The Indians in American Society: From the Revolutionary War to the Present

The Indians in American Society: From the Revolutionary War to the Present

The Indians in American Society: From the Revolutionary War to the Present

The Indians in American Society: From the Revolutionary War to the Present

Synopsis

American Indian affairs are much in the public mind today--hotly contested debates over such issues as Indian fishing rights, land claims, and reservation gambling hold our attention. While the unique legal status of American Indians rests on the historical treaty relationship between Indian tribes and the federal government, until now there has been no comprehensive history of these treaties and their role in American life.

Francis Paul Prucha, a leading authority on the history of American Indian affairs, argues that the treaties were a political anomaly from the very beginning. The term "treaty" implies a contract between sovereign independent nations, yet Indians were always in a position of inequality and dependence as negotiators, a fact that complicates their current attempts to regain their rights and tribal sovereignty.

Prucha's impeccably researched book, based on a close analysis of every treaty, makes possible a thorough understanding of a legal dilemma whose legacy is so palpably felt today.

Excerpt

When I accepted appointment as Thomas I. Gasson Professor at Boston College for the two academic years 1983–84 and 1984–85, part of my commitment was to give a public lecture each semester on some topic related to my research interests. I agreed to the responsibility eagerly, for it provided an excellent opportunity for me to present to an educated audience—but one for whom Indian affairs were not of special concern—a brief statement on the place of Indians in American society, both in the historic past and in the ongoing present.

I had just completed work on a comprehensive history of the United States government’s Indian policy, published in two volumes under the title The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984), and the Gasson Lectures gave me the incentive to distill from that large work some themes and patterns that might make sense to the nonspecialist without being completely useless to scholars in the field. The positive reception of the lectures, from a diverse audience of scholars, teachers, and students, encouraged me to prepare them for publication.

The theme of The Great Father, as the title implies, is the paternalistic policy that marked much of the United States government’s dealings with the Indians. I have . . .

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