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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I (2001)

Chapter: 5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States

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Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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5
Trends Among American Indians in the United States1

Russell Thornton

Scholars debate the size of the aboriginal population north of present-day Mexico, and the magnitude of population decline beginning sometime after A.D. 1500 and continuing to about 1900. Early in the twentieth century, for the region north of the Rio Grande, James Mooney estimated individual indigenous tribal population sizes at first European contact, summed them by regions, then totaled them, arriving at an estimate of 1,152,950 aboriginal people in that region of what would become North America (Mooney, 1910, 1928). Subsequent scholars generally accepted Mooney’s estimate, although one—Alfred L.Kroeber—suggested the number was excessive and lowered it.

In 1966, however, Henry Dobyns used depopulation ratios to assert an aboriginal population size, for this area, of between 9 and 12 million people (Dobyns, 1966). In 1983, Dobyns used depopulation ratios from epidemics along with possible carrying capacities to assert some 18 million native Americans for North America—i.e., northern Mexico as well as the present-day United States, Canada, and Greenland (Dobyns, 1983).

Most scholars now agree that Mooney’s population estimate significantly underestimated aboriginal population size for the area north of the Rio Grande and, thus, the baseline from which the area’s aboriginal popu-

1  

The sections of this paper on demography, education, and repatriation were drawn freely from my chapters on the same topics in Thornton (1998).

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

TABLE 5–1 Twentieth Century Estimates of the Aboriginal Population of North America

North Americaa

United States

Researcher (Date)

1,148,000

846,000

Mooney (1910)

1,148,000

Rivet (1924)

2–3,000,000

Sapper (1924)

1,153,000

849,000

Mooney (1928)

1,002,000

Wilcox (1931)

900,000

720,000

Kroeber (1939)

1,000,000

Rosenblatt (1945)

1,000,000

Steward (1949)

2–2,500,000

Ashburn (1947)

1,001,000

Steward (1949)

2,240,000

Aschmann (1959)

1–2,000,000

Driver (1961)

9.8–12,500,000

Dobyns (1966)

3,500,000

2,500,000

Driver (1969)

2,171,000

Ubelaker (1976)

4,400,000

Denevan (1976)

1,845,000

Thornton (1981)

18,000,000

Dobyns (1983)

5–10,000,000

Hughes (1983)

12,000,000

Ramenofsky (1987)

7,000,000

5,000,000

Thornton (1987)

1,894,000

Ubelaker (1988)

2–8,000,000

Zambardino (1989)

aNorth of Mesoamerica.

lation decline may be assessed.2 By the same token, most scholars consider Dobyns’s estimates to be excessive.3 Other contemporary estimates, some of which are shown in Table 5–1, have varied from around 2 million to somewhat more than 7 million. The 7+ million estimate for north of present-day Mexico (Thornton, 1987) includes more than 5 million people in the present-day United States area and more than 2 million for present-day Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. Despite dissension about earlier

2  

Dates for Mooney’s regional estimates, from which his overall estimate was derived, varied from A.D. 1600 to A.D. 1845, depending on the region in question. A reason for his underestimate, scholars now realize, was Mooney’s assumption that little population decline had occurred prior to his dates for the beginning of an extended European presence in a region. In fact, it seems that prior depopulation had occurred in most, if not all, regions.

3  

There have been various criticisms of Dobyns’s methodologies, particularly those in his 1983 book but also those in his 1966 paper.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

population levels, there is no argument that substantial depopulation did occur after European arrival. The native population of the United States, Canada, and Greenland reached a nadir of perhaps 375,000 by 1900 (Thornton, 1987), although a somewhat larger nadir population has been argued (Ubelaker, 1988).

Trends in demographics, as well as in tribal sovereignty, economic development, education, and repatriation will be discussed here, with emphasis on change since the 1950s.

DEMOGRAPHIC AND RELATED TRENDS

Population Recovery

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the American Indian population of the United States and Canada began to increase. For the United States, census enumerations suggest almost continuous increase since 1900 (Table 5–2), a result of both decreases in mortality rates and increases in fertility rates. In fact, fertility has remained higher for American Indians than for the U.S. population as a whole (see Thornton et al., 1991). The increase has also been a result of changes in the number of individuals self-identifying as “Indian” on recent U.S. censuses. Not including Inuits (Eskimo) and Aleuts, the American Indian population increased from 524,000 in 1960, to 793,000 in 1970, to 1.4 million in 1980, to more than 1.8 million in 1990, largely because of changing racial definitions from one

TABLE 5–2 American Indian and Alaska Nativea Population in the United States, 1900– 1990

Year

Population

1900

237,000

1910

291,000

1920

261,000

1930

362,000

1940

366,000

1950

377,000

1960

552,000

1970

827,000

1980

1,420,000

1990

1,959,000

aNote: American Indian, Inuit, and Aleut.

