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a social ethical analysis of
THE NATIONS WITHIN:
by Theodore Walker, Jr.
THE PAST AND FUTURE OF AMERICAN INDIAN
(New York: Pantheon Books, 1984)
by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Clifford M. Lytle
The basic elements of this social ethical analysis are:
themes, circles of concern, descriptions, predictions, visions, and prescriptions (all premeated by values and value judgments).
In THE NATIONS WITHIN: THE PAST AND FUTURE OF AMERICAN INDIAN SOVEREIGNTY (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), Vine Deloria, Jr. and Clifford M. Lytle
prescribe that the study of Native American thought should give attention to specific themes or "conceptual keys" (NATIONS, p. 12).
Foremost among the prescribed "conceptual keys to understanding how the Indian experiences the world today" (NATIONS, p. 12) are the following themes:
Deloria and Lytle identify "freedom of religion" as one of the most important issues for Native American relations to the U.S.A. (NATIONS, p. 252). Furthermore, they say, "The idea of the people is primarily a religious conception ..." in that, usually, Native American peoples are constituted by religious events such as the coming of a primordial holy person who gives ceremonies, rituals and prophecies contributing to tribal identification as a distinct people (NATIONS, p. 8). Also, they say, "the idea of the treaty" is a religious or sacred idea (NATIONS, p. 8).
- people, peoples, "the concept of the people," "the idea of the people," "the idea of peoplehood" (NATIONS, pp. 8, 12, 242);
- tribe, tribes, tribal, traditional tribal, "tribal peoples," "tribal Indians," "tribal identity," tribalism (NATIONS, pp. 232-235, 235, 242, 254);
- nation, nations, "nations within," "nationality," "nationhood," "national government" (NATIONS, pp. 10, 12-13, 242, 246), national "sovereignty" or "nationalism;"
part of tribal visions of "self-determination" (NATIONS, p. 242, chapters 15-17);
- "land," protection of the land, "the primacy of land," "land consolidation" (NATIONS, pp. 10, 12, 255);
- religion, religions, "freedom of religion" (NATIONS, p. 8, 252).
Past, present, and future nationalism among Native American tribes and nations is the central theme of THE NATIONS WITHIN: THE PAST AND FUTURE OF AMERICAN INDIAN SOVEREIGNTY (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984) by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Clifford M. Lytle.
circle of concern:
THE NATIONS WITHIN: THE PAST AND FUTURE OF AMERICAN INDIAN SOVEREIGNTY (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984) by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Clifford M. Lytle is precisely concerned with contemporary Native American peoples, tribes, and nations in territories north of the Rio Grande River where Native American claims to the land overlap and conflict with U.S. claims.
The title--"The Nations Within"--refers to the existence of Native American tribes and nations claiming sovereignty over territories within areas claimed by the U.S.A.
Deloria and Lytle distinguishe between two kinds of contemporary Native Americans:
In contrast to "ethnic Indians," Deloria and Lytle identifiy "traditional" Indians as "tribal peoples" (NATIONS, pp. 234-235, 242),
and they say, "tribal Indian" is "certainly better than simply "traditional" in many respects" (NATIONS, p. 235).
- "traditional Indians" or
"tribal Indians" who continue with tribal existence on tribal lands, who speak an indigenous language, and who retain a strong sense of "tribal identity"; and
- "ethnic Indians" who surrendered tribal existence and who are frequently "mixed-bloods" (NATIONS, pp. 232-235, 254).
For Deloria and Lytle, the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee symbolizes the distinction between traditional tribal Indians and ethnic Indians.
According to Deloria and Lytle, the Wounded Knee occupation pitted
- the U.S. government and U.S. government appointed ethnic Indian leaders against
- Oglala activists-radicals and traditional tribal Oglala leaders.
"Traditional people at Pine Ridge formed the backbone of the occupation of Wounded Knee, even though federal and state officials attempted to make it seem as if urban Indian guerrillas had invaded the reservation. Medicine men came and participated in the camp and conducted ceremonies for the people. They also were an integral part of the negotiations with the government, which finally led to the surrender of the village and church." (NATIONS, p240)
ethnic Indians vrs traditional tribal Oglala:
"self-government" vrs "self-determination
At Wounded Knee,
the ethnic Indians were part of the U.S. government appointed leadership,
they were committed to a U.S. public policy called "self-government."
