Native American Civil Rights Pressure Groups

Descriptions of various groups involved in the campaign ofr Native American civil rights and native sovereignty.

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Indian Rights Association (IRA)

  • Founded in 1882.
  • Aimed to 'civilise' Native Americans through assimilation.
  • Very influential on 1930s federal government policy.
  • Had very little understanding of Native American cultures and way of life.
  • Although their actions were well-intentioned, they were ultimately harmful to Native Americans.
  • They lobbied politicians, monitored the actions of the Indian Agents and attempted to educate the public about native issues.
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Society of American Indians (SAI)

  • Founded 1911 as group of 50 educated, fairly assimilated Native American men and women.
  • First attempt at an inter-tribal pressure group.
  • Campaigned for:
    • improved education
    • better health provision
    • DID NOT CAMPAIGN FOR LAND RIGHTS/SELF-DETERMINATION (because the society members themselves disagreed).
  • Limited impact, because of infighting, lack of mass support and lack of funds.
  • Short-lived - collapsed in the 1920s.
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American Indian Defense Association (AIDA)

  • A group of writers and anthropologists, founded 1923 by John Collier.
  • Campaigned for:
    • Land rights.
    • Religious and cultural freedoms..
  • Set up to block the1921 and 1923 Levitt Bill (the Dance Order).
  • Influential (but not influential enough) in the formation of the Indian Reorganisation Bill that became the 1934 Wheeler-Howard Act.
    • Failed to force federal government to abandon assimilation policy.
    • Collier was disappointed about NA reaction - he hadn't consulted them enough.
  • Some aims were unrealistic:
    • government didn't have the money to buy back native lands it had sold off.
    • Assimilation wasn't going to be abandoned so easily.
  • John Collier was appointed Commissioner for Indian Afffairs 1933.
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National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

  • Founded 1944 in response to initial attempts at Termination - the beginning of a Native American protest movement.
  • Worked through courts (like NAACP).
  • Aims - to challenge:
    • Treaty-breaking.
    • Employment discrimination.
    • Inequality in education.
  • Harrison v Laveen (1948) - the NCAI collaborated in this case and won it.  This reversed the states' use of voting qualifications to ban Native Americans from voting.
  • Won several victories by the 1960s, including defeating a bill in 1954 that would have led to states taking control of civil and criminal jurisdiction over Native Americans.
  • Obtained a pledge from JFK to develop the reservations, but then he died.
  • Pursued a policy of non-protest, which led to it being labelled as 'old-fashioned' by the younger generation of the 1960s.
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National Indian Youth Council (NIYC)

  • Founded 1961 to pursue civil rights for American Indians, because of frustration at older NCAI's more conservative methods.
  • Part of the Red Power movement
  • Focused on fishing and land rights in the North-West.
  • Used litigation and fish-ins as its main forms of protest.
  • 1968 - fish-in in Washington State.
  • 1970s - filed suits protecting reservation land from exploitation for mineral resources.
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American Indian Movement (AIM)

  • Founded 1968.
  • Most militant protest organisation.
  • Campaigned about:
    • Racism against Native Americans - patrol the streets like the Black Panthers.
    • 'Native Sovereignty' - land/fishing rights, self-determination.
  • Worked through large-scale protests or media stunts, as well as litigation.
    • Siege of Alcatraz 1969 (led by Richard Oakes and Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwell)
    • Occupation of Mt Rushmore 1971.
    • Occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs 1972 following the arrival of the 'Trail of Broken Treaties' caravan.
    • 1973 Occupation at Wounded Knee.
    • 1975 Pine Ridge Reservation shootout.
  • Divisive through its violence.
  • Inspired a lot of the 'Red Power' movement.
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Native American Rights Fund (NARF)

  • Founded 1970 to defend tribal culture:
  • Aims:
    • hunting and fishing rights
    • reinstate pre-termination tribal statuses
    • freedom of worship
    • burial rights
    • to train young Native Americans as specialised attorneys.
  • Successes
    • 1974 Oneida v Oneida and Madison Counties, NY - Oneida tribe should get its land back
    • 1976 Fisher v Montana - right of tribal courts to decide on all Native American adoption cases established
    • 1980 US v Sioux - Sioux entitled to monetary compensation for the loss of the Black Hills of Dakota, the Sioux refuse the money and continue to pursue the case.
    • 1982 Seminole Tribe v Butterworth - right of tribes to have casinos on their reservations, even in non-gambling states established.
    • 1986 Charrier v Bell - Remains from Louisiana burial ground returned to Native American community.  Sets a precedent for 1990 Native American Graves Protection Act
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