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1993).

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

census to another. It has been estimated that about 25 percent of the change from 1960 to 1970, about 60 percent of the change from 1970 to 1980, and about 35 percent of the change from 1980 to 1990 resulted from these changing identifications (Passel, 1976; Passel and Berman, 1986; Harris, 1994). Changing self-identification has generally been attributed to racial and ethnic consciousness-raising during the 1960s and 1970s, as well as American Indian political mobilization during the period.4

If Inuits and Aleuts are added to the more than 1.8 million American Indians enumerated in the 1990 Census, there was a total of more than 1.9 million native Americans in the United States in 1990 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1994). Adding in natives of Canada, the total in 1990 was approximately 2.75 million native Americans. This is obviously a significant increase over the 375,000 estimated for 1900 (Thornton, 1987); however, it is far less than the 7+ million in 1492. It is also only a very small fraction of the total population of the United States (more than 250 million in 1990) and Canada (more than 25 million in 1990).

U.S. census enumerations also provide self-reported tribal affiliations and ancestries. According to the 1990 Census, the 10 largest tribal affiliations in the United States are Cherokee, 308,000; Navajo, 219,000; Chippewa (Ojibwe), 104,000; Sioux, 103,000; Choctaw, 82,000; Pueblo, 53,000; Apache, 50,000; Iroquois, 49,000; Lumbee, 48,000; and Creek, 44,000 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1993: Figure 5–1).5

Tribal Enrollment

There are 317 American Indian tribes in the United States that are “recognized” by the federal government and receive services from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). There are also some 217 Alaska Native Village Areas identified in the 1990 Census, with populations of 9,807 American Indians, 32,502 Inuits, and 4,935 Aleuts (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992), some 125 to 150 tribes that are seeking federal recognition, and dozens of other groups who might do so in the future.

In 1990, some 437,079 American Indians, 182 Inuits, and 97 Aleuts

4  

Changing self-identification was perhaps also a result of individuals of mixed ancestry who formerly did not identify as American Indian because of the stigma attached to such an identity by the larger society. Clearly, however, some individuals with minimal, or no, Native American ancestry may have identified as American Indian because of the desire to affirm a marginal, or establish a nonexistent, ethnic identity.

5  

It should be noted that about 11 percent of those individuals identifying as Native American in the 1990 Census did not report a tribal affiliation.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

TABLE 5–3 The 10 Largest Reservations and Trust Lands

Navajo Reservation and Trust Lands

143,405

Pine Ridge Reservation and Trust Lands

11,182

Fort Apache Reservation

9,825

Gila River Reservation

9,116

Papago Reservation

8,480

Rosebud Reservation and Trust Lands

8,043

San Carlos Reservation

7,110

Zuni Pueblo

7,073

Hopi Pueblo and Trust Lands

7,061

Blackfeet Reservation

7,025

 

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census (1993).

TABLE 5–4 Blood-Quantum Requirements by Reservation Basis and Membership Size

 

More than 1/4

1/4 or Less

No Minimum Requirement

Number of tribes

21

183

98

Reservation based

85.7%

83.1%

63.9%

Median number of individual members

1,022

1,096

1,185

Note: Information not available for 15 tribes.

SOURCES: Thornton (1987); U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (unpublished tribal constitutions and tribal enrollment data obtained by the author).

lived on 314 reservations and trust lands; half of these—218,290 American Indians, 25 Inuits, and 5 Aleuts—lived on the 10 largest reservations and trust lands (Table 5–3; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1993).

BIA has, generally, required a one-fourth degree of American Indian “ancestry” (blood quantum) and/or tribal membership to recognize an individual as American Indian.

