American Indians: From
Conquest to Tribal Survival in
Postindustrial Society
Chapter Six
Lesson 9
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
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Tribal Survival?
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The contact period for American Indians lasted nearly 300 years,
ending with the Indian Wars of the late 1800s.
At the dawn of the 20th century, American Indians were a conquered
and colonized minority group living on paternalistic government
controlled reservations on the fringes of development and change,
marginalized, relatively powerless, and isolated.
At the dawn of the 21st century, American Indians remain among the
most disadvantaged, poorest, and most isolated of minority groups,
however, the group is not without resources and strategies for
improving their situation.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Size of the Group
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There were 5 million people who claimed at least
some American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry but
only about 2.5 million if we confine the group to
people who select one race only.
By either count, the group is a tiny minority (about
1%) of the total population of the United States.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
American Indian and Alaska Native
Population 1900-2010
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
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American Indian Cultures
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The dynamics of American Indian and Anglo-American
relationships have been shaped by the vast differences in
culture, values, and norms between the two groups.
There were (and are) hundreds of different tribes each with its
own language and heritage.
However, some patterns and cultural characteristics are
widely shared across the tribes, and we will concentrate on
these similarities.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
American Indian Cultures
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The goal of many American Indian tribes was to live in harmony with the natural
world, not “improve” it or use it for their own selfish purposes.
The concept of private property, or the ownership of things, was not prominent in
American Indian cultures.
American Indian cultures and societies also tended to be more oriented toward
groups than toward individuals.
Many American Indian tribes were organized around egalitarian values that stressed
the dignity and worth of every man, woman, and child.
These differences in values, compounded by the power differentials that emerged,
often placed American Indians at a disadvantage when dealing with the dominant
group.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Relations with the Federal Government
after the 1890s
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Reservations were paternalistically controlled and corrupted by the
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
American Indians on the reservations were subjected to coercive
acculturation or forced Americanization.
 Dawes Allotment Act of 1887
 Boarding Schools
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American Indians were virtually powerless to change the reservation
system or avoid the campaign of acculturation, nonetheless, they
resented and resisted and many languages and cultural elements
survived the early reservation period.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Relations with the Federal Government
after the 1890s
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Relations with the Federal Government
after the 1890s
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American Indian women also migrated to the city in
considerable numbers, and often carried the burden of
supporting the family as urban discrimination, unemployment,
and poverty made it difficult for the men to fulfill the role of
breadwinner.
American Indian women in the city continue to practice their
traditional cultures and maintain the tribal identity of their
children despite difficulties inherent in combining child rearing
and a job outside the home (Joe & Miller, 1994, p. 186).
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Protest and Resistance
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The modern protest movement has focused on
several complementary goals:
 protecting American Indian resources and treaty
rights,
 striking a balance between assimilation and pluralism,
 and finding a relationship with the dominant group
that would permit a broader array of life chances
without sacrificing tribal identity and heritage.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Protest and Resistance
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As the pan-tribal protest movement forged ties between members of
diverse tribes, the successes of the movement and changing federal
policy and public opinion encouraged a rebirth of commitment to
tribalism and “Indian-ness.”
American Indians were simultaneously stimulated to assimilate (by
stressing their common characteristics and creating organizational
forms that united the tribes) and to retain a pluralistic relationship
with the larger society (by working for self-determination and
enhanced tribal power and authority).
Thus, part of the significance of the Red Power movement was that
it encouraged both pan-tribal unity and a continuation of tribal
diversity (Olson & Wilson, 1984, p. 206).
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
The Continuing Struggle for Development in
Contemporary American Indian-White Relations
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Many efforts to develop the reservations have focused on
creating jobs by attracting industry through such incentives as
low taxes, low rents, and a low-wage pool of labor
The jobs that have materialized are typically low wage and
have few benefits; usually, non-Indians fill the more lucrative
managerial positions.
These new jobs may transform “the welfare poor into the
working poor” (Snipp, 1996, p. 398), but their potential for
raising economic vitality is low.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
The Continuing Struggle for Development in
Contemporary American Indian-White Relations
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Another potential resource for American Indians is the gambling
industry, which was made possible by 1988 federal legislation.
Various tribes have sought other ways to capitalize on their freedom
from state regulation and taxes—selling cigarettes tax-free and
exploring the possibility of housing nuclear waste and other refuse of
industrialization.
Without denying the success stories, the lives of most American
Indians continue to be limited by poverty and powerlessness,
prejudice, and discrimination.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Poverty and Education for NonHispanic Whites
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
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Median Household Income
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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Anti-Indian prejudice has been a part of American society
from the beginning.
One stereotype, especially strong during periods of conflict,
depicts Indians as bloodthirsty, ferocious, and inhumanly cruel
savages capable of any atrocity.
