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Week 14

Page history last edited by mwitgen@... 4 years, 6 months ago



American Indian Self-Determination


December 3: The Red Progressives and Reform



In the early twentieth century, a number of American Indian intellectuals rose to prominence as writers, teachers and activists. People like Charles Alexander Eastman and Zitkala-Sa played a major role in establishing the Society of American Indians (1911) and the National Council of American Indians (1926). These were progressive groups that sought to change conditions for American Indians through activism and politics. During the Great Depression, the Wheeler-Howard Act ushered in what has been called "The Indian New Deal": an era when the Federal Government enacted new progressive policies to help restore tribal sovereignty and to improve American Indians' economic conditions. As head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs during Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, John Collier took a mostly reformist attitude towards the Bureau's responsibilities to Indian nations. In this module we will consider the writings of two early-twentieth century Native American activists as well as the new direction in the BIA under John Collier in the 1930s.








Study Questions 

  1. Through which avenues did Charles Alexander Eastman try to change public awareness of Indian American Indians? Who did he speak to, work with, and correspond with, and on what topics?
  2. Judging from Eastman's chapter, what was the role of Christianity and European philosophies in the intellectual work of the "Red Progressives"? 
  3. According to Zitkala-Sa's article, what is "America's Indian Problem"? What does she argue are the most pressing issues that politicians ought to respond to? How would you categorize these generally?
  4. What, in a nutshell, was John Collier's reformist vision of his directorship of the Bureau of Indian Affairs?
  5. What do the different articles of the Indian Reorganization Act stipulate? In what ways does the act signal a reversal of Federal Indian policies?
  6. Do you think there are any limitations to the IRA, or any continuities with former US Indian policy? 




December 5: Nations within a Nation



After the Indian Reorganization Act and the period of the "Indian New Deal," the U.S. government ushered in the "Termination" era in the late 1940s. During this era the federal government tried to "get out of the Indian business," to borrow Vine Deloria and Clifford Lytle's phrase. "Termination" basically meant extinguishing the US federal government's relation with and responsibilities towards Indian nations, which is apparent in such cases as the Fort Berthold reservation and the termination of the Menominee tribe. In the first of these cases, the Three Affiliated Tribes (the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes) on the Fort Berthold reservation were pressured into giving up tribal lands for the construction of a dam that was to flood a large portion of the Lower Missouri River Valley. In the second case, Public Law 399 effectively ended the recognition of the Menominees as a tribal entity in 1954, until it was reversed during Richard Nixon's presidency in 1973.


These political issues, however, also spurred renewed Indian activism, and between 1954 and 1973 the political recognition of Indian people (and nations) began to change once again. For instance, the Salish Kootenai activist D'Arcy McNickle, who had worked under Collier during the 1930s and 1940s, founded the National Congress of American Indians in 1944 as a response to US termination policy. The 1961 "Declaration of Indian Purpose" at the Chicago conference ushered in an era of renewed Indian organization and activism, and in that same year the National Indian Youth Council was formed. And the occupation of Alcatraz (from 1969 to 1971) by the Indians of All Tribes captured great national attention. In this module we will continue our investigation of how issues of sovereignty came to the fore in the second half of the twentieth century. To do so, we will look closely at cases concerning Termination policy, and the history and politics of the Red Power movement in the 1960s. 






The Fort Berthold Reservation and the Garrison Dam


  •  The Fort Berthold Indians' Petition to Congress on the Garrison Dam Project (1947) 
  •  Photos (below):



 Secretary of the Interior J.A. Krug sings the order to transfer lands for Garrison Dam (1948)

  William Chaplis. Source: Lewis and Clark in Indian Country (Newberry Library)





  Source: Leo D. Harris, Water is Coming: Souvenir Garrison Dam Project (1949)


Menominee Termination



The American Indian Chicago Conference and the Alcatraz Occupation




Study Questions 

  1. How did the Fort Berthold Indian tribes resist and negotiate the plans for the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River? What economic, legal, and environmental arguments did they make to Congress in their petition of 1947?
  2. On what basis does House Concurrent Resolution 108 justify the termination of US-Indian relations? 
  3. How does Public Law 399 "end" Menominee's status as Indians? What different legal aspects are involved in this policy decision? And what were for President Richard Nixon the benefits of restoring tribal status to the Menominees?
  4. According to Harold Fey and D'Arcy McNickle, how did termination policy gain ground in the US federal government? What were the key decisions and policy proposals that characterized this era of Indian policy? 
  5. Pay attention to the rhetoric of the "Declaration of Indian Purpose" and the Indian of All Tribes' "Proclamation." Who do you think their audience was, and how do they critique US Indian policy? And on what basis did the Indians of All Tribes lay claim to Alcatraz Island? 
  6. Thinking across all of these sources, what would you say are the major differences between the Red Power movement and the concurrent Civil Right Movement in terms of its goals, its strategies, and its impact?  



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