Tribal membership requirements are typically set forth in tribal constitutions, approved by BIA. Each tribe also has a set of requirements for membership (enrollment) of individuals, generally including a blood-quantum requirement, and requirements vary widely (Table 5–4). The Walker River Paiute require at least a one-half Indian (or tribal) blood quantum, while many tribes—e.g., Navajo—require a one-fourth blood quantum. Some tribes, generally in Oklahoma or California, require a one-eighth or one-sixteenth or one-thirty-second blood quantum. Many tribes have no minimum blood-quantum requirement, but do require

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

some degree of American Indian lineage (Thornton, 1997). American Indian tribes on reservations tend to have higher blood-quantum requirements for membership than those not on reservations, as indicated in Table 5–4; and those with higher blood-quantum requirements tend to be slightly smaller than tribes with lower blood-quantum requirements.

The total membership of the more than 300 federally recognized tribes in the late 1980s was slightly more than 1 million; hence, only about 60 percent of the more than 1.8 million individuals self-identified as American Indian on the 1990 Census were actually enrolled in a federally recognized tribe (Thornton, 1997). Differences in self-identification and tribal enrollment varied considerably from tribe to tribe. For example, most of the more than 219,000 Navajo in the 1990 Census were enrolled in the Navajo Nation, but only about one-third of the more than 300,000 Cherokee were enrolled in one of the three Cherokee tribes—Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.6

Redistribution and Urbanization

By the beginning of the twentieth century, American Indian groups that survived European contact had been redistributed (Figure 5–1). Much of this redistribution occurred during the nineteenth century with American Indian “removals,” the establishment of the reservation system, and the subsequent elimination and allotment of some reservations. According to the 1990 Census, the 10 states with the largest American Indian populations were: Oklahoma, 252,000; California, 242,000; Arizona, 204,000; New Mexico, 134,000; Alaska, 86,000; Washington, 81,000; North Carolina, 80,000; Texas, 66,000; New York, 63,000; and Michigan, 56,000 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1993).

A redistribution of American Indians also occurred through urban-

6  

The situation in Canada is somewhat different. In Canada one must be registered under the Indian Act of Canada to be an “official” Indian. Categories of Canadian Indians include: (1) status (or registered) Indians, those recognized under the Act; and (2) nonstatus (or nonregistered) Indians, those never registered under the Act or those who gave up their registration (and became “enfranchised”). Status Indians are subdivided into treaty and nontreaty Indians, depending on whether the group ever entered into a treaty relationship with the Canadian government. There are also the Métis—individuals of Indian and White ancestry not legally recognized as Indians. Some 500,000 of the 575,000 Canadian Indians in the mid-1980s were registered. About 70 percent of Canadian Indians live on one of the 2,272 reserves. There were 578 bands of Canadian Indians in the early 1980s, most containing fewer than 500 members. Only three bands had more than 5,000 members: Six Nations of the Grand River, 11,172; Blood, 6,083; and Kahnawake, 5,226.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

FIGURE 5–1 Native American populations according to the 1990 census. U.S. Bureau of the Census (2000). URL: http://tiger.census.gov/cgi-bin/mapbrowse.tbl.

ization in the United States and Canada. As shown in Table 5–5, only 0.4 percent of the American Indians in the United States lived in urban areas in 1900. By 1950, the number had increased to 13.4 percent; in 1990, 56.2 percent of American Indians lived in urban areas (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992; Thornton, 1997).

Important in this urbanization was the migration to cities and towns, some of which occurred under the BIA relocation program, which began in 1950 to assist American Indians in moving from reservations and rural areas to selected urban areas (Thornton, 1994). U.S. cities with the largest American Indian populations are New York City, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Tulsa, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Anchorage, and Albuquerque (Thornton, 1994).7

7  

Canadian provinces with the largest number of Native Americans are Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Approximately 40 percent of Canadian Native Americans lived in cities in the mid-1980s, particularly Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal. This was an increase from the 30 percent who lived in cities in the early 1970s, and the mere 13 percent who lived in cities in 1961. However, still only about 20 percent of Canadian Inuits live in cities, while only about 30 percent of the status Indians do.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

TABLE 5–5 Percentage Urban of American Indian Population of the United States, 1900 to 1990

Year

Percentage Urban

1900

0.4

1910

4.5

1920

6.1

1930

9.9

1940

7.2

1950

13.4

1960

27.9

1970

44.5

1980

49.0

1990

56.2

Issues in the Twenty-First Century

New demographic threats will be faced by American Indians in the twenty-first century because of urbanization and its partner, intermarriage. As populations of American Indians declined, and as they came into increased contact with Whites, Blacks, and others, American Indians increasingly married non-Indians, and this pattern has accelerated with the recent increase in urbanization. In the United States today, almost 60 percent of all American Indians (as defined by the Office of Management and Budget) are married to non-Indians (Sandefur and McKinnell, 1985; Eschbach, 1995). It has also been argued that those “Native Americans” by way of self-identification—or “‘new’ Native Americans” (Thornton, 1997)—are more likely to be intermarried (Eschbach, 1995; Nagel, 1995).

