The Other Side of the Frontier: Economic Explorations into Native American History

By Linda Barrington | Go to book overview

Introduction
Political Economy and History of Allotment

LEONARD A. CARLSON

Part 4 contains two selections: a chapter on federal Indian policy in the twentieth century and a chapter on Native Hawaiians. Both look at the relationship of native peoples to federal agencies charged with helping them. The federal government has played a very important role in the lives of Native peoples in the twentieth century, but as with other forms of federal intervention in the economy (see, for example, Atack and Passell 1994, chap. 23), federal involvement began much earlier. Chapter 9, by Leonard A. Carlson, looks at federal programs that between 1900 and 1930 built irrigation projects on several reservations in the West. Chapter 10, by Sumner J. La Croix and Louis A. Rose, analyzes an important program that has provided land and housing for Native Hawaiians since 1921.

Both chapters use methodologies influenced by recent work in economics that stress the role of organized interest groups (including the regulatory agencies themselves) in setting policy. 1 This view contrasts to the public interest view of federal legislation, which assumes that the government and its agencies will act in the public interest. These two chapters both find that although Native peoples did benefit from the programs studied, there were many wasteful elements and that non-Native special interests were often major beneficiaries of the programs. A key issue left for the reader to decide is what policies might have worked better, given the actual historical conditions and knowledge of the participants.

There are interesting similarities and differences between the Hawaiian Home Lands Program and programs to irrigate Indian reservations and promote farming by Indians. By the twentieth century, Native Hawaiians were integrated into the larger economy of the Hawaiian Islands. Although, of course, at one time all people in Hawaii were ethnically Native Hawaiian, disease and immigration had tipped the balance so that in the nineteenth century Hawaiians had become a minority in the islands. Once Hawaii was

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