Political Science American Indian Politics
by
David E. Wilkins
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 February 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0206

Introduction

The 567 federally acknowledged indigenous peoples inhabiting the United States occupy a unique political niche within the larger society. Recognized as original sovereigns, they enjoy an extra-constitutional relationship with the federal and state governments, having never been incorporated into the US or state constitutions. Indigenous governments today retain their inherent sovereign status and small remnants of their lands, although their authority as governing bodies and proprietary landholders has been substantially diminished by federal and state statutes, presidential decrees, court cases, and administrative activities—chiefly within the Department of the Interior. Still, the nearly four hundred ratified treaties that were negotiated between 1778 and 1871 affirmed Native sovereignty and established a close, if uneven, enduring political relationship with the United States. Complicating this unique government-to-government arrangement is the reality that federal lawmakers have attempted at various times to forcibly assimilate Native individuals via boarding schools, individualization of tribal property, imposition of Western legal institutions and values, and Christian missionary activity. One such attempt was passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, granting US citizenship with the goal of absorbing native individuals into the larger society. Interestingly, this action positioned Native individuals as rights holders in three polities: their tribal nation, their state of residence, and the United States. Even with treble citizenship, Native political, property, and cultural rights still lack fundamental protection from the federal government, despite ratified treaties and constitutional acknowledgment in the commerce clause. Notwithstanding the longevity and legitimacy of indigenous peoples as self-governing communities, there is a dearth of literature by political scientists examining the political institutions and politics generated by or affecting Native peoples. Several explanations have been proffered to explain the absence of indigenous politics in the broader field of political science, including the pluralist paradigm, which has great difficulty coping with Native peoples or politics because of tribal nationalism, which is rooted in communalism, treaty rights, and sovereignty; the diverse demographic dimension—nearly 570 Native communities, but with a cumulative population of less than 2 percent of the overall US population; a research emphasis on states; a future-driven orientation that fails to heed to important historical events crucial for Native political development and underdevelopment; and a focus on liberal individualism that struggles to address Native nationalism. While literature on indigenous politics in the United States is meager, there exists sufficient data to provide a sample of commentary in several critical areas, including studies that examine the absence of indigenous politics in the discipline, political activism, voting rights and political behavior, governmental reform and development, intergovernmental relations, and political identity.

General Overviews

Despite the length of tenure of Native nations and their diverse governing arrangements, there has been a limited number of texts that broadly examine indigenous politics and governing systems. An early take on Native politics was Svennson 1973, which articulated the persistence and value of tribalism. O’Brien 1989 and Grinde 2002 employ a policy and case study approach that emphasizes the history and vitality of Native governments. Wilkins and Stark 2011 and Stubben 2006 are more expansive studies that describe and evaluate how Native politics is conducted internally and intergovernmentally. Rosier 2009 adds an important international dimension, while Russell 2010 provides one of the first heavy critiques of the manner in which Native governments have engaged, and sometimes violated, democratic principles.

  • Grinde, Donald A., Jr., ed. Native Americans. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 2002.

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    A collection of original works by an interdisciplinary set of scholars focusing on the alleged role that Native peoples played in the development of federal democratic principles, the evolution and tension between indigenous peoples and state governments, and the status of Native property rights. Useful primary source documents included.

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  • O’Brien, Sharon. American Indian Tribal Governments. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.

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    An early contribution, written at the behest of the National Congress of American Indians, that provides an analysis of the contemporary status of five Native governments. Also contains an overview of federal Indian policies and a discussion about tribal-state relations.

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  • Rosier, Paul C. Serving Their Country: American Indian Politics and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

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    Presents an illuminating account of how Native nations and individuals articulate democracy and citizenship. Of note is an examination of expressed patriotism by Native peoples within their communities to the United States, particularly within the context of international developments—World Wars I and II, Vietnam, and in the wake of 9/11.

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  • Russell, Steve. Sequoyah Rising: Problems in Post-colonial Tribal Governance. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2010.

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    A provocative work by a former tribal judge arguing that many Native governments fail to exhibit the democratic traditions and values they claim as their heritage. Focuses on the multitude of problems bedeviling tribal nations, including split allegiances of tribal members.

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  • Stubben, Jerry D. Native Americans and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.

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    Presents a broad overview of Native political participation within tribal society and in the US political system. The author also reviews interest group activity, lobbying, electoral politics, and Native office attainment at the state and national level.

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  • Svennson, Frances E. The Ethnics in American Politics: American Indians. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess, 1973.

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    Little-known but lively critical study that tackles the difficult question of Native definition before commencing to assess the broad ways the actions of federal policymakers directly impinge on native political and cultural autonomy. Political mobilization also examined.

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  • Wilkins, David E., and Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark. American Indian Politics and the American Political System. 3d ed. Lanham, MD: Roman and Littlefield, 2011.

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    The first comprehensive account written from a political science viewpoint to analyze and critique Native governments. Examines the intergovernmental relationship between these nations, as well as those they maintain with federal and state governments. Assesses the economics, ideologies, and interest group activities of these polities.

