THE NATIONS WITHIN: The Past and Future of American Indian Sovereignty by

THE NATIONS WITHIN: The Past and Future of American Indian Sovereignty

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The authors of American Indians, American Justice (1983) have now prepared a less specialized study of the particular problem of Indian sovereignty: what they see as the conflict between self-determination, by right, and self-government, on white terms. At the outset the book appears a narrow combination of rhetoric and technical detail--whereas other analytical histories of Indian governance (Wilcomb Washburn's Red Man's Land/White Man's Law, Robert A. Berkhofer's The White Man's Burden), present it in a broader framework, and the central episode (occupying 3/5 of the book) is authoritatively treated in Kenneth Philp's 1977 work, John Collier's Crusade for Indian Reform: 1920-1954. What is distinctive, however, is the specific Indian content and legalistic/ideological precision. Collier, a radical critic of US Indian policy in the 1920s, was interested in more than administrative reform: he believed that Indian culture was alive and valuable--and as FDR's new Commissioner of Indian Affairs, he drew up an Omnibus Bill to preserve tribal integrity and foster self-government. From official documents, Deloria and Lytle scrutinize the bill's provisions, and how they fared not only through congressional hearings but also at the regional Indian congresses Collier convened to explain the bill and rally support (a close-up of intra-Indian conflict). Their historical point is that Collier's bill was emasculated in becoming the 1954 Indian Reorganization Act, except insofar as it ended the old allotment system that allowed Indian lands to be broken up and sold to non-Indians; but, in adroitly administering the Act, Collier (and Interior Dept. solicitor Nathan Margold) claimed for the tribes inherent powers--as against the delegated powers his original version would have given them. ""Modern tribal sovereignty thus begins with this opinion, although it would be another generation before Indian tribes would understand the difference and begin to talk in proper terms about their status."" The balance of the book details Indian and congressional opposition to Collier--and his accomplishments (defending him against recent critics); the lethargy and slippage of the ""barren"" 1945-65 period; the emerging question of Indian civil rights (apropos of differing Indian and white legal concepts) as complicated by the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act; and the subsequent ""cry for self-determination,"" area by area. The authors conclude with pinpoint recommendations for political, cultural, and economic change--recognizing that Indians themselves will first have to be surer of their identity. An advocates' brief, certainly (both authors are lawyers, at the U. of Arizona)--but also a logical next step for Deloria.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1984
Publisher: Pantheon