"Self-government" insists Native American tribes are not sovereign nations, that Native Americans are U.S. citizens, but that Native American tribes should have a limited measure of self-government under the higher authority of the U.S. federal government.
The traditional tribal Oglala leaders and Oglala radicals were committed to the traditional tribal view called "self-determination."
"Self-determination" insists Native American tribes have been and should continue to be sovereign nations dealing with the U.S. as sovereign treaty-making natonal entities. "Self-determination" is about "Indian nationalism" and "nationhood" (NATIONS, pp. 12-13).
The issue of self-government verses self-determination,
which is the issue of whether Native American tribes are sovereign nations,
is not yet resolved;
but even now,
many Native American tribes retain a measure of national sovereignty.
In some relations to the U.S. federal government, Native American tribes presently enjoy "a status higher than states" (the title of chapter one of NATIONS).
Deloria and Lytle say,
"... Indian tribal governments, as presently constituted, have many of the powers of nations and, more important, have the expectation that they will continue to enhance the political status they enjoy. With some exception, such as jurisdiction over major crimes, now fourteen in number, a standing army, coinage and postage, and other attributes of the truly independent nations, Indian tribes exercise in some respects more governing powers than local non-Indians municipalities and in other respects more important powers than the states themselves." (NATIONS, p. 14)
Native American land holdings within territories claimed by the U.S. amounted to approximately 52 million acres by 1950 (NATIONS, p184).
Deloria and Lytle foresee a continuation and esculation of already emerging resurgent "Indian Nationalism."
chapter 15 "The Cry for Self-Determination"
chapter 16 "The Emergence of Indian Nationalism," and
chapter 17 "The Future of Indian Nations"
in THE NATIONS WITHIN: THE PAST AND FUTURE OF AMERICAN INDIAN SOVEREIGNTY (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984) by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Clifford M. Lytle.)
Deloria and Lytle find that even existing tribal governments expect enhanced political status in the future.
And while the formation of U.S. appointed tribal governance under the heading of "self-government" contributed positively to enhanced political status and other U.S. federal government benefits;
nonetheless, the self-government approach is "simply inadequate" (NATIONS, p. 14).
Traditional tribal Indians retain higher expectations and aspirations.
"... Indian tribal governments, as presently constituted, have many of the powers of nations and, more important, have the expectation that they will continue to enhance the political status they enjoy. With some exception, such as jurisdiction over major crimes, now fourteen in number, a standing army, coinage and postabe, and other attributes of the truly independent nations, Indian tribes exercise in some respects more governing powers than local non-Indians municipalities and in other respects more important powers than the states themselves.
But such privileges do not assuage the needs of a spiritual tradition that remains very strong within most tribes and that needs to express itself in ways familiar to the people. Thus, Wounded Knee was the inevitable product of the experiment in self-government because it represented the first effort to establish the dignity of the tribe in a manner consonant with the people's memories of their older way of life.
To suggest now that the movement for self-government was wrong may shatter modern Indian beliefs and cause great consternation. Self-government was not wrong; it was simply inadequate. It was limted in a fundamental way because it circumscribed the area in which the people's aspirations could express themselve."
(NATIONS, p. 14-15)
"It is probably too late to put the Indiann genie back into the bottle. John collier planned too well in his efforts to give Indians self-government. In setting the theoretical framework for reconstituting an ancient feeling of sovereignty, he prepared the ground for an entirely new expresssion of Indian communal and corporate existence. We are just beginning to recognize the nature of this expression."
(NATIONS, p. 264)
Given the positive contributions an inadequate self-government approach (contributions including cultivation of political and cultural aspirations which a self-government approach cannot fulfill), and
given Native American resolve to continue the struggle for nationhood;
there is good reason for Deloria and Lytle to forecast a continuing "movement toward nationality" (NATIONS, p. 214).
sign of things to come:
Already, as a result of efforts begun at the 1974 first International Treaty Council on the Standing Rock Reservation where the "general theme" was "the importance of acting as a nation" (NATIONS, p. 241);
the International Treaty Council has achieved observer status in the United Nations.
According to Deloria and Lytle, traditional tribal peoples envision themselves as sovereign nations on a par with the United States and other nations.