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Native Politics as Paradox

Indigenous peoples occupy a unique political and geographical stratum, both in relation to the United States and the states hosting their remaining territories and citizens. Deloria and Wilkins 1999, Ball 1987, Barsh and Henderson 1980, and Svennson 1979 emphasize that Native nations have an inherent racial, political, and cultural status. This is evidenced by millennia of pre-incursion civilizations and subsequent diplomatic arrangements (i.e., treaties, agreements, and accords) negotiated with invading European powers that codified these distinctions and forced tribal nations into vulnerable positions. Individual Native persons are tribal, cultural, and political citizens eligible for distinctive property rights and tax exemptions. In 1924, federal citizenship (state citizenship arrived later) was officially added to their preexisting indigenous citizenship, so each now holds rights under all three systems of governance. Despite what would appear to be an enhanced standing, Native citizens are still treated as subjects under federal law. This means the United States has the authority to abrogate tribal treaties, terminate Native governments, and strip these governments of property rights—the exercise of absolute or plenary power. McCulloch 1989 addresses key aspects of the ambiguous and paradoxical status and questions why the discipline of political science struggles to acknowledge, much less analyze or engage, Native governments. Goodyear-Kaopua, et al. 2014 looks at Hawaiian native status. While in some ways comparable to North American Native peoples, their distinctive situation and active efforts to organize urgently call for closer study. The 1832 Worcester opinion and Senate Judiciary Report of 1870 (see US Senate Committee on the Judiciary 1870) offer two of the more well-articulated assessments of the unique status of Native peoples and their citizens.

  • Ball, Milner S. “Constitution, Court, Indian Tribes.” American Bar Foundation Research Journal 1 (1987): 1–139.

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    An influential article that questions the historical and constitutional basis for both federal and state claims to sovereignty over Native nations. Argues that without explicit indigenous consent, such claims lack merit.

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  • Barsh, Russel Lawrence, and James Youngblood Henderson. The Road: Indian Tribes and Political Liberty. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.

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    Groundbreaking work that charts the ambiguous constitutional status of Native peoples via a critical examination of federal law. Calls for a federal constitutional amendment that would embed tribal nations as state-like entities within the constitutional structure. They term this arrangement “treaty federalism.”

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  • Deloria, Vine, Jr., and David E. Wilkins. Tribes, Treaties, and Constitutional Tribulations. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999.

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    Essential work that provides a thorough examination of the problematic applicability of the US Constitution’s principal clauses and amendments to indigenous nations and their citizens. The authors conclude that the revival of treaties is the most flexible and balanced means of facilitating political arrangements between Native peoples and the federal government.

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  • Goodyear-Kaopua, Noelani, Ikaika Hussey, and Erin Kahunawaika’ala Wright, eds. A Nation Rising: Hawaiian Movements for Life, Land, and Sovereignty. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

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    Impressive set of essays that focuses on the diverse political strategies and initiatives of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement. Offers valuable insights on Native cultural revitalization, efforts to protect lands and resources, and internal conflicts that have arisen within the movement.

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  • McCulloch, Anne Merline. “Perspectives on Native Americans in Political Science.” Teaching Political Science: Politics in Perspective 16.3 (1989): 92–98.

    DOI: 10.1080/00922013.1989.9943578Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this work the author reviews a number of political science texts and concludes the neglect of Native issues in the field does not stem from racism or prejudice, but rather occurs because the very paradigm (i.e., pluralism) through which many political scientists structure their analysis does not allow for the unique status of indigenous peoples’governments.

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  • Svennson, Frances. “Liberal Democracy and Group Rights: The Legacy of Individualism and its Impact on American Indian Tribes.” Political Studies 27.3 (1979): 421–439.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.1979.tb01213.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Important article that expertly analyzes the difficulties that plague Native peoples as they, with their treaty-based communalism, attempt to work within the United States, a country that lionizes individualism as a foundational block of its interpretation of democracy. Explains the ways that Native national (group) rights challenge conventional notions of justice and equality.

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  • US Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Report to the Senate on the Effect of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution upon the Indian Tribes of the Country. 41st Cong., 3d sess.,1870. S. Rept. 268.

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    Provides a pithy analysis of existing federal statutory law, treaties, and case law. It concludes that the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, had no effect on the status of Native nations because tribal members did not acquire US citizenship and their treaties remained in effect.

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  • Worcester v. Georgia. 31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515, 1832.

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    This seminal case established the legal relationship between Native nations and state governments. The court held that tribes were sovereign nations, treaties were superior to state legislation, and state laws had no force in Indian Country.

