holdings.
3. It dismantled much of the coercive Americanization in the school system.
4. Financial aid in various forms and expertise were made available for the economic development of the reservations.
5. It proposed an increase in American Indian self-governance and a reduction of the paternalistic role of the BIA and other federal agencies.
6. It had variable effects on American Indian women. In tribes that were male dominated, the IRA gave women new rights to participate in politics. In other cases, new political structures simply replaced traditional forms.
7. Many of the IRA's intentions were never realized, and the empowerment of the
tribes was not unqualified.
C. The Termination Policy
D. Relocation and Urbanization
1. In 1953, Congress passed a resolution calling for an end to the reservation system. The proposed policy was called termination. It rejected the IRA and proposed a return to the system of private land ownership imposed on the tribes by the Dawes Act (1887). Tribes opposed the policy strongly.
2. Under termination, treaty obligations between the federal government and the
tribes would end. Tribes would no longer exist as legally recognized entities, and tribal lands and other resources would be placed in private hands.
3. About 100 tribes were terminated. In most cases, the process was administered hastily, and fraud, misuse of funds, and other injustices were common.
4. Around the same time, programs were established to encourage American Indians to move to urban areas as government support for economic development on the reservation declined.
5. Over half of all American Indians are now urbanized, and since 1950, Indians have urbanized faster than the general population. Still, American Indians are the least-urbanized minority group.
1. The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (1975) increased aid to reservation schools and American Indian students and increased tribal control over the administration of the reservations.
2. The Self-Determination Act (1975) primarily benefited larger tribes and those that had well-established administrative and governing structures.
V. Protest and Resistance
A. Early Efforts
1. As BIA-administered reservations and coercive Americanization came to
dominate tribal life in the 20th century, new forms of Indian activism appeared. 2. The movement has focused on several complementary goals: protecting Native
American resources and treaty rights, striking a balance between assimilation and
pluralism, and finding a relationship with the dominant group that would permit
more life chances without sacrificing tribal identity and heritage.
3. The pan-tribal National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was founded in
1944 and stressed the importance of preserving the old ways and tribal institutions
as well as protecting Indian welfare.
B. Red Power
1. By the 1960s and 1970s, American Indian protest groups were finding ways to
express their grievances and problems to the nation. The Red Power movement,
encompassed a coalition of groups, most of which stressed self-determination and
pride in race and cultural heritage.
2. Red Power protests included a "fish-in" in 1965 after the state of Washington had tried to limit the fishing rights of several different tribes. The tribes depended on fishing for subsistence argued that their right to fish had been guaranteed by treaties signed in the 1850s.
3. In 1969, American Indians occupied Alcatraz Island, acting on an old law that granted them the right to reclaim abandoned federal land. Alcatraz was occupied for nearly four years and generated a great deal of publicity for the Red Power movement and the plight of American Indians.
4. In 1972, AIM organized a march on Washington, D.C., called the Trail of Broken Treaties." The intent of the marchers was to dramatize the problems of the tribes.
5. Since the early 1970s, the level of protest activity has declined, just as it has for the black protest movement. Lawsuits and court cases have predominated over dramatic, direct confrontations.
6. Part of the significance of the Red Power movement was that it encouraged both pan-tribal unity and a continuation of tribal.
VI. The Continuing Struggle for Development in Contemporary American Indian-White Relations
A. Natural Resources
1. Land allotted to American Indian tribes in the 19th century sometimes turned out to be rich in resources (e.g., oil, natural gas, uranium) that became valuable in the 20th century. The challenge faced by American Indians is to retain control of these resources and to develop them for the benefit of the tribes.
2. Some tribes have succeeded in developing their resources for their own benefit. On many other reservations, however, resources lie dormant, awaiting tribal leadership, expertise, and development capital.
3. Tribes are banding together to share expertise and negotiate more effectively with the larger society. Twenty-five tribes founded the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT) in 1975 to coordinate and control the development of the mineral resources on reservation lands.
B. Attracting Industry to the Reservation
1. Many efforts to develop the reservations have focused on creating jobs by attracting industry through incentives such as low taxes, low rents, and a low-wage pool of labor. With some exceptions, these efforts have not been particularly successful and opportunities for building economic power or improving the standard of living from these jobs are limited.
2. Most wage-earning jobs on the reservation are with the agencies of the federal
government (e.g., the BIA) or with the tribal government. Tourism is large and
growing, but the jobs available in that sector are typically low wage and seasonal.
3. As of 1990, the median family income
for the Navajo was $13,940—about one-third the median family income for white
Americans in that year—and nearly half the tribe lived below the poverty line.
4. Only about half of all Navajo have high school degrees, and fewer than 5% have
5. Some tribes have achieved relative prosperity by bringing jobs to their people.
C. Broken Treaties
1. Treaties signed with the federal government in the 19th century offer another potential resource. Many tribes are seeking compensation for the wrongs of the past.
D. Gaming and Other Development Possibilities
1. The gambling industry is another potential resource for American Indians, the
development of which was made possible by federal legislation passed in 1988.
2. Profits from the casino are used to benefit tribal members. For example, by
repurchasing tribal lands, or by providing housing assistance, medical benefits,
educational scholarships, and public services. Profits also go to purchase other businesses such as restaurants and manufacturing plants.
3. Some tribes have sought to capitalize on their freedom from state regulation and
taxes such as selling products such as cigarettes, tax-free.
4. American Indians have an opportunity to dramatically raise their standards of
living thanks to increased autonomy, treaty rights, natural resources, and
gambling. However, American Indians continue to be limited by poverty and
powerlessness, prejudice, and discrimination.
