1) What did the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act entail? Compare and contrast the US government’s perspective and the Native American perspective.
2) What does the term “sovereignty” mean? Why might it be an important term to Native American tribes based on the history we’ve learned so far?
3) What did the 1975 Native American Sovereignty and Educational Assistance Act entail? Compare and contrast the US government’s perspective and the Native American perspective.
4) How do both of these acts build off of or differ from the Termination and Relocation policies we learned about previously?
5) According to the PowerPoint lecture, our readings and video on AIM, how exactly did the American Indian Movement emerge? What are your thoughts/reactions/connections to this week’s materials overall?
Notes and Materials
Slide 1: Hey everyone! Welcome to our Module 10 PowerPoint Lecture. Last week we wrapped up the 1950s as we learned about how Alaska and Hawaii achieved statehood. This week, we will begin moving forward into the American Indian Civil Rights Era of the 1960s-1970s. Before we dive in, let’s do a quick review of the materials we learned back in Module 7 before the Midterm to help us better understand the emergence and context for the American Indian Civil Rights Movement and the creation of AIM (American Indian Movement.)
Slide 2: Back in Module 7, right before our Midterm, we learned about how some relief came to Indigenous nations in the 1930s with Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. These programs were created to combat economic disintegration, and included acknowledgement of Indigenous self-determination. As you may recall from our readings, Roosevelt appointed Jon Collier as the U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1933. Collier understood Indigenous opposition to assimilation into dominant society (what the ongoing allotments and the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 sought to institutionalize), and he initiated the Indian Reorganization Act (often called IRA or Indian New Deal), which halted further allotments from the Dawes Act. The major goal of the IRA was to reverse the goals of assimilation and to strengthen tribal nations through self-determination, development of “tribal governments,” management of assets, and encouragement of culture/traditions.
Slide 3: By the 1940s, however, the Truman administration pushed out Collier, among many other progressive Roosevelt appointees. Following World War II, attitudes turned from supporting Indigenous autonomy to a new procedure of individual assimilation. The 1946 Indian Claims Commission and Indian Claims Court were judicial relations established by Congress between US Federal Government and Native American tribes, and they sought to legitimize prior illegal federal taking of Indigenous treaty lands. Restitution of lands taken illegally was settled by monetary compensation based on the property’s “value” at the time it was taken. Between 1946-1952, 370 petitions were filed on behalf of Indigenous nations, and the average interval between filing a claim and receiving an award was 15 years.
Slide 4: By the 1950s, the Indian Claims Commission acknowledged the fact that the federal government illegally seized Indigenous lands, and that validation became useful in Indigenous efforts for strengthening sovereignty and pursuing restitution of land instead of monetary repayment. The process led to ending federal acknowledgement of Indigenous nations altogether. The Eisenhower administration in the 1950s weakened federal responsibility and sought further assimilation of American Indians. This culminated in the 1953 Termination Act, the policy that ended the government’s recognition of tribal sovereignty. The act’s intention was to force Native American to become U.S. citizens and decrease tribal self-determination.
Slide 5: The Termination Act of 1953 made tribal sovereignty nearly impossible to exercise. At the same time, efforts to eliminate Indigenous identity through assimilation continued, especially through the 1956 Indian Relocation Act. With funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Indigenous individual or family could relocate to any urban industrial areas where BIA offices were established (LA, Phoenix, SF Bay Area, Dallas, Denver, etc.) Relocation gave rise to large Native populations in urban areas amongst already poor and struggling minority communities, yet many young relocated Indians were inspired by the civil rights movements developing in major cities in the 1950s.
Slide 6: By 1961, the Termination Act of 1953 was ceased by the efforts and organization of the Nation Congress of American Indians (NCAI). NCAI was founded back in 1944, and it is still an important, thriving organization dedicated to serving the broad interests of American Indian tribal governments and communities today. The establishment of NCAI marked a surge of Indigenous resistance, and dozens of inspiring Native leaders arose in the 1950s from NCAI, including: Helen Petersen, D’Arcy McNickle, Edward Dozier, and many others.
Slide 7: In the late 1950s-1960s, many relocated Indian youth began their own distinct intertribal movements organized around urban American Indian centers. The American Indian Movement (AIM), an American Indian civil rights organization which we will be reading ore about in this week’s and next week’s Modules, was founded in Minneapolis in 1968. AIM’s original purpose was to help displaced Indians in urban ghettos, but later grew to encompass the spectrum of Indian concerns, including: economic independence, revitalization of culture, protection of legal rights, autonomy over tribal areas, and restoration of illegally seized lands. Some of the major leaders of AIM were: Dennis Banks, Clyde Bellecourt, George Mitchell, Russell Means, and many others. The first highly publicized protest for the American Indian Civil Rights movement happened in 1969 on Alcatraz island in San Francisco, which we will be discussed in detail in next week’s Module. As we move through this week’s materials, be thinking about all of the historical events leading up to the emergence of the American Indian Civil Rights movement as well as the legal policies passed during this period.
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