Native America 1945 - 2000

Native America, 1945-

 

Although many Native Americans did benefit from educational improvements, the availability of capital funds for tribal enterprises, the restoration of tribal government, and the legalizing of tribal culture including religion, the full potential of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 was never realized.

Bureaucratic inertia and hostility toward the reforms by federal employees who had direct contact with Indians on the western reservations and who were responsible for carrying out the statutes transforming provisions managed to reduce its potential impact.

Another deterrent to fulfillment of the goals of the Indian Reorganization Act was the nation’s involvement in World War II which necessarily turned public and private attention from internal to external concerns.

As in World War I, Native Americans strongly supported the nation’s war effort;

over 21,000 Indians served on active duty with the United States armed forces,

and additional thousands were employed in war-related industries.

Then, in the post-World War II era, when application of the Indian reorganization Act could seriously be resumed,

Congress began to urge that the federal government "liberate" Indians from national oversight, that it break up reservations and liquidate tribal governments, only recently restored by the Indian Reorganization Act, and that it stop "coddling" Native Americans.

DEMISE OF INDIAN REFORM

In the early postwar years a huge public debt from heavy wartime expenditures stirred Wide concern and inevitably led Congress to an economy-in-government course.

Congressional committees examined all functions supported by federal funds.

Expenditures for improvement of Indian welfare were readily challenged, and several legislators began to agitate that Congress end the federal government’s relation \pith the Indian tribes.

Their demands evolved into a policy which came to be called Termination.

Origins of Termination

What Termination congressmen were seeking to accomplish was to conclude federal responsibility for Native Americans:

end federal treaty obligations to the Indian tribes, settle all outstanding claims of the tribes against the United States, conclude all treaty-assigned special concessions to tribes, liquidate trust funds, wipe out reservations as anomalous political enclaves within the states, and eradicate tribal governments which the Indian Reorganization act had only recently restored.

This proposed policy of Termination would apply to most tribes with the exception of Indian communities in several of the original states..

After 1776 most of these tribal fragments, from New England to Virginia, were presumably absorbed by the original states and thus had no treaty relationship or ward status with the United States.

For Native Americans under federal wardship, law and custom had established their respective tribes as quasi-sovereign entities.

Through the years, several states had attempted to establish local jurisdiction over tribes and their lands, but federal court decisions, particularly Worcester v. Georgia (1832), had exempted Indian tribes from state jurisdiction.

Assimilation-that is, the absorption of Indians into the dominant society erasing tribal culture and status and enabling the federal government to terminate its special relation with the Indian tribes—

Was an early goal of Henry Knox and Thomas Jefferson.

Most federal Indian policy during the nineteenth century was directed to that end, although the general public’s attitudes made its consummation impossible.

President Andrew Jackson‘s forced exile and segregation of the eastern tribes in the Western Wilderness delayed the assimilation process and complicated its achievement although federal action terminated several tribes in the nineteenth century.

After the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek (1830), those Choctaws who elected not to relocate in the Indian Territory were stripped of their federal relationship and assigned to Mississippi state jurisdiction.

Following liquidation of the northern portion of the Indian Territory (1853-1854), federal officials terminated Indians from several tribes in Kansas Territory;

subsequently they terminated Cherokees who lived in North Carolina.

A primary goal of the General Allotment Act (1887) was to liquidate tribal estates, abolish tribal governments, and place Indian allottees in a position where they could be individualized and thus terminated from federal direction and protection.

The corollary citizenship acts passed between 1887 and 1924 were attempts to terminate Indians and transfer them from federal to state jurisdiction.

Certainly that portion of the Burke Act (1906) which empowered the secretary of the interior to declare allottees competent to manage their affairs was intended, besides gaining for non-Indians easier access to restricted allotments, to terminate Native American allottees.

This was particularly the case during the "forced patent" period (1917-1921) when farcical competency hearings drastically increased the number of Indians separated from the federal relationship.

Increasingly the federal government had delegated functions in Indian affairs to tire states, each as a gesture in the direction of eventual termination.

This transfer occurred quite early in Indian education and was formalized by the Jolmson-O’Slalley Act (1934)

which, besides education, permitted federal officials to contract with state governments for provision of welfare and health services to Indians.

And many of the features of the Indian Reorganization Act were conceived to enable the federal government eventually to reduce its oversight of the tribes and to terminate certain functions.

Another step in concluding federal relations with Indians was the Social Security Act (1935), in which Congress delegated social services to the states.

The statute provided aid for families with dependent children, for the blind, and for permanently disabled persons.

The program was to be administered through the states for all persons, including Indians both on and off reservations.

And through the years, either by federal delegation or state assumption, state laws regulated sanitation, quarantine, inheritance, health, education, and general Iaw-and-order matters on many Indian reservations.

The secretary of the interior applied state law to determine the descent and distribution of individually owned Indian property as well as restricted allotments except in the cases of the Five Civilized Tribes and the Osages.