The other image of American Indians is that of “the noble
redman” who lives in complete harmony with nature and
symbolizes goodwill and pristine simplicity (Bordewich, 1996,
p. 34).
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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A variety of studies have documented continued stereotyping
of Native Indians in the popular press, textbooks, the media,
cartoons, and various other places (for example, see Bird,
1999; Rouse & Hanson, 1991).
The persistence of stereotypes is illustrated by continuing
controversies surrounding nicknames for athletic teams and
the use of American Indian mascots, tomahawk “chops,” and
other practices offensive to many American Indians.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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The very limited evidence available from social distance
scales suggests that overt anti-Indian prejudice has declined.
The situation of American Indian women is also underresearched, but like their counterparts in other minority groups
and the dominant group, they “are systematically paid less
than their male counterparts in similar circumstances” (Snipp,
1992; p. 363).
Research is unclear about the severity or extent of
discrimination against American Indians, but institutional
discrimination is a major barrier for American Indians.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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The huge majority (75%) of American Indians in the
continental U.S. speaks only English but a sizeable
minority (18%) speaks a tribal language as well.
For most of the ten largest tribes, less than 10% speak
their tribal language in addition to English.
In some tribes, however, the picture is dramatically
different.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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American Indians have been considerably more successful than
African Americans in preserving their traditional cultures, due to the
differences in their relationships to the dominant group.
However, a number of social forces are working against pluralism
and the survival of tribal cultures.
 Pan-tribalism may threaten the integrity of individual tribal cultures.
 Opportunities for jobs, education, and higher incomes draw American
Indians to more developed urban areas and will continue to do so as
long as the reservations are underdeveloped.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Residential Segregation of American
Indians 1980-200
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
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Educational Attainment 2009
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
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School Integration 1993-1994 and
2005-2006
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
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Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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One positive development for the education of American Indians is
the rapid increase in tribally controlled colleges, over 30 of which
have been built since the 1960s.
These institutions are mostly 2-year community colleges located on
or near reservations, and some have been constructed with funds
generated in the gaming industry.
They are designed to be more sensitive to the educational and
cultural needs of the group, and tribal college graduates who
transfer to 4-year colleges are more likely to graduate than other
American Indian students (Pego, 1998).
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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The ability of American Indians to exert power as a voting bloc
very limited by group size, lower average levels of education,
language differences, lack of economic resources, and
factional differences within and between tribes and
reservations.
The number of American Indians holding elected office is
minuscule, far less than 1% (Pollard & O’Hare, 1999, p. 41).
In 1992, Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado became the
first American Indian to be elected to the U.S. Senate. He
served in Congress until 2005.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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As in the case of African Americans, the overall
unemployment rate for all American Indians is about
double the rate for whites.
For Indians living on or near reservations, however,
the rate is much higher
 Unemployment is as high as 70% to 80% on some
reservations.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Median Household Income 2009
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Distribution of Household Income
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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There is considerable variation from tribe to tribe but, as
a whole, American Indians earn only about 75% of the
national median income.
Although the magnitude varies from tribe to tribe, about
22% of all American Indians and 27% of all American
Indian children live below the poverty line.
However, levels of poverty has fallen in recent decades
and poverty tends to be much more prevalent in the
reservation.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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Rates of intermarriage for American Indians are quite high compared
with other groups.
The higher rate of marriage outside the group for American Indians
is partly the result of the small size of the group.
Marriages with non-Indians are much more common in metropolitan
areas, away from the reservations.
They are also associated with higher levels of education, greater
participation in the labor force, higher income levels, and lower rates
of poverty (Snipp, 1989, pp. 160–164).
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Contemporary American Indian-White
Relations
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In comparing American Indians with African Americans:
 The differences in the stereotypes attached to the two groups are
consistent with the outcomes of the contact period.
 Their contact situations were governed by very different dynamics and a
very different dominant group agenda, which shaped subsequent
relationships with the dominant group and the place of the groups in the
larger society.
 While African Americans spent much of the 20th century struggling for
inclusion and equality, American Indians were fighting to maintain or
recover their traditional cultures and social structures.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
Progress and Challenges
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American Indians are growing rapidly in numbers and are
increasingly diversified by residence, education, and degree of
assimilation.
Some tribes have made dramatic progress over the past several
decades, but enormous problems remain, both on and off the
reservations.
The challenge for the future, as it was in the past, is to find a course
between pluralism and assimilation and pan-tribalism and traditional
lifestyles that will balance the issues of quality of life against the
importance of retaining an Indian identity.
Healey. Diversity and Society: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender 4e
© 2014 SAGE Publications, Inc.
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CHAPTER 5