VII. Contemporary American Indian-White Relations
A. Prejudice and Discrimination
1. One stereotype, especially strong during periods of conflict, depicts Indians as
bloodthirsty, ferocious, and inhumanly cruel savages. Another is of Native
Americans as "the noble redman" who lives in complete harmony with nature
and symbolizes goodwill and simplicity.
2. American Indians are often portrayed as bucks and squaws with headdresses,
bows, tepees, and other such "generic" Indian artifacts. These portrayals obliterate
the diversity of American Indian culture and lifestyles.
3. American Indians are often referred to in the past tense, as if their present situation were of no importance or as if they no longer existed.
4. Many history books begin the study of American history in Europe or with the "discovery" of America, omitting the millennia of civilization prior to the arrival of European explorers and colonizers.
5. Controversies surround nicknames for athletic teams (the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians, and the Atlanta Braves) and the use of American Indian mascots, tomahawk "chops," and other practices offensive to many American Indians. Protests against these nicknames and uses have been attacked, ridiculed, and ignored.
6. A decrease in anti-Indian prejudice over time can be seen through social distance scale results although the results do not necessarily reflect trends in the general population.
7. Research is unclear about the severity or extent of discrimination against American Indians. Opportunities to develop human capital are much less available to American Indians than to the rest of the population. Too little evidence exists about individual discrimination or more overt forms of exclusion to make clear conclusions.
B. Assimilation and Pluralism
Despite more than a century of coercive Americanization, many tribes have been able to preserve much of their traditional cultures.
Religions and value systems, political and economic structures, cuisine, and recreational patterns have all survived the military conquest and the depredations of reservation life; each pattern has been altered, however, by contact with the dominant group.
American Indians have been considerably more successful than African
Americans in preserving their traditional cultures.
2. Secondary Structural Assimilation
a. Residential Patterns. Since the Indian Removal Act of 1830, American Indians have been concentrated in the western two thirds of the nation. Residential segregation is much lower for American Indians than for African Americans.
b. School Integration and Educational Attainment. Although the percentage of high school graduates has increased dramatically over the past three decades, levels of education are still lower than for the nation as a whole. One positive development is the increase in tribally controlled colleges, mostly 2-year community colleges, which have been built since the 1960s.
c. Political Power. The ability of American Indians to exert power as a voting bloc is limited because they are a tiny percentage of the electorate. Their political power is also limited by their lower average levels of education, language differences, lack of economic resources, and fractional differences within and between tribes and reservations.
d. Jobs and Income. The overall unemployment rate for all American Indians is about double the rate for whites. For Indians living on or near reservations, it is much higher. Income data reflect the higher levels of unemployment and lower levels of education. In 1997, the percentage of American Indians living in poverty had fallen to 25% but was still almost three times the poverty rate for whites.
3. Primary Structural Assimilation.
Rates of intermarriage for American Indians are high compared with
other groups. The higher rate of marriage outside the group for Native
Americans is partly the result of their small size. It also indicates the extent of acculturation and integration for American Indians.
C. Comparing Minority Groups.
1. Comparing the experiences of American Indians to other groups will further our
understanding of the complexities of dominant-minority relationships and permit
us to test the explanatory power of the concepts and theories in this text.
2. American Indians and African Americans had different stereotypes attached to them during the early years of European colonization. The stereotypes are consistent with the outcomes of the contact period. The supposed irresponsibility of blacks under slavery helped justify their subordinate, highly controlled status, and the alleged savagery of American Indians helped to justify their near extermination by white society.
3. Both American Indians and African Americans were colonized minority groups, but their contact situations were governed by different dynamics (competition for labor vs. land) and a different dominant group agenda (the capture and control of a large, powerless work force vs. the elimination of a perceived military threat)
4. Differing contact situations shaped subsequent relationships with the dominant group and the place of the groups in the larger society. While African Americans
spent much of the 20th century struggling for inclusion and equality, Native
Americans fought to maintain or recover their traditional cultures and
VIII. Progress and Challenges
A. Linear or simplistic views of assimilation do not fit the current situation or the
past experiences of American Indians very well. American Indians can be found
at every degree of acculturation and integration, and the group seems to be moving
toward assimilation in some ways and away from it in others.
B. American Indians have struggled from conquest and colonization, an experience
made more difficult by the loss of their land and other resources and by attacks on
their culture and language.
C. The key to further progress for many American Indians is economic
development on reservation lands and the further strengthening of the tribes as
functioning social units.
D. Urban Indians confront the same patterns of discrimination and racism that confront
other minority groups of color. Members with lower levels of education
and job skills face the prospects of becoming a part of a permanent urban underclass.
IX. Comparative Focus: Australian Aborigines and American Indians
A. Australia came under European domination in the late 1700s, nearly 2 centuries after the beginning of Anglo-American Indian relations.
B. But shared features include: the colonial power was Great Britain; first contact occurred in preindustrial era; the indigenous peoples of both North America and Australia were thinly spread across vast areas and were greatly inferior to the British in their technological development; European diseases reduced both indigenous populations; both groups were seen as "savages" by the colonizers; and coercive acculturation was attempted.
C. The contemporary situation of Australian Aborigines has many parallels with American Indians as well. The groups are largely rural and live on less desirable land; there is a huge gap between the indigenous population and the rest of society on every statistic that measures quality of life, equality, and access to resources; similar issues animate both groups and the overall pictures are both mixed.
D. Both groups validate the Blauner and Noel hypotheses: they are colonized minority groups and victims of European domination.
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