Under the Assimilative Crimes Act of 1945 offenses committed on reservations not covered under a specific federal statute and punishable under state law were to be tried in federal courts in accordance with the appropriate state laws.

Certain offenses committed by one Indian against another, however, could be tried under tribal law.

A major step toward ending the federal relationship with the Indian tribes was taken by Congress in 1946 when it created tile Indian Claims Commission.

The federal government is immune from suit except by permission; thus in 1855 Congress established the Court of Claims to adjudicate actions against me United States.

However, an act of 1863 prohibited the court from considering any claim growing out of treaties with foreign nations or Indian tribes.

Thus a tribe had to obtain a special act of Congress in order to bring suit against the United States for damages, and doing so proved extremely difficult.

 

Even if a tribe received congressional approval to bring suit against the United States, the Court of Claims' docket had become so encumbered that it might have to wait years, perhaps a century, for a hearing.

During his tenure as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Charles Rhoads recommended formation of a special tribunal to hear Indian claims, and beginning in 1929 several bills to this end were introduced in the Congress.

 

Not until 1946, however, was legislation adopted establishing the Indian Claims Commission.

 

Its function was to adjudicate all valid claims of the tribes against the United States.

 

Awards of the commission were to offset "unconscionable negotiations" by government agents with tribal leaders for land and other Indian properties.

 

In addition, the awards were to make restitution for misuse of tribal trust funds, loss of hunting and fishing rights, improper appropriation of tribal minerals and timber, and any other unbecoming actions perpetrated by tile Anglo-American nation against Indian communities.

 

In 1947 a comprehensive study of tile national government for ways to remove waste, duplication, and inefficiency, and to reduce public expenditures strongly recommended ending the federal government's relationship with the Indian tribes.

 

Former President Herbert Hoover headed the special study commission which examined all phases of the national government.

 

Its report anticipated Termination in its recommendation that pending discontinuance of all specialized Indian activiity on the part of the federal government, the Bureau of Indian Affairs be transferred

 

...to a new deportment for social security, education, and Indian affairs. ... When the trust status of Indian lands has ended, thus permitting their taxation, and surplus Indian families have established themselves off the reservations, special aid to the state and local governments for indion programs should end. The Indians will have been integrated economically and politically, as well as culturally.

 

Supported by the Hoover Commission report recommendations on Termination, congressional leaders in 1947 requested that the Bureau of Indian Affairs list those tribes best prepared to dispense with federal services.

 

They planned to use the selected tribes as the pilot group for Termination. Shortly, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Dillon S. Myer established a special staff to prepare all tribes for Termination.

 

Indian Reactions

 

By the mid-1940s Indian leaders realized that the nation was not interested in Indian welfare, that bureaucratic inertia and hostility to the Indian Reorganization Act were weakening its potential benefits, and that tribal treaty rights were in jeopardy.

 

In an attempt to safeguard Native American interests, tribal leaders and prominent Indian professional men and women met at Denver in 1941 and formed the National Congress of American Indians.

 

The organization was committed to informing the public of the continuing problems of Indians,

 

to protecting Native American treaty rights and guarding tribal land and resources, preserving Indian culture, and retaining the advances made under the Indian Reorganization Act and pressing for the act's fulfillment.

 

The National Congress of American Indians became a strong lobby force working with the Indian Rights Association to protect Native American interests before Congress.

 

For years it directed most of its attention to defeating the Termination policy.

 

Termination

 

Unprecedented industrial and urban expansion after 1945 placed great pressure on the nation to provide natural resources and space that, match the demands of its drastically increasing population and industrial establishment.

 

Surviving Indian reservations held promise of partial solutions, for they were rich in minerals, energy, timber, and water, and development space for the nation's sprawling cities.

 

Coexisting with postwar resource and space needs was a growing public resentment toward Indians derived from what the obscurantists claimed was "coddling" of Native Americans under the Indian Reorganization Act.

 

Thus there arose a demand in the Congress to "liberate" Indians from control by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, break up the remaining reservations, abolish tribal governments, only recently restored by the Indian Reorganization Act, and terminate all federal responsibility for Indian welfare.

 

Several persons were involved in working out details of the policy of Termination. Commissioner Myer was a principal.

 

As director of the War Relocation Authority during World War II Myer had managed over 100,000 Japanese-Americans held in prison camps across the nation.

 

Myer characterized reservations as prison camps.

 

He favored "liberating" the Native Americans from reservations by terminating federal health services, education, and other benefits provided by the Indian Reorganization Act.

 

He believed that providing Indians with these services and protecting their property from "white predators" were "discriminate over-privileges.""

 

Termination advocates in Congress were led by Arthur Watkins, senator from Utah and chairman of the Senate Interior Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, and E. I. Berry, congressman from South Dakota and member of the House Indian Affairs Committee.

 

Watkins was determined to move Indians into the "mainstream," freeing the federal government of its responsibility to them.