Urbanization has also created some decreased sense of tribal identity. In the 1970 Census, about 20 percent of American Indians overall reported no tribal affiliation. Only about 10 percent of those on reservations reported no affiliation, whereas 30 percent of those in urban areas reported no affiliation (Thornton, 1987). The 1980 and 1990 Censuses report no comparable urban/reservation data; however, 25 percent of the American Indians in the 1980 Census and 15 percent of those in the 1990 Census reported no tribal affiliation (Thornton, 1994; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1994). The 1990 Census also indicates that only about one-fourth of all American Indians speak an Indian language at home (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992); census enumerations indicate also that urban residents are far less likely than reservation residents to speak an Indian language or participate in cultural activities (Thornton, 1987).

If these trends continue, both the genetic and tribal distinctiveness of

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

the total American Indian population will be greatly lessened. An American Indian population comprised primarily of “‘old’ Native Americans” strongly attached to their tribes will change to a population with a predominance of “‘new’ Native Americans” who may or may not have tribal attachments or even tribal identities. It may even make sense at some point in the future to speak mainly of Native American ancestry or ethnicity (Thornton, 1997).

SOVEREIGNTY AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

The idea of American Indian tribal sovereignty within the United States and the related issue of political participation within the larger American society have long been important issues for American Indians. They have, however, achieved new prominence in recent decades.

Sovereignty: Myth or Reality?

Chief Justice John Marshall described American Indian tribes as “domestic dependent nations” with “aspects of sovereignty” (Strickland, 1998). As Strickland pointed out (Strickland, 1998):

[F]rom the beginning of the Republic, the courts have acknowledged that Native American government is rooted in an established legal and historical relationship between the United States and Native American tribes or nations. This is at the heart of Native American constitutionalism and grows from precontact tribal sovereignty. [Moreover] the rights and obligations of Native Americans, unique to Indian law, derive from a legal status as members or descendants of a sovereign Indian tribe, not from race. [Nevertheless] for the Native American, law and the courts have been seen alternatively as shields of protection and swords of extermination, examples of balanced justice and instruments of a conquering empire (p. 248).

The federal government has a long history of defining, and thereby determining, the tribal status of both American Indian groups and American Indian individuals (Thornton, 1987). In 1871, Congress enacted legislation that basically destroyed tribal sovereignty, by ending the rights of American Indian groups to negotiate treaties with the United States. It said, “Hereafter no Indian Nation or Tribe within the Territory of the United States shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe, or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty” (Blackwell and Mehaffey, 1983:53). Between then and 1934, American Indian tribes “became increasingly disorganized, in part because of other legislation passed in the late 1800s calling for the allotment of tribal lands” (Thornton, 1987:195). In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act was

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

passed, allowing that an American Indian group had “rights to organize for its common welfare,” and delineated steps whereby this might occur (Cohen, 1982). Subsequently, though, “the U.S. government adopted policies more or less aimed at ending the special legal status of American Indian tribes, and in fact, 61 tribes were officially terminated” (Thornton, 1987:195)—i.e., no longer recognized by the federal government for the purposes of having relations.

Self-Determination Since Nixon

President Richard Nixon rejected the idea of terminating American Indian tribes, and in 1976 the Federal Acknowledgment was created, specifying seven mandatory criteria for an American Indian group to achieve federal recognition. It also placed the “burden of proof” on the American Indian group itself (Thornton, 1987). The seven criteria are:

  1. A statement of facts establishing that the petitioner has been identified from historical times until the present on a substantially continuous basis, as “American Indian,” or “aboriginal.”

  2. Evidence that a substantial portion of the petitioning group inhabits a specific area or lives in a community viewed as American Indian and distinct from other populations in the area, and that its members are descendants of an Indian tribe which historically inhabited a specific area.

  3. A statement of facts which establishes that the petitioner has maintained tribal political influence or other authority over its members as an autonomous entity throughout history until the present.

  4. A copy of the group’s present governing document, or in the absence of a written document, a statement describing in full the membership criteria and the procedures through which the group currently governs its affairs and its members.