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Indigenous Political Activism

Hertzberg 1971; Josephy, et al. 1999; and Cornell 1988 attest to the engagement of Native nations and inspired Native individuals in all manner of political activism since precolonial times. While members of other racial, ethnic, and gender groups have also been politically engaged, Bruyneel 2007 argues the situation of indigenous peoples is far more complicated because of the unique “third space” inhabited by Native nations. For much of US history, the general goal of most other minority groups’ members has been inclusion within the American social contract. In contrast, most Native nations have fought to retain their political and cultural independence—based on their treaties and sovereignty—resisting absorption into the American polity, as described in Deloria 1985, an account of the surge of 1970s activism. However, the Indian gaming phenomenon has begun to change this dynamic, as many Native peoples are economically incorporated on a scale never before witnessed. Smith 2012 shows that Native peoples have often been willing to forge political coalitions when conditions have warranted it. Works in this section, especially the leading newspaper, Akwesasne Notes, and Sayer 1997, a take on the American Indian Movement (AIM) and media depictions of the group and its leadership, focus on ways indigenous peoples organized outside regular paths of political influence in order to leverage meaningful policy changes.

  • Akwesasne Notes. Mohawk Nation. Rooseveltown, NY.

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    Pioneering and most influential newspaper, established in 1968. Quickly became known as “the voice of indigenous people” because of its outstanding reporting and documentation of the political resistance struggles of Native peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere.

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  • Bruyneel, Kevin. The Third Space of Sovereignty: The Postcolonial Politics of US-Indigenous Relations. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

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    Bruyneel charts how Native political actors have challenged the constrained limits imposed by federal lawmakers on their political and economic sovereignty. He assesses both spatial and temporal boundaries in an effort to understand the goals and impacts of indigenous activism.

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  • Cornell, Stephen. The Return of the Native: American Indian Political Resurgence. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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    Provides a thorough sociologically based analysis of the changing political conditions of Native nations, tribal interest groups, and committed Native individuals as they traverse through six distinctive historical eras. Emphasizes three levels of native organization: tribalism—individual nations; sub-tribalism—groups within nations; and especially supra-tribalism—broader pan-Indian consciousness that transcends individual nations.

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  • Deloria, Vine, Jr. Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties: An Indian Declaration of Independence. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985.

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    Originally published in 1974. Presents a detailed account of the factors leading to the major Native demonstrations in the early 1970s—the Bureau of Indian Affairs takeover in 1972 and the Wounded Knee occupation in South Dakota in 1973. Critiques legal doctrines of “discovery,” plenary power, and calls for international recognition of Native peoples and revival of treaty making.

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  • Hertzberg, Hazel W. The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern Pan-Indian Movements. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1971.

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    Focuses on the history and evolution of pan-Indian political mobilization, which encapsulates a “Native” identity that is distinct from one’s specific “tribal” identity. Such movements stress common indigenous interests, identity, and a willingness to make accommodations to the larger society.

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  • Josephy, Alvin M., Jr., Joane Nagel, and Troy Johnson, eds. Red Power: The American Indians’ Fight for Freedom. 2d ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

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    An update of an early and important anthology of essays and documents that highlights Native peoples’ drive toward political self-determination. Provides an overview of the social and historical background of the Red Power movement. Emphasizes native politicization, ethnic identity resurgence, and land and resource battles. First published in 1971.

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  • Sayer, John William. Ghost Dancing the Law: The Wounded Knee Trials. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

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    An illuminating study of the trials of American Indian Movement (AIM) leaders in the wake of the Wounded Knee takeover in 1973. Chronicles the devastating impact that federal legal proceedings and the popular media had on the political dissent exercised by Native activists.

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  • Smith, Sherry L. Hippies, Indians, and the Fight for Red Power. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

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    A provocative book that examines how Native peoples in the 1960s and 1970s formed coalitions with a diverse set of groups and institutions, including hippies, environmentalists, ethnic groups, mainstream churches, and sundry others to identify common concerns and pursue greater political, economic, and cultural power.

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Voting Rights and Political Behavior

Notwithstanding their historic and ongoing pre-constitutional and extra-constitutional standing, some Native nations and an ever increasing number of Native individuals have pursued direct political participation in the state and the federal electoral systems. Elk v. Wilkins (1884) was one of the earliest federal cases to address the voting rights of non-reservation-based Native individuals. Stubben 2006 is a comprehensive study that looks at the plethora of means utilized by tribal nations and individuals to engage both Native and non-Native politics. McCool 1985 was the first account of Native peoples insisting on their right to vote in non-Native elections and provides a thorough examination of the methods used by states and federal officials to limit Native voting rights at that time. MacDonald 2010 and McCool, et al. 2007 focus on how Native peoples have sought to utilize the Voting Rights Act to exercise the federal franchise. Schroedel and Aslanian 2015 looks at a single state, South Dakota, and that polity’s efforts to suppress the Native vote. Min and Savage 2014 and Ritt 1979 scrutinize Native political attitudes, party affiliations, and behavioral patterns. But Witmer and Boehmke 2007 suggest that interest group activity—especially lobbying behavior and campaign contributions—by Native nations has increased substantially because of the financial windfall accompanying some Native gambling operations.

  • Elk v. Wilkins. 112 U.S. 94, 1884.