 

Using the Hoover Commission report and other studies of the Indian tribes as foundations for action, Congress began putting together the Termination program in 1952.

 

House Resolution 698 directed the staff of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to report on the ability of Indians to manage their affairs,

 

to determine, as recommended by the Hoover Commission report, those functions for Indians that could be transferred either to another federal agency or to the states.

 

Myer reported that federal relations with Indians in California, Michigan, Kansas, and New York could be discontinued at once, and that for several federal agents had been preparing Indians in Oregon, Washington, cousin, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Louisiana for termination.

 

Thereupon House Committee on Indian Affairs urged that legislation be adopted concluding the trust status of Indian allottees, and that all Indians be required to up all duties, obligations, and privileges of free citizens.

 

Thus in 1953 congress adopted House Concurrent Resolution 108 which stated that tribes in California, Florida, New York, and Texas, as well as the Flatheads in Montana,

 

Klamaths in Oregon, Menominees in Wisconsin, Potawatomis in and Nebraska, and those Chippewas on the Turtle Mountain reservation in North Dakota, should be terminated from their federal relationship.

 

The resolution further stated that once appropriate legislation had been passed, members of these tribes were expected to assume the rights and privileges of American citizenship and all Bureau of Indian Affairs services for them were to cease.

 

Congress subsequently adopted a series of laws implementing the policy of Termination.

 

One law transferred Indian medical and health services from Bureau of Indian Affairs to the United States Public Health Service. Another authorized officials in the states of California, Minnesota. Nebraska, n, and Wisconsin to exercise general civil and criminal jurisdiction over on reservations within their state boundaries.

 

State jurisdiction over Indians had been increasing since passage of the Assimilative Crimes Act of 1948.

 

Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida had assumed civil and criminal jurisdiction over local reservation Indians without federal authorization, and certain counties in Washington, Nevada, and Idaho had applied local law to Native Americans.

 

In 1954 Termination applied to specific tribes began when the Alabama and Coushatta tribes of Texas (the state of Texas took over their reservation in trust),

 

the California rancheria and reservation tribes, the Klamath tribe and scattered bands of Indians in Oregon, the hlenominee tribe of Wisconsin, the Ottawa, Wyandot, and Peoria tribes of Oklahoma, and Paiute tribe and the Uintah and Ouray Ute mixed bloods in Utah were severed from the federal relationship.

 

Legislation in 1959 terminated the Catawba Indians of South Carolina, and, in 1962, the Ponca tribe of Nebraska.

 

Thus between 1954 and 1962 Congress stripped 61 tribes, groups, hands, and communities and ranchcrias of federal services and protection.

 

The Seminoles of Florida were marked for Termination even though "only one-fifth of the tribe spoke English and most of them were so poor they didn't own a pair of shoes.

 

Somehow the subcommittee felt that if they simply tried a little harder they would come through the experience."3

 

One phase of the Termination program was relocation, the process by which federal agents transferred Indian families from rural allotments and reservations to urban centers and provided them with vocational training and assistance in finding housing and employment.

 

For half a century, particularly during World Wars I and II, many Indians by their own initiative and resources had moved to the cities to work in war industries.

 

Through the years Indians educated academically, vocationally, and professionally were also finding their way in the cities.

 

The recent phenomenal increase in Indian population put great pressure upon the limited reservation land.

 

As recommended by the Hoover Commission report,

 

relocation was the means to encourage surplus Indian population to move to the cities to establish a new life of urban employment

 

was made a part of the Termination program in 1952 when the Bureau of Indian Affairs established the Voluntary Relocation Program, later called the Employment Assistance Program.

 

It provided Indians vocational training, travel money, moving expenses, and assistance in finding jobs and housing, in addition to one year of medical care and a month's subsistence allowance.

 

In 1957 the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Adult Vocational Training Program improved Indian education by providing exceedingly valuable vocational and academic education to produce marketable skills among relocated Indian workers.

 

Denver, Phoenix, Albuqurque, San Francisco, Dallas, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Chicago have been the principal centers of relocated Indian settlements.

 

By 1960 more than 35,000 Indians had been relocated; about 30 percent returned to the reservations.

 

Termination, except for relocation, had generally negative effects upon all tribes separated from federal oversight; the policy created almost total chaos and destitution among the Menominees and Klamaths.

 

Both tribes lived on reservations containing valuable timber tracts.

 

The Menominees had prospered for years from their tribally owned commercial forest industry which provided employment for Indian workers and profits for the tribe.

 

The Klamaths lived on a million-acre reservation in Oregon;

 

their timber was valued at $120 million.

 

Federal officials pressured both tribes to approve Termination by warning tribal leaders that funds owed the tribes from federal settlements (the Menominees were to receive $8 million) would be withheld until they voted affirmatively.

 

Neither tribe was permitted to vote on the specific Termination statute affecting it, only to approve Termination in principle.

 

Thus the Menominees had been assured that under Termination their hunting and fishing rights would be preserved, but their Termination statute made no mention of this.

