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~Submitted by Steven J
All federally recognized tribes are sovereign nations, but they don't issue passports. (Some tribes in the lower 48 states do issue driver's licenses and car license plates, but not all of them.) Anyone can visit an indian nation without a passport both in Alaska and the lower 48 states. The only "border crossing" is a road sign saying you are entering such and such reservation. (In Alaska, they probably don't even have signs, since the only way in to many of the indian villages is by dogsled or plane because they don't have roads over much of Alaska.)
There are generally two types of native corporations: corporations organized by village and those organized according to 13 geographic regions. 12 geographic regions are in Alaska and the 13th is the Sea-Alaska Corporation based in Seattle, Washington. All federally recognized Alaska Indians are shareholders of a regional corporation, but not all belong to a village corporation.
In the last half of the 20th Century, a government program that was little known at the time and is largely forgotten today created the largest movement of Indians in American history. The final scope and meaning of this massive social experiment is still impacting native peoples today.
World War II changed American society in general, and profoundly affected the lives of Native Americans. The U.S. was becoming much more urban:
- In the 1940 Census, a little over half of all Americans (56.5 percent) were living in cities.
- In 1940, only around 8 percent of Indians were living in cities.
The Relocation Program did provide some Indians better jobs, at the price of being cut off from tribal roots.
Government policy all through the 1700s and 1800s had been designed to make Indians into "farmers." The lawmakers who wrote these policies were forgetting that the first European settlers would have starved without the benevolent help of native farmers. They also were forgetting that indigenous plant breeders gave the world corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts, avocadoes, artichokes, chocolate, vanilla, tobacco and many other indigenous crops. In return, native tribes were given the worst land primarily in the semi-arid plains. Now, the 20th Century rush to the city was bypassing Indians, and reservation tribes suffered huge levels of unemployment and poverty.
In 1950, the average Native American on a reservation earned $950 per year. The average black person earned $2,000, and the average white person earned almost $4,000 — over four times more than Indians.
So, in 1952, the federal government initiated the Urban Indian Relocation Program. It was designed to entice reservation dwellers to seven major urban cities where the jobs supposedly were plentiful.
Relocation offices were set up in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dallas. BIA employees were supposed to orient new arrivals and manage financial and job training programs for them. Other BIA officials recruited prospective "relocatees" from many of the reservations around the country.
Relocatees were supposed to receive temporary housing, counseling and guidance in finding a job, permanent housing, community and social resources. The new migrants also were given money to tide them over on a sliding scale based on the number of children in the family. A man, his wife and four children got $80 a week for four weeks.
That's what they were promised. Some found that the promises were not kept. Not every relocatee found a job, and those that did were generally at the lower end of the economic ladder. Many were simply homesick so far away from their families and familiar landscapes. Some of the relocatees decided to return to their reservation. But it's estimated that as many as 750,000 Native Americans migrated to the cities between 1950 and 1980 and stayed. Some came through the Relocation Program. Others came on their own.
Those who stayed in urban areas eventually connected with other Indians, although they usually were members of another tribe. By now inter-tribal marriages created a new generation of Indians who's identity was split between two or more tribes, or between indian and white cultures. In the 2000 Census, 79 percent of all Americans were living in cities. For American Indians, the urban population had risen to 64 percent — a huge increase over the 1940 urban population of 8 percent. Unemployment on some indian reservations has risen as high as 80%.
Successful Indian casinos mean jobs for tribal members, food and medical care for elders, decent housing for on-reservation tribal members, rehabilitation and conservation efforts on despoiled remaining tribal land, and buy-back of bigger land bases.
But not all indian casinos are a financial success. In fact, only a few indian casinos are showing huge profits, most are not. Those near large urban areas or tourist attractions are doing well. But most indian reservations are in the middle of nowhere, off the beaten road, in semi-arid desolate areas no one else wanted, with nothing interesting to see. It is pretty easy to figure out why tourists aren't beating a path to their casino doors.
Today, the federal government often uses the casino issue as another obstacle to recognizing indian tribes seeking federal recognition. Many tribes have given up their right to operate gaming casinos in the future, in the hope it will further their application in the recognition process, which often takes 20 years or more to reach a decision.
Alanskan Natives A to Z
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971
The 13 Alaska Regional Corporations
Alaskan Native Tirbal Councils
Alaskan Native Cultures
Did you know Aleuts were sent to internment camps during WWII?
Alaskan Native Tribal Governments Index
Alaska Native Communities by Region
Statistical Facts about Alaskan natives
The changing view of tribal sovereignty by the US Supreme Court
The Seminoles established the precedent for the first indian casinos