"The tribal peoples see the United States as one nation subject in some sense to the trends and movements of history and sensitive to the perceptions of other nations. Their drive for nationhood imagines a time when each tribe will have some kind of parity with the other nations of the world, as each tribe believes it had prior to contact with Europeans. Tribal concerns relate to the absence of the red race in the deliberative bodies of the world, and this larger perspective has overtones of history, religion, and culture. Here the idea of peoplehood transcends the contemporary political organizations and speaks to generations of people, people past and people yet to come."
(NATIONS, p. 242)
Concerning the choice between self-government and self-determination, Deloria and Lytle prescribe that "the adherents of both self-government and self-determination must cooperate if the tribe is finally to reconstitute itself" (NATIONS, p. 244).
Deloria and Lytle express hope that publication of THE NATIONS WITHIN "can make a contribution toward both understanding these concepts and helping to prepare the ground for eventual reconciliation of these divergent viewpoints" (NATIONS, p. 245), and they go on to offer these social ethical prescriptions:
"First, there must be a structural reform of tribal governing institutions that is fundamental but also permits a continuity between past and present. ... Second, some kind of determined and lasting cultural renewal must take place to help resolve the question of Indian identity in the modern world ... Third, economic stability must be established and maintained if Indians are to survive as distinct and healthy communities; the reservation economy must be recognized as uniquely Indian, but it must also be efficient in today's world, Finally, relations between the tribe and the federal and state governments must be stabalized, and mutual respect and parity in political rights must be established."
(NATIONS, p. 245)
- "reform of tribal governments"
- "cultural renewal"
- "economic stability"
- "mutual respect and parity in political rights" (NATIONS, p. 245)
among other things,
Deloria and Lytle prescribe the following:
- that the tribes seek to preserve indigenous tribal languages because they are "the key to cultural survival" (NATIONS, p. 251);
- that the tribes seek to preserve traditional "religious healing and proper natural diet" and the use of " traditional foods and medicines wherever possible" (NATIONS, p. 251-252);
- that tribal governments seek a "freedom of religion" which provides "the right to practice the tribal religion seriously without the expectation by the tribal government that the ceremonies can be used for income-generating purposes" (NATIONS, p. 252);
- that tribes define behavioral standards for tribal membership instead of depending upon government rolls (NATIONS, p. 253);
- that tribes seek "land consolidation" so that "tribes are able to own their lands in one solid block" (NATIONS, p. 255);
- that tribes resist "exploitation of tribal resources by outside non-Indian corporations" (NATIONS, p. 258);
- that the tribes consider "a return to a natural economy derived from the sophisticated and self-sufficient use of the land" (NATIONS, p. 258);
- that tribes "develop programs that are perceived by the people as natural extensions of things they are already doing" (NATIONS, p. 259).
Deloria and Lytle prescribe that the U.S. federal government and others cooperate with these tribal efforts.
In particular, Deloria and Lytle prescribe
- that the U.S. federal government stop employing the threat of "termination" (termination of federal services) as a weapon against the tribes,
- government recognition of treaties and of the treaty-making power of tribal nations,
- prompt-negotiated "settlement of outstanding tribal claims against the United States" (NATIONS, p. 262), and
- a "change in perception by both Indians and federal and state officials"
(NATIONS, p. 264).
The prescribed change in perception calls both Indians and non-Indians to recognize that self-government has been superceded by a new movement towards increased national sovereignity.
"Self-government ... has been superceded in our generation by the demand for self-determination. Indian affairs has thus moved beyond political institutions into an arena primarily cultural, religious, and sociological and there are no good guidelines for either policy or programs in this new area of activity. The old scholarship that treated political and economic activities as separate from the rest of human expereince can no longer describe political and economic developments in Indian tribes without reference to the profound cultural and emotional energies that are influencing Indians today."
(NATIONS, p. 264)
see Samual R. Cook's "What is Indian Self-Determination?"
in RED INK, Volume 3, Number One (1 May 1994).
RED INK is published in hard-copy and web versions.
As of 5 July 1996, the address of RED INK's home page is:
Or, see a 5 July 1996 web-downloaded-local copy of Samual R. Cook's "What is Indian Self-Determination?"
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most recent update: 6 August 1997
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