 

Upon conclusion of their federal relationship their former reservation lands were incorporated as a county in Wisconsin, and they became subject to the state's game and fish laws.

 

Almost overnight several millions of dollars in tribal assets "disappeared in the rush to transform the reservation into a self-supporting county of Wisconsin."

 

A factor pushing for approval of Termination in both tribes was the influence of urban Indians, those who had moved from the reservations to the cities but maintained a political and economic interest in tribal affairs on the reservation.

 

Most of them favored Termination which would convert tribal assets to cash For per capita distribution.

 

The Klamath tribe numbered slightly over 2,000 persons; the per capita share at liquidation of tribal assets was to be $50,000 for each man, woman, and child on the tribal roll.4

 

NATIVE AMERICANS IN THE NEW ORDER

 

Antagonism to Termination eventually attracted public attention and, during the 1960s, generated a serious search by national leaders for alternative ways to improve Indian status and welfare.

 

This decade was also a time of increasing Indian insurgency, first serious activism, then militancy.

 

Urban Indians were principally responsible for precipitating ethnic consciousness and articulating demands for social and economic improvement.

 

For the first half of the 20th century most Indians lived on allotments, in rural settlements, and on reservations, and as a group were isolated from the nation's centers of activity.

 

Urbanization changed this.

 

The trickle of city-bound Indians, increased by relocation, appreciably swellld after WW II adding substantially to the urban Indian population.

 

Thus, by the close of the decade of the 1960s, when the Indian population numbered about 1 million, one third lived in cities, concentrating in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, and Albuquerque.

 

Many were educated, keenly aware and embittered at the exploitation and deprivation their people had endured for centuries at the hands of a succession of imperial nations.

 

Rather than permitting non-Indians to act on their behalf, urban Indians sought an independent course.

 

And their activist efforts inevitably took on an increasingly strident tone.

At the same time. reservation Indians also became sensitized to action for ethnic betterment, but their activism was more measured and restrained.

 

Urban and reservation Indians occasionally joined forces in a serious push for improvement in education and health,

 

for justice and equal protection, and for economic development to reduce endemic poverty through better employment opportunities,

 

land restoration, and Indian management of tribal resources.

 

All ethnic strivings for improvement were based on the theme of self-determination.

 

Paradoxically, the tempo of Indian stridency increased in proportion to growing government response to Indian demands fur economic and social justice, culminating in militant outbreaks of the early 1970s.

 

The Native American Condition

 

As politicians began to heed Native Americans and their problems, the decade of the 1960s, like the 1920s, became a time of investigation and study of conditions among Indians by commissions, task forces, congressional committees, and individual specialists.

 

Their findings yielded data which embarrassed the nation, led President Lyndon Johnson to call Indians "forgotten Americans," and eventually produced corrective action by the Congress.

Soon after his inauguration, President John F. Kennedy pledged to Indians that self-determination, protection of tribal lands, remedial justice, and respect for ethnic heritage would be paramount concerns of his administration

 

And in 1961 Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall appointed a task force on Indian affairs, chaired by W. W. Keeler, principal chief of the Cherokee nation.

 

Like the Meriam Commission 35 years earlier, this investigatory group visited Indian settlements, interviewed Indians, and inspected conditions on reservations.

 

The task force report claimed that emphasis by Bureau of Indian Affairs officials on Termination rather than development of tribal resources had "impaired Indian morale and produced a hostile or apathetic response" to federal programs.

 

It added that federal policy should be so framed that it would assist Indians

to advance socially, economically, and politically to the point where special services for this group of Americans are no longer needed.

 

Keeler's group recommended that Indians should assume greater control over reservation matters, develop reservation resources, and attract industrial firms to provide employment.

 

The task force concluded that self-determination, "development rather than Termination," and Indian cooperation and participation were essential for future federal policy.

In 1961 two additional studies of Indians were released. One was conducted by the Commission on Rights, Liberties, and Responsibilities of the American Indian, headed by William Brophy and sponsored by the Fund for the Republic.

 

The report was largely a survey of the cumulative effects of Termination upon the Indian tribes, and it pointed to new directions for the federal government in developing a more constructive Indian policy which stressed self-determination.

 

The second study, by the United States Commission on Civil Rights, was concerned with the status of Indians regarding discrimination in employment of Indians,

 

lack of equality before the law, and other

manifestations of prejudice and differential treatment of Indians attempting to make it in the Mainstream.

A comprehensive study of Indian education, the Coleman Report, was released in 1966.

 

It surveyed education as dominated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs which had attempted to transform Indians into the image of Anglo-Americans but had failed;

 

in the process creating many dysfunctional, marginal persons.

 

In addition, it exposed the trials of Indians in public schools and the corrupt diversion by school administrators of Johnson-O'Malley had earmarked for their benefit.

 

The report concluded that American Indians experience more stigma and self-hatred than any other ethnic group.