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    Important citizenship case which held that even though John Elk, a Winnebago, had abandoned his nation and moved to a city, he was not eligible to vote. The court reasoned his intent to become a US citizen required a positive and specific response from the federal government before it could affect his status as a citizen. As members of “alien nations,” neither the Fourteenth nor Fifteenth Amendments were available to Elk or other Native Americans, notwithstanding federal policy aimed at their assimilation.

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  • MacDonald, Laughlin. American Indians and the Fight for Equal Voting Rights. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010.

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    Presents a thorough review of the discriminatory efforts utilized by five western states to deny the franchise to Native individuals. Documents the Voting Rights Act cases filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Native voters.

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  • McCool, Daniel. “Indian Voting.” In American Indian Policy in the Twentieth Century. Edited by Vine Deloria Jr., 105–133. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.

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    Influential article detailing the history of indigenous voting efforts in state and federal elections and the legal devices crafted by those governments to deny Native Americans the franchise. Assesses how the Native vote, despite small numbers, can be pivotal in certain elections.

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  • McCool, Daniel, Susan M. Olson, and Jennifer L. Robinson. Native Vote: American Indians, the Voting Rights Act, and the Right to Vote. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511811821Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An illuminating and comprehensive study of the sustained and contested efforts of Native Americans to secure the right to vote in local, state, and national elections, using the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the equal protection clause as their chief weapons. Focuses on the more than seventy federal cases that have been filed.

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  • Min, Jeonghun, and Daniel Savage. “Why Do American Indians Vote Democratic?” Social Science Journal 51 (2014): 167–180.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2013.10.015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analysis of voting patterns within a single region of Oklahoma in an effort to determine why Native voters tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Authors found that socioeconomic factors are more important than cultural ties as an explanation for that historic trend.

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  • Ritt, Leonard G. “Some Social and Political Views of American Indians.” Ethnicity 6 (1979): 45–72.

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    Important early study that set out to examine the political beliefs of Native individuals. Author found that, in comparison to other minority groups, Native Americans were less partisan and more moderate than African Americans and Latinos, but were more politically liberal than whites.

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  • Schroedel, Jean, and Artour Aslanian. “Native American Vote Suppression: The Case of South Dakota.” Race, Gender, & Class 22.1–2 (2015): 308–323.

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    The authors assess the efficacy of the Voting Rights Act at increasing the number of Native Americans elected to state office in South Dakota. Although Native peoples constitute 9 percent of the state’s population, they occupy only a minuscule portion of state elected offices.

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  • Stubben, Jerry D. Native American and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.

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    Useful study charting the broad means through which indigenous nations and their citizens engage in electoral and other forms of political participation in the United States. Emphasizes political action, social movements, and political office holding. Includes key documents, a timeline, and other relevant appropriate resources.

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  • Witmer, Richard, and Frederick J. Boehmke. “American Indian Political Incorporation in the Post-Indian Gaming Regulatory Act Era.” Social Science Journal 44 (2007): 127–145.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.soscij.2006.12.010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study posits that gambling revenue derived from the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act has enabled increasing numbers of Native nations to influence public policy using interest group strategies rather than by direct electoral representation.

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Indigenous National Political Development

Native nations are self-governing and autonomous bodies comprising peoples who have struggled to retain and modify their social and governing structures in the face of unrelenting colonialist pressure. Generally, the relationships between Native nations and other political powers have been defined as political ones, rooted as they are in treaties and other forms of diplomacy. Little academic attention has been given to other integral dimensions of these interactions, such as race, economics, property, or religion. Biolsi 1992, Fowler 1982, and Porter 1998 detail the efforts of the Rosebud Sioux, the Arapaho, and the Iroquois Confederated nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, etc.) as each reformulated their governing mechanisms. Cohen 2006, Doerfler 2015, and Lemont 2006 critically examine how formal constitution-making and reform are carried out in Indian Country. The distinctive state corporate status of Alaska Natives is the focus of Brown 2004. Hawaiian Natives’ de facto sovereignty and proprietary rights are addressed by Silva 2004. Given the sheer diversity of indigenous peoples, encompassing nearly six hundred distinctive cultural polities, it is impossible to generalize about historic forms of tribal government. Many were loose confederations of linguistically related hunting groups. Others were small villages with little political organization beyond kinship structures. Still others, like the Pueblos, were theocracies organized around a religious ceremonial year. One of the most studied, the Iroquois, operated as a confederacy under a governing structure called the Great Binding Law, which some commentators have referred to as the first federal constitution in North America. Today more than three hundred Native nations are governed by formal constitutions, while the balance of tribal communities operate under a variety of governing structures—from corporations, to general councils, to simple sets of bylaws and ordinances. The following works examine the structures, functions, and reforms taking place in contemporary Native governments and corporations today.

  • Biolsi, Thomas. Organizing the Lakota: The Political Economy of the New Deal on Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992.

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    Utilizing a political-economic approach, Biolsi critically examines the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) stratagem to organize the Lakota people via constitution-making, even as the agency worked to retain its unbridled power—via surveillance and other forms of control—over tribal self-governance and the reservation’s resources.

