New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations


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Craig N. Cipolla

Soon after the establishment of the reservation, government officials reversed their tactics and sought ways to minimize the role of the chiefs, perceiving their developing political power as an obstacle to assimiliation. The first step was to pay equal attention to the chiefs of small bands as was paid to such prominent chiefs as Red Cloud and Spotted Tail.


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Indian agents fostered jealousies among the chiefs in an attempt to weaken their authority. The agency records show a dramatic increase in the number of bands as the agents recognized the leaders of the smaller bands.

Table of Contents: New perspectives on Native North America :

Goods and rations were no longer distributed through the chiefs. Instead, each head of household was issued a ticket designating the quantity to which the family was entitled. Band-based communities developed, many of which were distant from the agencies. To obviate the need for people to travel to the agencies biweekly or monthly, subagencies were established to oversee the districts and distribute rations. The Indian Office treated each reservation as a distinct tribe, thereby creating a set of newly imposed social units.

The Tetons and upper Yanktonais had little in common, making their designation as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe problematical. In fact, none of the reservations was entirely limited to a single one of the old tribes, given patterns of intermarriage and the fluid way in which bands moved about.

During the period of the Sioux wars with the US Army, from to , a number of bands of Santee, Yankton, and Yanktonai Sioux moved across the Missouri and joined various of the Teton tribes as they pressed west into Montana in search of buffalo hunting grounds.

The Futures of Native American History in the United States

When Indian agents found these councils unwieldy and difficult to control they sidestepped them by appointing small business councils for such purposes as signing land lease agreements. Indian Office regulations also called for the establishment of reservation police forces and Courts of Indian Offenses, primarily to maintain order and to control infractions of rules. All of these institutions reinforced the political autonomy of the reservation. The agents made an annual census of each reservation, keeping track of births and deaths.

Indians were not allowed to leave the reservation without a written pass, and moving to another reservation required an official transfer. This established the primacy of the father as family head and made family membership and inheritance easier to track. For the Sioux themselves, however, the biological basis for this classification was not definitive. Identity as full blood came to be symbolic of commitment to tradition while mixed blood symbolized the desire to adapt to mainstream American culture, primarily as ranchers or farmers.

With the money earned they could buy food for their families. The intention was to instil in the Lakotas a work ethic that would enable their transition to independence. Related individuals chose allotments adjacent to one another and formed dispersed communities in the areas around the subagencies. Government policy assumed that the pride of land ownership would hurry the Indians along the path to independence. Lands in excess of what was needed at the time were opened to non-Indian settlement.

New Perspectives on Native North America

Perhaps reflecting the belief that Indians were a dying race, no consideration was given to the needs of succeeding generations. The old communities became permanently spread out across the reservation lands, weakening the social bonds that were central to prereservation life. Others formed around day schools. In each community a church was built, which became the focus of the community.

Representing a variety of denominations, the churches seem to have been especially important for their cemeteries, providing the final resting place for community members. Individuals were subsequently responsible for paying taxes, which led many to sell or forfeit their lands. Indians who had half or more white blood came to be judged as competent on that basis alone. The inevitable result was massive land loss, with little or nothing for the newly enfranchised Indians to show in return for it.

At the same time, native religious and social practices were prohibited by the Indian Office. Fourth of July celebrations, agricultural fairs, rodeos, and church encampments replaced the Sun Dance as foci of summer activities. Many Sioux people gained direct knowledge of white culture by traveling with wild west shows, both in the United States and abroad, and by performing dances and participating in parades in off-reservation towns and cities.

At the same time, many Sioux children were attending off-reservation boarding schools where they not only learned about the white men and their ways of life, but also interacted and ultimately intermarried with students from other tribes. In the process, ideas and practices were exchanged and a generalized identity as Indian developed, which was fostered by the teachers, who perceived Indian and White as a fundamental opposition. Similarly, some Sioux men joined the armed forces in World War I and returned to the reservations with a broader perspective on the world.

English began to be commonly used, particularly in intertribal contexts. The reference community, however, remained the band, first transformed into sedentary villages as the old tipi encampments were replaced by clusters of log houses, then into districts as individual families moved onto their allotments. Although weakened, these geographically dispersed communities retained the kinship networks of the traditional bands and the leading men now served as councilmen at the tribal level.

The pattern of long-term visiting, as in prereservation times, also contributed to kin solidarity; such visits might last weeks or even months. Roosevelt as president of the United States in heralded a period of intense governmental reform and increased social programs. By giving tribes the opportunity to write constitutions as political entities and to incorporate for economic purposes, the IRA sought to institute both representative democracy and economic independence on the reservations.

At the same time, under the leadership of Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier, the Office of Indian Affairs sought to encourage tribes in the expression of their traditional cultures, languages, religions, and social organizations.