 

Also in 1966 a White House Task Force on Indian Health surveyed medical and sanitation conditions on reservations.

 

Its findings on health care for Indians were so horrendous that the results were never released to the puhlic.

 

And in 1969 at presidential request,.Alvin Josephy, Jr., author, editor, and authority on Indian history, made an extensive study of federal Indian policy.

 

Josephy recommended action at the highest level to allay fears among the Indians of Termination.

 

In addition, he urged that functions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs be transferred to the office of the President for more prompt and direct attention to Indian matters.

 

Congressional investigations during the 1960s included work hb a Senate special subcommittee on Indian education.

 

Chaired initially by Robert Kennedy, later by his Brother Edward, held hearings on western reservations, in urban Indian settlements; and in Washington on the question of the quality of Indian education.

 

After two years of hearings, staff studies, and field investigations, the subcommittee released a seven-volume report.

 

It concluded that the Bureau of Indian Affairs -managed educational system was "hopelessly inadequate" and "unable to lift Indians from a self-perpetuating poverty cycle." Senator Edward Kennedy noted. "

 

The root of the trouble appears to be that the white man, in his benevolence, has sought to make Indian children over in his own image."

 

Federal efforts to educate Indians "have been marked by near total failure, haunted by prejudice and ignorance."

 

A major step in the direction of a solution, in the view of the Senate subcommittee, would be applying self-determination to education-to create school boards composed of Indians to formulate curriculum and school policy.

This rash of investigations of condition among the Indians led Wendell Chino, governor of the Mescalero Apaches, to complain, "We Indians have been studied to death by task forces."

 

However, because the findings of these studies were released and published, they were useful in stirring wide interest in the Indian plight.

 

The surveys revealed that unwholesome conditions among Native Americans, exposed by the Commission,

 

continued-neglect of Indian students in public schools and diversion of funds meant for Indian benefit to other purposes,

 

resumption of Americanization in the schools, persistence of Bureau of Indian Affairs marginal schools, and an Indian student dropout rate of 50 percent.

 

An estimated 10,000 Indians had received vocation training that bore little relevance to the jell market.

 

The studies revealed that both on reservations find in the cities poverty was the common condition among Indians.

 

During tile 1960s, unemployment among Indians averaged 40 percent, and among the Oglala Sioux at Pine Ridge reservation the rate was 75 percent, and 95 percent in winter.

 

Surveys made during tire 1960s revealed that in 1968 more than half of all white families had incomes of $5,893 and non-whites netted $3,161. Indian families received about $1,500.

 

Housing for Indians was rated substandard both for reservations and in cities; 83,000 reservation families lived in dilapidated dwellings without plumbing; in cities most Indians lived in crowded ghettoes.

 

On 22 percent of the reservations scientists found that water was contaminated and 70 percent of the water for household use on all reservations had to be hauled one mile or more.

 

Poverty, crowded households, and unsanitary conditions bred shockingly high rates of disease among Native Americans.

 

Their frequency of infection from hepatitis was 8 times greater than among other population groups,

 

They were 3 times as likely to die of pneumonia and influenza as non-Indians, and Indian infant mortality, tuberculosis, and alcoholism rates were the highest in the nation.

 

These conditions gave Native Americans a life expectancy of only 44 years compared to nearly 70 years for the white component of the nation's population.

 

Incidence of suicide for Indians was found to be 6 times greater than for any other population group in American society.

 

These grim revelations from the studies of the 1960s smote the national conscience and stirred politicians to adopt corrective programs which will be discussed subsequently.

 

They also fed an escalating ethnic consciousness and generated Native American activism as Indians sought themselves to accomplish improvements of their condition."

 

Native American Activism

 

Lack of progress in policy reform, deceit of federal officials, and tremendous pressure for Termination had destroyed the traditional patience among Indians.

 

And the increasing number of urban Indians, their rising ethnic consciousness, their crushed expectations at improving their condition, and their frequent witness to black and Mexican-American activism helped precipitate their own insurgency.

 

Urban Indians in the ghettos became increasingly alienated and hostile, feeling much like "immigrants in their own country."

 

While the Bureau of Indian Affairs provided at least minimal services for Indians on reservations,

 

it had virtually no program of assistance for urban Indians other than getting them relocated.

 

The Department of Labor maintained job centers for Indians and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare provided limited health services

 

but, for the most part during much of the 1960s, urban Indians remained an abandoned, neglected, suffering minority in the nation's swelling cities, responsive recruits for an emerging cadre of Indian activist leaders.

Indian activism began at the University of Chicago in 1961 when Sol Tax, an anthropologist, convened the American Indian Chicago Conference which resolved itself into the American Indian Charter Convention.

 

Nearly 500 Indians representing 67 tribes attended this conference.

 

The stated purpose of the meeting was "to review past policies and to formulate new ones."

 

Among other actions the group adopted the Declaration of Indian Purpose which articulated Indian goals and expectations with strong emphasis upon self determination andurged 'Indian involvement in the decision-making process for all programs that would affect them.""

