Indigenous Nations and Modern States: The Political Emergence of Nations Challenging State Power

By Rudolph C. Rÿser | Go to book overview

3
FOUR NATIONS AND THE U.S.A.

Not until the 1950s did American Indian leaders systematically advance their agenda in pursuit of self-determination. This chapter tells the story of how, in their relations with the United States, American Indian nations used the slogan “strengthen our tribal government” to pursue political “self-determination” and “tribal sovereignty.” Eventually in the 1970s and 1980s the Quinault Indian Nation, Lummi Nation, Hoopa Valley Tribe and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe led the more than 500 Indian nations to seek “government-to-government” relations with the United States and finally the “power of self-government” through an intergovernmental compact on self-government.

Scholars and journalists usually write about Indian Affairs from the perspective of the United States government and its policies toward Indian nations. They then proceed to discuss the effects such policies have on Indian nations. The result is a fairly extensive body of literature written by authors (e.g., Kirk Kickingbird, Vine DeLoria Sr., and Sharon O’Brien) stating and restating US government legal and bureaucratic policies toward Indian nations. I provide some of this material as background, but focus mainly on American Indian policies directed at achieving their own aspirations or changing US policies. Rarely are Indian Affairs examined from the point of view of Indian nations as their policies affect their neighbors, the United States government and beyond. The absence in the literature of this line of thinking creates a yawning gap in our understanding of public policy in the United States, policies of American Indian nations, and how we can understand events in other countries concerning Fourth World nations.

The actions and policy initiatives of American Indian nations have a ripple effect throughout the world. While the leaders of indigenous peoples elsewhere in the world heavily rely on their own circumstances to inform their judgments and decisions about political actions they must take, many pay attention to American Indian political initiatives, terms of reference and achievements and then apply those ideas in their own struggle.

I recount now some of the not-so-well documented events and policies initiated by Indian governments intended to advance their political interests

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