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Although H. These districts were geographical units, not social ones. Each district was defined by a watershed within which a number of communities were located; given the poorly developed reservation roads, it was difficult to cross from one watershed to the next in inclement weather. In the end, on Pine Ridge Reservation, the old districts were written into the new constitution as the electoral units; in contrast, the Rosebud and Cheyenne River constitutions defined new electoral units based on communities, although some communities were combined with others in electoral units Biolsi , pp.

Overall, the IRA tribal constitutions did a poor job of incorporating the significant social units, especially on the larger reservations, in part because they assumed that each community, however defined, had a unified political interest that could be represented by an elected councilman. This policy ignored the contentious nature of Lakota political life and meant in practice that many Lakotas would complain that their elected councilman was concerned only with his own welfare, or that of his relatives, and not those of the other families he was supposed to represent.

Until then, tribal councils had been largely symbolic, and business councils had functioned solely to ratify the actions of the Indian agents. The councils were dominated by full-blood Lakotas while the mixed bloods distanced themselves from the tribes. During allotment, mixed bloods tended to select the best lands for ranching and farming and formed communities that were separate from the old band communities.

They had relatively little to do with other tribal members and identity as mixed blood came to be seen in opposition to Indian, rather than as a subset of it.

uasrecheapcea.tk With the IRA, however, mixed bloods were drawn into the political arena and began to participate actively in tribal affairs; many of the first generation of tribal politicians under the IRA were mixed bloods. During this period, ethnic identity became a focus of contention as relations between those identified as full bloods and those identified as mixed bloods degenerated into an unprecedented social opposition that continues to be a permanent tension in tribal life Robertson , pp. World War II brought a real change as many Lakota men enlisted in the armed forces and saw duty overseas.

At the same time, many Lakota women migrated temporarily to urban areas to participate in war-related industries. These experiences helped to break down the isolation of the reservations. After the war, government policy changed, reacting against the social programs of the New Deal era. Instead of fostering economic development on the reservations, Indians were encouraged to relocate to major urban centers such as Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles. Provided with little more than bus fare and help finding a place to live and a job, many Lakotas made the move.

Some stayed in the city and adapted economically and socially to urban life; some developed a pattern of moving back and forth between urban areas and the reservation; but many more abandoned the city and returned to their reservations Christafferson , pp. Differences of tribe, language, and culture mattered less in the urban context than the oppositional commonality of Indian identity. This identity took expression in urban Indian centers that served to create social and economic alliances among members of many tribes.

However, tribal identity seems to have been increasing in importance both internally, as political opportunities grew in significance, and externally, as individuals outside the reservations dealt with members of other tribes. With the IRA constitutions, the reservation-based tribes such as Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River served as the fundamental units of social identity. Language seems to have diminished in importance as a marker of identity among mixed bloods, though it remained an important symbol for full bloods.

Kin relationships continued to be central to social life, though in a more restricted way than in traditional society as nuclear families developed greater economic independence and the traditional pattern of social relations based on common residence and sharing of resources was disrupted. The attendees included both traditional elders and young activists, reservation dwellers and urban Indians, and those with degrees in higher education as well as those whose expertise was based entirely on life experience.

Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson infused reservation economies with much-needed money that provided Indians with greater opportunities for employment with the tribes and with social and economic programs.

As a result, those who represented what was effectively the first generation of college-educated Indians were enabled to return to their reservations and find employment. Among the Sioux, this led to the establishment of Indian-controlled school boards, the institution of classes for teaching Lakota language and culture, and the founding of tribal colleges that were designed to ease nontraditional students into higher education and to serve as a means of preserving and perpetuating Lakota language and culture.

In prereservation times the annual Sun Dance, which was not only the most important sacred ritual but also the most important social gathering of the year, brought together the scattered bands for a few weeks of tribal ceremonies and communal buffalo hunts.


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In the Sun Dance was banned by the government, in large part because it involved self-sacrifice in the form of male dancers piercing their flesh. These reenactments lacked the mortification of flesh that had so offended non-Indians. Then in , a Lakota man who had returned from California where he had gone on the Relocation program had his chest pierced in the traditional manner and had to struggle against the rope attached to the center pole to free himself.


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For the next decade Sun Dances were held annually at Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations, attracting large crowds from other reservations and urban areas. By the mids these tribal Sun Dances, expressing the solidarity of the entire reservation as a community, were largely replaced by a growing number of smaller, local community or family-based Sun Dances. The largest Sun Dances were sponsored by the American Indian Movement, which particularly attracted urban Indians, many of them not Sioux. In this way, while the link between participants in traditional religious ceremonies and the reservations as tribal communities was severed, the Sun Dance expanded to provide opportunities for the incorporation of wider social networks.

New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations
New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations
New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations
New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations
New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations

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