The Chicago conference was also seminal for the cause of Indian activism.

 

Older tribal politicians, most of them active in the National Congress of American Indians, had dominated the Indian response to public policy from the close of World War II through the 1950s; they controlled the Chicago conference.

 

Many young Indian delegates felt excluded and, instead of following custom and silently deferring to age, they attempted to assert themselves.

 

Thwarted by the professional tribal politicians, they began to form a separate organization to accomplish their goals of improvement of Indian life.

 

From Chicago the young activists proceeded to Gallup, New Mexico, where, during the late summer, they completed formation of the National Indian Youth Conference,

 

committed to the mobilization of "Red Power,"

 

to articulate the discontent of urban Indians, to defend Indian rights,

 

and to establish a pattern of moderate radicalism to draw public attention to the Native American condition and support for reform,

 

many NIYC leaders were well educated, confident, proud of their Indianness and "ethnic uniqueness," and sensitized to the plight of Indians;

 

they included Clyde Warrior, a Ponca from Oklahoma, and Melvin Thom, a Paiute from Nevada.

 

NIYC founders denounced and ridiculed those Indians who submitted to establishment policy and protocol calling them Uncle Tomahawk, Apple Indian, Middle-Class Indian, and Indian Bureau Indian, adopted the slogan "For a Greater Indian America,"

 

and published a newspaper called ABC: Americans Before Columbus.

The National Indian Youth Conference action program, borrowing from the civil rights movement, sponsored demonstrations to protest deprivation of Indian rights.

 

Its members participated in the American Indian Capital Conference on Poverty in 1963 to agitate for inclusion of Indians in the Economic Opportunity Act.

 

And the following year the NIYC supported the Pacific Northwest tribes by staging "8sh-ins" to protest state action against local tribes.

 

Many of the Pacific Northwest tribes had lived for centuries by fishing.

 

Their fishing rights were set forth in treaties with the United States, confirmed by federal court decisions and by a law of Congress in 1954 specifically exempting these Indian communities from state jurisdiction as to exercise of fishing rights.

 

However, state courts, particularly in Washington, countered these exemptions.

 

State game rangers harassed Indian fishermen, seized their boats and equipment, and arrested them for violating state laws.

 

NIYC sponsored "fish-ins" mustered over 100 Indians from a score of tribes to protest this stale suppression of Indian rights.

Other Indian activist groups of the 1960s included the Indian Land Rights Association, formed to seek restoration of sequestered tribal lands,

 

and the American Indian Civil Rights Council, created by Sioux leaders for the benefit of all Indians.

Alaskan native peoples, caught up in the decade's rising ethnic consciousness and confronted by serious threats to their tribal lands and resources by expanding timber, mineral, and petroleum interests, also united in protective associations.

 

The Alaskan Native Brotherhood and Alaskan Native Sisterhood, founded in 1912, had stressed Native American acculturation and rights, but of necessity had become increasingly protectionist of the aboriginal interest.

 

Then in 1966 native peoples in the nation's northernmost state formed the Alaskan Federation of Natives to strengthen their position in the contest for control of Alaskan lands and resources.

 

Throughout the 1960s, the National Congress of American Indians remained the principal organization for advancing general Indian interests.

 

As it became increasingly involved in urban Indian problems, tribal leaders on reservations formed the National Tribal Chairman's Association to protect their position and interest.

 

All these groups were a si~ificant force in the formulation of new policy, programs, and general improvement of the Indian condition, a hallmark of the 1960s.

 

Corrective Programs for Native Americans

 

Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon provided crucial leadership for the Congress to adopt social reform laws which lessened poverty and afforded opportunity for improvement of the lives of whites in Appalachia, blacks in ghettos, Mexican-Americans in barrios and finally, Indians on reservations and in cities.

 

Authoritative surveys by measures of economic status ranked Indians the lowest, as a group enduring :most social deprivation.

 

All three chief executives expressed self-determination and development of individual skills and reservation resources as ultimate goals of new Indian policy. Kennedy urged "lifting Indian living standards."

 

Both Johnson and Nixon presented special messages on Indian to Congress in their appeals for support of Indian programs.

 

Johnson in 1969 stressed "partnership, not paternalism" to serve as the guideline federal relations with the tribes; he placed emphasis on Indian self-help, "respect for Indian culture."

President Nixon in his special message on Indian affairs to Congress in 1970 rejected "forced Termination" as harmful and committed the United States government "to strengthen the Indian's sense of autonomy without threatening his sense of community."

 

One of the first relief measures of the decade for improving the Indians' standard of living came in the Public Housing Act of 1961, which assisted Indians in improving their homes.

 

Federal funds, advanced in the form of loans, enabled Indians through "mutual self-help'--donating land and labor for construction--to obtain new dwellings.

 

First construction of Indian homes under this program began on the San Carlos Apache Reservation and by 1963, 31 tribes were participating.