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  • Brown, Caroline L. “Political and Legal Status of Alaska Natives.” In A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians. Edited by Thomas Biolsi, 248–267. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470996270.ch14Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Informative account of the complex and utterly unique legal and political landscape occupied by Native Alaskans in direct response to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, which created thirteen Native regional corporations and nearly two hundred Native village corporations organized under state, not federal, law.

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  • Cohen, Felix S. On the Drafting of Tribal Constitutions. Edited by David E. Wilkins. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006.

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    Cohen, a leading architect of federal Indian law, crafted this practical set of guidelines to aid those tribal nations embarking on the process of writing formal constitutions.

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  • Doerfler, Jill. Those Who Belong: Identity, Family, Blood, and Citizenship among the White Earth Anishinaabeg. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2015.

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    Presents a useful account of how the White Earth community utilized indigenous cultural values and knowledge to craft a more appropriate constitution that reflects their core identity. Emphasizes the community’s struggles over how to define their citizens—moving from blood quantum to lineal descent.

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  • Fowler, Loretta. Arapaho Politics, 1851–1978: Symbols in Crisis of Authority. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.

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    Important historical case study chronicling how the Northern Arapahos developed new political symbols and other effective strategies enabling them to cope with US colonialism.

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  • Lemont, Eric, ed. American Indian Constitutional Reform and the Rebuilding of Native Nations. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006.

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    Provides a fairly comprehensive set of perspectives by tribal politicians, academics, and legal scholars examining the efforts of Native nations to reform their constitutions. Emphasizes the factors prompting such activities, as well as the myriad challenges faced by those attempting to address the question of citizenship in Indian Country.

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  • Porter, Robert B. “Building a New Longhouse: The Case for Government Reform within the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee.” Buffalo Law Review 46 (1998): 805–945.

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    After reviewing the contentious shared history of the Six Nations (Iroquois Confederacy), New York State, and the federal government, the author urges tribal citizens and their leadership to return to the political principles outlined in their historic governing document, the Gayanashagowa, the “Great Law of Peace.”

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  • Silva, Noenoe K. Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822386223Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In-depth analysis relying on previously unknown Hawaiian-language texts that chart the intents and sustained political, economic, and cultural resistance by Native Hawaiians to US imperialism. Silva thoroughly refutes the persistent myth that Native Hawaiians passively accepted the loss of their lands and subjugation of their culture.

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Intergovernmental Relations: Native-State Relations

The most well-known and studied Native political relationships are those between those nations and the federal government. However, in addition to the United States, Native nations have politically engaged one another, European colonial powers, individual colonies/states, and other polities and corporate groups throughout history. A majority of pre-contact indigenous peoples forged diplomatic relationships with encroaching foreign powers, and later the US government, via bilateral and multilateral treaties. Within the US system, Congress is explicitly authorized to oversee trade and commerce with Native peoples. Arguably of equal importance, though woefully under-studied, are the relationships between Native nations and state governments. Tribal nations and states share some citizens and lands. In their relations as quasi-sovereign entities, they have each jealously, and sometimes violently, guarded their collective rights to political powers, natural resources, and cultural histories. Only now are they beginning to find common ground to improve intergovernmental relations, as Ashley and Hubbard 2004, Bay and Fouberg 2002, Evans 2011, and Wilkins 2016 describe. Wilkins 1998 assesses how over the course of US history states were constitutionally denied any authority over Native peoples or their lands. Commission on State-Tribal Relations 1979 was an early intergovernmental attempt to search for common political ground. States, as wielders of a measure of sovereign authority, also have, as Koenig and Stein 2013 show, developed their own parameters for recognizing newly formed tribal communities. Finally, Rosen 2007, an excellent historical study, charts how, despite federal constitutional constraints, states have found ways to impose their jurisdictional power over Native peoples.

  • Ashley, Jeffrey S., and Secody J. Hubbard. Negotiated Sovereignty: Working to Improve Tribal-State Relations. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004.

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    Authors use six specific case studies of tribal-state relations to argue that negotiation is preferable to continued reliance upon litigation. They argue that non-adversarial dispute resolution methods produce better outcomes for all and improve long-term relations. While each case is unique, checker-boarded land, competition for resources, and racism are common themes in these conflicts.

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  • Bay, Bay A., and Erin Hogan Fouberg, eds. The Tribes and the States: Geographies of Intergovernmental Interaction. Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield, 2002.

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    Useful set of essays by a diverse group of scholars examining the complicated relationship—through a geographical lens—on topics such as taxation, criminal jurisdiction, gaming, and environmental policy. Writers urge the parties to negotiate rather than litigate.

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  • Commission on State-Tribal Relations. Handbook on State-Tribal Relations. Albuquerque, NM: American Indian Law Center, 1979.

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    An early and important collaboration of Native leaders and state officials who realized the futility of incessant conflict. Report emphasizes issues such as law enforcement, natural resources, and social services that the authors’ judge are better suited for negotiation than lawsuits.

