Patterns of Interaction and Reciprocal Influence within the Subsystem
We have remarked that a subsystem tends to have a decisive quality of its own. By this we mean generally that within one of these little political worlds the chief participants interact with and react to one another to some degree independently of the larger political world of which the subsystem is a part. In so doing, they build up patterns of influence that are primarily effective in the limited area of policy-making with which the subsystem is concerned. Yet in so far as the decisions they reach are not substantially altered by the general political system, the relations among members of a subsystem are basic determinants of the kind of public policy that comes into being for that particular substantive area. Many of the decisions reached in subsystems, though they be considered minor or detailed or insignificant when cast individually against a global backdrop, are collectively the stuff of which a large share of our total public policy is made. Emanating from the interactions of participants frequently characterized by their specialization and sheer staying power, these policies individually may lack the necessary glamor to attract wide interest. Nonetheless, their cumulative importance as well as their specific importance in given areas of American life cannot be disregarded. Hence the processes by which they are determined are crucial.
In depicting relevant aspects of the relations within a subsystem the sections which follow will draw to a considerable extent on a study of the subsystem which, to all intents and purposes, shaped United States policy toward American Indians during the period between the pre-New Deal days of 1928 until the late 1940s.1 By thus projecting from analysis of one subsystem over an extensive time period, it is the author's hope both to lend continuity and cohesiveness to the study and also to produce some propositions which will lead to further exploration and more systematic study of this level of the political process. In this sense the work also may hopefully be regarded as a moderate addition to other studies of policymaking of a kindred type.2
The political subsystem of Indian affairs is especially interesting and appropriate to this study for several reasons. One is its comprebenisve coverage of the social, political, and economic problems of a small, special subpopulation of the United States. Another is its relative isolation from