 

.

Also during 1961 Indian tribes became eligible for employment assistance under the Area Redevelopment Act.

 

The Economic Development Administration was authorized to make grants to communities in areas of chronic economic distress and unemployment, including Indian reservations.

 

Tribes could apply for grants to construct public buildings including community halls, tribal headquarters, and structures to attract industry to reservations.

 

Tribes were permitted to contribute land and services in lieu of cash as matching funds.

 

Scattered federal efforts to cope with poverty came to focus on a series of national conferences.

 

One, the Capital Conference on Indian Poverty held in Washington in 1964, was sponsored by the Council on Indian Affairs, a coalition of Indian-support groups including the Indian Rights Association and several religious bodies.

 

Indian delegates reported on the extent of poverty in each tribe.

 

Warrior and Thom for the NIYC and LaDonna Harris, Comanche leader, urged federal officials to include Indians in the antipoverty programs then under consideration in Congress.

 

Their efforts were successful. The Economic Opportunity Act adopted in 1964, created the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administer comprehensive antipoverty programs.

 

The act permitted Indian communities to be sponsoring agencies, to develop community programs on reservations, and to employ Indians in these programs.

As sponsoring agencies the tribal governments could receive federal funds for Head Start (early childhood education to develop language and social skills),

 

Upward Bound (to encourage students to complete secondary education and continue into college),

 

Vista (volunteers serving Indian communities to work on projects developed by tribal leaders), and Indian Community Action programs (to bring technical services and financial assistance to the tribes and reservations to initiate worthwhile projects employing Indians).

 

Tribes were encouraged to formulate plans for local improvements and then contract with the federal government to operate the projects on an advance of federal funds.

 

The Economic Opportunity Act transferred decision making to the community.

 

As under the Indian Reorganization Act, Indian tribes were recognized as local governments eligible to receive OEO funds.

Programs providing additional assistance to Indians included the State and Local Fiscal Assistance Act (1972) establishing revenue sharing between the federal and state and local governments.

 

The act included those Indian tribes having a recognized governing body performing substantial governmental functions.

 

In 1974 Congress enacted the Indian Financing Act.

 

It consolidated several loan funds and increased the principal amount available for approved Indian business projects.

 

In 1974 the Housing and Community Development Act set aside $15 million each year for two years for construction of Indian housing.

 

And the Indian Self-Determination Act in 1975 permitted Indian tribes to participate in all social welfare programs and services conducted by the federal government.

 

Tribal leaders were allowed to establish priorities and goals in projects for Indian empowerment and for social services free of federal domination.

 

By this statute the tribal governing body became the sole authority for the tribe in regards to Indian self-determination matters.

 

It set forth the procedure for contracting for Bureau of Indian Affairs programs and services including education.

 

Thus tribes could formulate plans to restructure Bureau of Indian Affairs programs and influence the way programs function.

 

And the stature contained a denial of Termination: "Congress declares its commitment to the maintenance of the federal government's unique relationship with and responsibility to the Indian people."

 

Congress also gave considerable attention to Indian education, regarding it as the ultimate means of accomplishing permanent Native American improvement.

 

The Manpower Development and Training Act (1962) provided for vocational facilities and programs for preparing Indians for the Iabor market in semiskilled and skilled assignments.

 

The Economic Opportunity Act extended educational opportunity for Indian students from kindergarten to college.

 

Then in 1972 Congress passed the Indian Education Act which established innovative and compulsory educational programs for Indian students.

 

The Indian Self-Determination Act contained an education section providing assistance to Indian students and schools

 

;and required Indian management of their schools.

 

Indian school boards had managed educational instruction among the Navajos, Pimas, and Sac and Fox of Iowa during the 1960s.

 

This practice increased after adoption of the Indian Self-Determination Act.

 

Federal law required teachers of Indian students to be trained to instruct students in their native languages as well as in English.

 

By 1970, 10 percent of the Indian student body attended public schools;

 

Congress provided impact aid" as a subsidy to public schools With Indian student enrollment but required that these funds be used for the benefit of Indian children.

 

The number of scholarships for Indian students in higher education also increased substantially.

 

Private support for Indian education and social welfare also increased during the 1960s and 1970s and comprises an important resource for developing Indian leaders and professionals (Iaw, medicine, teaching, engineering).

 

Since 1970 the Ford Foundation has allocated over $17 million for Indian education, technical assistance, and support of

art.

 

The grants have underwritten scholarship support of Indian students, bilingual education, remedial reading programs, mobile libraries for reservation readers.

 

Native American Militancy

 

Henry Fritz has cogently observed that "because of the egocentric nature of men, political democracy has seldom been humanitarian in its motivation it has always best served the interests of powerful groups, and has neglected weak minorities.

 

This perhaps was the most important reason why a policy intent upon the acculturation [of Indians in the 1890s] had not reduced significantly the number of those living apart from Anglo-American society at the middle of the twentieth century."