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  • Evans, Laura E. Power from Powerlessness: Tribal Governments, Institutional Niches, and American Federalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199742745.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a detailed case-based analysis, featuring twelve Native nations, that delineates how tribal governments, many short on political power and resources, effectively utilize expertise, funding, networking, and incrementalism to achieve some policy successes in their relations with state and local governments.

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  • Koenig, K. Alexa, and Jonathan Stein. “State Recognition and American Indian Tribes: A Survey of State-Recognized Tribes and State Recognition Processes.” In Recognition, Sovereignty Struggles, and Indigenous Rights in the United States. Edited by Amy E. Den Ouden and Jean M. O’Brien, 115–146, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013.

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    Focuses on the sundry methods and types of recognition offered by states that choose to extend political recognition to tribal communities within their borders. Excellent analysis of the complicated political and legal issues animating this didactic relationship.

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  • Rosen, Deborah A. American Indians and State Law: Sovereignty, Race, and Citizenship, 1790–1880. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007.

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    Illuminating and pathbreaking study that details how territorial and state governments extended their authority over Native peoples, and how Native peoples challenged such assertions. Includes discussion regarding how the citizenship status of Native Americans was manipulated and frequently truncated during this century.

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  • Wilkins, David E. “Tribal-State Affairs: American States as ‘Disclaiming’ Sovereigns.” Publius: Journal of Federalism 28.4 (1998): 55–81.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.pubjof.a030001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides analysis of little-known clauses embedded in the original, 19th-century organic acts and constitutions of eleven western states whereby those states are required to forever renounce jurisdiction over Native property and persons. This was an early and occasionally effective means of protecting tribal sovereignty and the tribal-federal relationship.

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  • Wilkins, Andrea. Fostering State-Tribal Collaboration: An Indian Law Primer. Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield, 2016.

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    Presents a concise and accessible overview of the political-legal relationship that encourages parties to engage in collaborative policy development as a means to ease tensions and improve delivery of services.

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Politics and Identity

Issues of feminism, gender, and sexuality are beginning to receive serious attention by scholars in Native studies, though these topics still lag far behind other areas of study. Throughout history, while the roles of indigenous women and men varied, their statuses were of equal importance within their societies, as Denetdale 2007 and Hoikkala 1995 demonstrate in their accounts of the Dine and Salt River Pima and Maricopa peoples. The arrival of Europeans and the inculcation of some of the religious, social, and economic values accompanying them—especially patriarchy and sexism—led to a profound degradation of respect for gender and sexual dynamic features in Native societies. Deer 2015 provides ample evidence of how colonialism morphed with shifting indigenous values, culminating in devastating sexual violence against Native women into modern times. Skenandore 2002 probes the landmark Santa Clara decision in 1978 that affirmed tribal sovereignty but at the expense of women’s rights. Rifkin 2011 focuses on Native sexuality and how the federal government sought to intervene in the most intimate of relationships and activities. The issue of tribal dismemberment is tackled by both Reitman 2006 and Kauanui 2008, with the latter addressing the issue through the lens of Hawaiian political and biological identity. Finally, Prindeville 2004 offers a straightforward comparative account that details how Native and Hispanic women were able to ascend to political office in New Mexico.

  • Deer, Sarah. The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816696314.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses attention on the extraordinarily high rate of sexual violence against Native women. Deer offers a compelling argument that rape is a political construct with colonial foundations perpetuated by a complicit federal government. Tribal sovereignty and self-determination are critical components helping Native peoples address this horrific crisis that continues to overwhelm many indigenous communities and imperil generations of women and girls.

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  • Denetdale, Jennifer Nez. Reclaiming Dine History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2007.

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    This book, relying on oral history, analyzes the differences between Dine (Navajo) authored history and the history of the same events as chronicled by whites. Of particular interest are the parallel accounts of how Dine patriarchy arose, elevating their noted chief Manuelito, while simultaneously denigrating his wife, Juanita, and by extension all Dine women.

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  • Hoikkala, Paiui H. “Mothers and Community Builders: Salt River Pima and Maricopa Women in Community Action.” In Negotiators of Change: Historical Perspectives on Native American Women. Edited by Nancy Shoemaker, 213–234. New York: Routledge, 1995.

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    Focuses on the role that President Johnson’s Great Society program played in facilitating the emergence of tribal sovereignty and leadership. Native women in the two tribal communities studied took advantage of the opportunities and gained impressive leadership roles.

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  • Kauanui, J. Kehaulani. Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822391494Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This work interrogates how federally established blood quantum policies became tools of exclusion and denial of Native Hawaiian sovereignty assertions. Racialized Hawaiian identity was thus placed directly at odds with the traditional kinship practices utilized by Native Hawaiians.

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  • Prindeville, Diane-Michele. On the Streets and in the State House: American Indian and Hispanic Women in Environmental Policymaking in New Mexico. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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    An important comparative study assessing methods and characterizations of Native and Hispanic women in elected and appointed offices. Examines political socialization, ideology, participation, and policy preferences.

