Rebirth of the Blackfeet Nation, 1912-1954

Rebirth of the Blackfeet Nation, 1912-1954

Rebirth of the Blackfeet Nation, 1912-1954

Rebirth of the Blackfeet Nation, 1912-1954

Synopsis

Drawing on interviews, democratic theory, and extensive archival research, Paul C. Rosier focuses on the internal political, economic, and ethnic forces shaping the Blackfeet Nation during the first half of the twentieth century. Incorporating Blackfeet voices throughout his study, Rosier shows how transformations were not imposed on the Blackfeet but were the result of their continuing efforts to create a community of their own design and to reorganize relations with outsiders on their own terms. Rebirth of the Blackfeet Nation, 1912–1954 illuminates a pivotal time in modern Indian-white relations and broadens our understanding of the meaning of democracy in America.

Excerpt

We have every reason to believe that our tribe will develop
into a self-supporting condition, if the natural resources
upon this reservation are developed. – Robert Hamilton,
Blackfeet leader, 1916

There is also need for a working reconciliation of the con
flicts between traditional customs of [full-bloods] and the
needs of modern living—a solution which should preserve
their cultural integrity on the one hand, and hasten prog
ress toward self-support on the other. – Freal McBride,
Blackfeet Agency superintendent, 1943

“Termination,” Philleo Nash writes, “is a bad word, a bad name, and an evil thought.” Earl Old Person, the long-standing chairman of the Blackfeet Nation, told attendees of the 1966 annual conference of the National Congress of American Indians that “in our Indian language the only translation for termination is to ‘wipe out’ or ‘kill off.’ We have no Indian words for termination. And there should be no English word for termination as it is applied to modern day terms regarding the relationship of the U.S. Government and the American Indian.” The idea of termination and even the word itself elicited similar responses among American Indians during the 1950sand 1960s and continues to do so today. I do not believe it is necessary to revise our understanding of how congressional subcommittees used the white ideology of termination and its legislative progeny as a cudgel to beat upon Indian sovereignty and create the animus that Old Person and Nash convey in such visceral terms. It is worthwhile, however, to consider termination from a new vantage point, specifically, to examine how Indian notions of “self-

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