 

By the 1960s many Indians demonstrated an awareness of the accuracy of his assessment,

 

and they were developing the position that their hope for social would be from direct political action, even radicalism, by themselves.

 

To offset their limited numbers as a minority in the Anglo-American mass, increasingly they applied the strategies of organization, demonstration, and occasional violence.'"

As the Indian urban population grew, its discontent mounted, and Native American action became increasingly aggressive.

 

Urban Indians particularly were restive over failure of officials to fulfill the promises of corrective federal programs.

 

Moreover, while they had made some progress in their rise from abject poverty, the rate of improvement did not satisfy them.

 

And although many social welfare benefits for Indians were to be provided by the Departments of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Labor, the Bureau of Indian Affairs continued to maintain substantial direction over Indian programs.

 

Officials in that agency still defined Indian policies and programs and applied them to the tribes, and "still behaved bureaucratically as if they, and they alone, knew what was best for Indians."

 

Thus the Bureau of Indian Affairs became the focus of activist rage as Indians sought to end what they called "colonial rule" by the federal government.

 

Those officials in charge of bureau programs, the secretary of the interior and the commissioner of Indian affairs, were often controversial personalities which added to the Indians' disenchantment

 

Walter Hickel, President Nixon's Secretary of the Interior, particularly was a persona non grata because of his claim that the federal government 'overprotected" Indians, and their belief that he was uncommitted to carrying out the corrective legislation reforms Congress had directed."

 

Indian activism of the 1960s which grew into militancy during the 1970s was fed by several newspapers, magazines, and journals devoted to subjects of Indian interest.

 

Also certain best-selling, polemical books popularized the Indian cause, particularly Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Custer Died for Your Sins by Vine Deloria, Jr.

Additional organizations, formed by off-reservation and urban Indians, including American Indians United, the Indian Task Force,

 

United Native Americans, Coalition of American Indian Citizens,

 

Native American Students,

 

the Iroquois League, and American Indian Movement, joined the National Congess of American Indians and the National Indian Youth Conference to press the Native American cause.

 

The American Indian Movement became the most militant of these organizations. Founded in 1968 in Minneapolis by two Chippewas--Dennis Banks and George Mitchell, later joined by Clyde Bellecourt, also a Chippewa.

 

The original purpose was to assist Indians moving from upper Midwest reservations to the cities, particularly to protect them from selective law enforcement.

All groups supported restoration of those Indian lands illegally taken by the federal government, serious application of the Indian civil rights law and social welfare law, and ouster of Secretary Hickel, accused by activist leaders of being a terminationist.

The period of greatest insurgency, 1969 to 1973, varied in response from political demonstration to radical action including seizure of land and buildings, destruction of property, and even occasional armed resistance to established authority.

 

All across the nation lndian militants occupied public property to protest discrimination and exploitation: the federal building in Littleton, Colorado, camping on a restricted area atop Mount Rushmore,

 

attempted occupation of Ellis Island, assertion of treaty-guaranteed fishing rights on the Puyallup River in Washington,

 

and occupation of several military reservations including Fort Lawton in Puget Sound and the Coast Guard station on Lake Michigan near Milwaukee, acts symbolizing recovery of property and rights taken from their ancestors by Anglo-Americans.

One of the most dramatic actions by Native Americans was their occupation of Alcatraz, a twelve-acre island in San Francisco Bay and site of a federal penitentiary.

 

In 1963 federal officials discontinued its use as a penal institution, and the following year they declared it surplus property.

 

Indians attempted to occupy Alcatraz in 1964, making their claim to the land under federal law, but they were ejected.

 

Activists returned to Alcatraz in November 1969, claiming their right to the island under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which permitted any male Indian over 18 whose tribe was a party to the treaty to file for a homestead on government land.

 

Indian spokesmen on Alcatraz declared that their action was in protest over the failure of Bureau of Indian Affairs officials to apply laws intended for improvement of conditions among Indians and their inability to "deal practically" with Indian welfare.

 

The Alcatraz occupation drew wide public attention, and resulting support lasted several years.

 

Then in 1971, when federal officials found that public interest in Indian causes had waned, they quietly removed tile demonstrators from the island.

Other actions by militants included the Broken Treaties Caravan to Washington in 1972.

 

During a 6-dav demonstration insurgents occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs building and destroyed large quantities of public property and records.

 

The most daring and provocative action by Indian militants occurred in 1973 in South Dakota where armed Indians, led by AIM members,, symbolically occuppied the village of Wounded Knee, site of the dreadful massacres of Sioux men, women, and children by the Seventh Cavalry in 1890, and defied a long siege by federal and state forces.

 

Their principal purpose was to dramatize maladministration and mistreatment of Indians over the centuries.

 

It has been said that Wounded Knee II in all its seeming irrationalism "celebrated separatism instead of integration, political activism instead of dignified acquiescence, repudiation of White goals and values, and rejection of existing tribal organizations."