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  • Reitman, Eric. “An Argument for the Partial Abrogation of Federally Recognized Indian Tribes’ Sovereign Power over Membership.” Virginia Law Review 92 (2006): 793–866.

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    Influential article tracing the caustic subject of tribal disenfranchisement, popularly known as disenrollment, of otherwise bona fide citizens. Author argues that the federal government has a trust duty to provide a legal forum whenever a tribal member’s citizenship is terminated.

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  • Rifkin, Mark. When Did Indians Become Straight? Kinship, the History of Sexuality and Native Sovereignty. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755455.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A thorough interdisciplinary examination of sexuality and gender in Native studies literature, focusing on ways federal officials sought to enforce their own heterosexual-based values onto indigenous peoples.

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  • Skenandore, Francine R. “Revisiting Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez: Feminist Traditions on Tribal Sovereignty.” Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal 17 (2002): 347–370.

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    Critical examination of a major Supreme Court decision that impacted Native women’s rights and the right of all Native Americans facing formal disenfranchisement by their own government. Compares the tension between white feminists and tribal feminists with regard to Santa Clara’s impact on women’s rights.

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Natives and the Future of Economic Development

The US Constitution’s commerce clause states, “Congress shall regulate trade with the Indian tribes”(Article 1, Sec. 8, cl. 3), referencing the fact that, for centuries, beginning in earnest with 16th-century fur traders, Native peoples have been entangled in capitalism. Harmon 2010 gives a good accounting of this history. Native nations have always relied upon their natural resources to sustain their societies, and Ambler 1990 views energy development in Indian Country as another manifestation of this dependence. By the early 20th century, most tribal lands had been sold or stolen through treaties, laws, and specific policies like Indian removal, the establishment of reservations, and the 1887 General Allotment Act. The lands and resources reserved, whether within reservation borders or on ceded lands (outside of reservation borders), continue to provide Native peoples with some basis from which to maintain their livelihood, albeit in a greatly diminished form. The related theories of colonialism, internal colonialism, and dependency help explain the pronounced levels of tribal poverty and economic underdevelopment, and the decay of many Native political, social, and cultural institutions. For example, White 1983, an outstanding comparative work, identifies dependency as a defining element that led to the underdeveloped state of three Native nations. That said, socioeconomic conditions are not uniformly dire across Indian Country. And over the last thirty years, increasing numbers of tribal nations have begun to enjoy a measure of success in areas such as gaming, tourism, energy and mining, water development, timber, and fisheries and wildlife. Cattelino 2008 and Mason 2000 both focus on gambling’s positive role within Seminole country and several indigenous nations in New Mexico. Snipp 1988 looks more broadly at how federal policy both inhibits and spurs economic development. Nesper 2012 analyzes the critical role of treaties in strengthening tribal economic self-determination. And McCool 2002 critically evaluates water rights settlements featuring the three major western players—Native governments, states, and the federal government.

  • Ambler, Marjane. Breaking the Iron Bonds: Indian Control of Energy Development. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990.

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    Focusing on fifteen Western tribal reservations, the author exhaustively explains the efforts of the tribal governments to increase their control over energy development using their powers as mineral owners, as governments, and as partners with other interests. This despite opposition from non-Indian developers and federally imposed bureaucratic restraints.

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  • Cattelino, Jessica R. High-Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822391302Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Groundbreaking study of how the Seminole people of Florida, the first Native people to open a high-stakes bingo hall, have parlayed their economic skill in gaming in ways that do not threaten but actually reinforce their cultural identity and political self-determination.

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  • Harmon, Alexandra. Rich Indians: Native People and the Problem of Wealth in American History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

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    Illuminating and comprehensive overview of the paradoxical history of American notions about the morality of wealth accumulation and the efforts of Native peoples and individual entrepreneurs to compete in the marketplace.

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  • Mason, Dale W. Indian Gaming: Tribal Sovereignty and American Politics. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.

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    Early analysis of tribal gaming. The author focuses on the political, legal, and economic grounds from which tribal governments launched gambling operations, the federal government’s ambivalent role in facilitating gaming, and the intense politics that ensued between Native governments and states.

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  • McCool, Daniel. Native Waters: Contemporary Indian Water Settlements and the Second Treaty Era. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2002.

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    An insightful study of the tortured politics involved in the creation of negotiated water rights settlements between Native nations, states, and the federal government. The author suggests that while the negotiations allow for a degree of political flexibility, tribal nations are in the most vulnerable position. As the weakest party, they face greater legal, economic, and political constraints compared to their settlement partners.

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  • Nesper, Larry. “Twenty-Five Years of Ojibwe Treaty Rights in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 36.1 (2012): 47–77.

    DOI: 10.17953/aicr.36.1.d371306148v13310Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on how the reestablishment of Ojibwe treaty rights, long-suppressed by state laws, led to an economic, political, and cultural renaissance for the eleven Ojibwe bands in the three states.

