NAs: 1970s & 1980s

Land Rights

  • Nixon in 1970 made sure tribal lands were returned to the Makah and Taos Pueblo Indians and in 1972 land was returned to Yakama Indians of Washington State
  • NARF (Native American Rights Fund) was founded to defend the rights of NAs with landmark cases: 

- Oneida vs. Oneida and Madison Counties, New York (1974) > Established the right of tribes to sue for the return of lands through the Supreme Court 

- United Nations vs. Sioux Nation (1980) > Ruled the Sioux were entitled to compensation totalling $17.5 million and an additional 5% interest per year since 1877 ($106 million) for the loss of the Black Hills of Dakota in contravention of the Fort Laramie Treaty but Sioux refused the money

- The Native Peoples of Alaska (1971) gained 40 million acres of land and $1 billion in compensation

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Right to self-govern (political rights)

  • President Nixon appointed, Mohawk-Sioux, Louis R Bruce Jnr as Commissioner for Indian Affairs
  • Indian Nations that had lost status as a result of termination regained their recognition and rights > this gave them access to federal courts and the means to seek address for their loss of treaty rights
  • NARF's landmark case:

- Fisher vs. Montana (1976) > secured the rights of tribal courts to decide on adoption of Indian children cases

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Religious & Cultural Rights

  • Nixons,1972, the Indian Education Act involved a substantial increase in federal funding for Indian Schools > More reservation schools were built & highly controversial boarding schools were closed
  • President Ford abandoned assimilation with Indian Self-Determination Act (1975) >>> Tribes could negotiate with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take responsibility for their own education, health and social service provision
  • Also Ford introduced the Indian Education Assistance Act (1975) >>> gave American Indian parents greater involvement in their children’s education through membership of their school boards 
  • Improvements by Ford were dependent on Federal funding and when US economic situation worsened funding was cut back 
  • President Carter passed The Native American Religious Freedom Act (1978) > gave NAs the right to believe, express and practise traditional regions as well as ensuring access to sites and the possession of sacred objects
  • Also Carter's, Indian Child Welfare Act (1978) >>> specified the rights of Native American parents in relation to the continuing practise of forcibly removing Indian children from their families due to lack of understanding on part of social workers due to cultural differences
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Religious & Cultural Rights 2

NARF won several landmark cases such as:

  • Fisher vs Montana (1976): secured the rights of tribal courts to decide on adoption of Indian children cases

Advances around the 70s and 80s led to an anti-Indian backlash in many parts of the country e.g. Anti-Indian groups such as ‘CERA’ (Citizens’ Equal Rights Alliance) and ‘All Citizens Equal’ in Montana and ‘Totally Equal Americans’ in Minnesota

 !!! People believed tribes received special treatment especially now Indian local sovereignty had begun to grow in many places !!!

But, growing self-determination and respect tribal traditions contributed to greater pride in their heritage  > US census in 1970 = 800 000 Native Americans in the US  > 1990 = 1.7 million reflecting increased confidence and pride

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Economic and Employment Rights

  • During Nixon's time Native Americans were given preference in employment oppurtunities in the Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • NARF passes several landmark cases for economic and employment rights such as:

- Seminole Tribes vs Butterworth (1982) > ruled the tribe had the right to establish gambling enterprises on their reservation lands (even if gambling had been banned by the state)

  • President Reagan believed in 'native capitalism' > the idea that you should work for yourself in order to make more money > but was intended to reduce the burden on federal or state expenditure by the development of profit-making enterprises by Native Americans themselves
  • Reservation Indians did attempt to stimulate their economies by creating small businesses such as restaurants, petrol stations, shops and bingo halls as well as making money from farming, hunting, lumbering
  • Casinos and bingo halls opened up all over Indian Country and millions of non-Indian punters rolled up to lose their money to the tribes
  • 1988, Congress passed Indian Gaming Regulatory Act > established a National Indian Gaming Commission to oversee tribal gaming issues and operations > legislation made funds available through the BIA as loans to help tribes build facilities ranging from modest bingo halls to multimillion-dollar resorts
  • By the end of the 1990s, tribal gross revenues from these operations exceeded $5 billion > Indian's referred to it as the 'new buffalo'
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