Indians in the United States and Canada: A Comparative History

By Roger L. Nichols | Go to book overview

11 Tribes and the Modern State, 1945-1990s

"after the devastation in Europe, there was the Marshall Plan: Japan had its course set by MacArthur. For the Indians, on the other hand," charged the Sioux Benjamin Reifel, commissioner of Indian affairs, "there was House Concurrent Resolution 108. Soaring expectations began to plunge. Termination took on the connotation of extermination for many.' 1 At least in the United States, that described the situation during the 1940s. Because the 1930s Indian Reorganization Act had encouraged tribal languages, religious practices, and cultural ceremonies for the first time in generations, many reservation dwellers expected their lives to continue improving. But that did not happen. Not only did World War II disrupt the course of Indian affairs, but once the conflict ended, some of the public and many governmental officials blamed the tribes for their poverty. So instead of meeting the Indians' new expectations, federal policies appeared to attack the reservation dwellers.

After the war native people in both countries experienced many changes. Around the world anticolonialism became the order of the day, and as a subjugated minority, Indians came to be identified by many with the dismantling of colonial empires. Indian veterans returned with dramatically altered selfperceptions, yet those reentering tribal communities faced restrictions on their right to purchase alcohol, to vote, or even to sell their livestock or other farm products. In Canada, people who had mobilized to fight racism and oppression soon recognized that their government's actions included some of those same things. In the United States the reaction to the war differed somewhat, in that

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