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  • Snipp, Matthew C., ed. Public Policy Impacts on American Indian Economic Development. Albuquerque, NM: Native American Studies Institute for Native American Development, 1988.

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    Edited volume featuring essays that detail difficulties faced by Native peoples as they attempt to escape poverty.

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  • White, Richard. The Roots of Dependency: Subsistence, Environment, and Social Change among the Choctaws, Pawnees, and Navajos. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.

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    A seminal interdisciplinary work that brilliantly charts the collapse into “dependency” of three Native nations. Argues that market relations in conjunction with environmental and social changes, rather than US military power, was the real catalyst behind elevated levels of tribal dependency.

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The Politics of Power and Place

In describing the basis of indigenous knowledge, Vine Deloria Jr. said that two of the most important concepts are power and place. He defined power as the living energy that inhabits and composes the universe, and place as the relationships of different entities with one another. He summarized it this way: “Power and place produce personality” (Deloria 1985, cited under Indigenous Political Activism, p. 14). For Native peoples, this simple but profound statement means the universe is alive and has a personal relationship with each human being. This metaphysical viewpoint is evidenced by the actions of Native nations and their citizens as they stand on the front lines to fight against the environmental and climate crisis that is affecting the entire globe. These stories are well documented in Maldonado, et al. 2014; Abate and Warner 2013; and Grossman and Parker 2012. Indigenous communities also are frequently the first to experience the negative effects of climate change. They also often suffer the indignity of being denied access to their most sacred sites or the power to adequately defend those areas, as Miller 1998 shows, and they usually lack the political muscle needed to shield their lands and resources from corporate, governmental, and private exploitation, as argued by Ostler 2010 and Smith and Frehner 2010. Welch 1997 uses the White Mountain Apaches as a case study to describe the cultural and political difficulties tribal nations face in these situations. Finally, Wildcat 2009, in the Deloria intellectual tradition, posits that indigenous knowledge provides the rationale framework needed to address the ecological crisis humans and the Earth are now facing.

  • Abate, Randall S., and Elizabeth Ann Kronk Warner, eds. Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2013.

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    Formidable collection of essays by legal experts that provides a comprehensive examination of climate-change-related problems confronting Native peoples, while also proposing a set of potential legal solutions.

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  • Grossman, Zoltan, and Alan Parker, eds. Asserting Native Resilience: Pacific Rim Indigenous Nations Face the Climate Crisis. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2012.

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    In this collection, a diverse group of indigenous and nonindigenous scholars, activists, and tribal leaders from the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, Alaska, and New Zealand describe and assess how climate change has profoundly affected indigenous communities, and how those communities are using traditional ecological knowledge, political sovereignty, and their own sense of identity to respond to the crises.

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  • Maldonado, Julie Koppel, Benedict Colombi, and Rajul Pandya, eds. Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the United States: Impacts, Experiences and Actions. Cham. Switzerland: Springer International, 2014.

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    Edited volume whose authors directly confront climate change by examining the powerful ecological shifts, intergovernmental tensions, and cooperative moments. Ultimately, they believe traditional ecological knowledge of Native peoples will be crucial for the success of scientific and policy solutions.

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  • Miller, Bruce G. “Culture as Cultural Defense: An American Indian Sacred Site in Court.” American Indian Quarterly 22 (1998): 83–97.

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    Focuses on the difficulties indigenous peoples face when required to argue for the protection of sacred sites in Western courts, largely because of the cultural and economic views of federal lawmakers who typically have little or no knowledge of Native religions or cultural systems. Calls for a pluralistic comprehension of cultural resources.

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  • Ostler, Jeffrey. The Lakotas and the Black Hills: The Struggle for Sacred Ground. New York: Viking, 2010.

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    Presents a sweeping historical and legal overview of the efforts of the Lakota people to defend, and now to reacquire, the Black Hills. The land was unjustly taken when the federal government violated key provisions of the 1868 treaty it had signed with the Lakota and other nations by allowing the territory to be overrun by settlers.

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  • Smith, Sherry L., and Brian Frehner, eds. Indians and Energy: Exploitation and Opportunity in the American Southwest. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press, 2010.

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    An interesting and inventive collection of chapters challenging the mainstream notion that Native peoples are only historical actors. Using the concept of energy as a prism, the authors, from a variety of disciplines, explain how indigenous peoples have engaged energy resources as owners, lessees, and consumers.

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  • Welch, John R. “White Eyes’ Lies and the Battle for Dzil Nchaa Si’an.” American Indian Quarterly 21 (1997): 75–109.

    DOI: 10.2307/1185589Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the futile efforts of the White Mountain Apaches of New Mexico to prevent construction of a large telescope project at the summit of a mountain deemed sacred by tribal members. Non-Indian stereotypes of the Apache people had profound and largely negative consequences on the tribe’s efforts to prevent construction.

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  • Wildcat, Daniel. Red Alert! Saving the Planet with Indigenous Knowledge. Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 2009.

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    The author urges readers to study indigenous knowledge of the environment and then put those time-tested concepts to use in order to counter the ravages of what he terms “global burning.”

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