  5. A list of all known current members of the group and a copy of each available former list of members based on the tribe’s own defined criteria.

  6. The membership of the petitioning group is composed principally of persons who are not members of any other North American tribe.

  7. The petitioner is not, nor are its members, the subject of congressional legislation which has expressly terminated or forbidden the federal relationship (U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1978).

Given that a tribe is federally recognized, however, “the courts have consistently recognized that one of an Indian tribe’s most basic powers is the authority to determine questions of its own membership. A tribe has power to grant, revoke, and qualify membership” (Cohen, 1982).

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

Legal Status Today

Today, American Indian tribes as entities are healthy, if not thriving. Both tribes and individuals, however, are dominated by a maze of laws and their interpretation. Strickland (1998) notes:

Much contemporary confusion results from the duality of traditional tribal law and federally enforced regulations…. The courts have powers of life-and-death proportion over tribal existence. The nature of U.S. constitutional law and public policy is such that legal issues loom large in even the smallest details of Native American cultural, economic, and political life. More than four thousand statutes and treaties controlling relations with Native Americans have been enacted and approved by Congress. Federal regulations and guidelines implementing these are even more numerous. The tribe’s own laws, and some state statutes dealing with Indians, further complicate this legal maze (p. 252).

Importantly, American Indian tribes and individuals are unique in American society—they are the only segment of the U.S. population with a separate legal status, both as groups and as individuals.

As Native American peoples prepare to move into the twenty-first century, the issues facing tribes are not substantially different from those faced over the last five centuries…. The miracle of the past 500 years is that Native American people and their values have survived in the face of the most unbelievable onslaughts. There is little question that the law and the courts have been, and will continue to be, a major battlefield in the struggle for sovereign survival (Strickland, 1998:255).

Increased Political Participation

Until the late nineteenth century, American Indians were the dominant “minority group” the U.S. government had to deal with on the national, political scene. From the Civil War until the 1980s, however, American Indians were a “moral” but not “powerful” minority political group.

With the reaffirmation and reestablishment of American Indian tribes as legal entities since the 1970s, and the accompanying economic well-being of some of these tribes, however, American Indian tribes are becoming increasingly important and increasingly sophisticated political actors, something we have not seen since the subjugation of the great Sioux Nations around 1890.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND ECONOMIC WELL-BEING

One of the most intriguing developments since the 1970s is the increased economic development of American Indian tribes and the in-

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

creased control of American Indian tribes over this development. As Snipp (1988) noted,

Historically, American Indians have been one of the most economically deprived segments of American society. Joblessness and the accouterments of poverty, such as high infant-mortality rates and alcoholism, have been a traditional plague among Indian people (p. 1)…. [A]s internal colonies, Indian lands are being developed primarily for the benefit of the outside, non-Indian economy (p. 3). [Thus] the tribes have been relatively unsuccessful in capturing the material benefits of development, and some observers claim that Indians are now exposed to subtle forms of economic exploitation, in addition to the political dominance they have experienced as captive nations.

Since Snipp made his arguments, the situation has changed partially; certainly not totally.

What Is Tribal Economic Development? Does It Translate to Tribal and Individual Well-Being?

Tribal economic development is generally conceived of as an increase in economic activities, particularly successful ones, on the part of the tribe itself as an entity, rather than increased economic well-being of tribal members per se. Individual economic well-being, nevertheless, is an important objective of tribal economic development; and American Indian tribes and individuals engage in virtually the entire spectrum of economic activities available in modern society, ranging from small service industries to manufacturing to extraction of natural resources—fishing, logging, hunting, etc. In some instances, the ability to exploit such resources has involved extensive legal issues engendered by American Indians’ unique legal status in American society (Olson, 1988).

Tribes are also engaged in activities more specifically related to American Indian culture and themselves as American Indian peoples or peoples in rural areas. As is the case with many indigenous peoples worldwide, American Indian tribes are often involved in tourism, as objects of tourism or providers of facilities for tourists in tribal areas or both. Activities related to tourism on tribal lands include running museums, gift shops, gas stations, hotels, and restaurants; providing transportation and other direct services; and performing cultural plays, pow wows, dances, and, sometimes, ceremonies.

American Indian tribes have also engaged in economic activities available to them because of (rather than in spite of) their unique legal status in American society. First and foremost is legal gambling. In some instances, tribes have built and/or operate large, successful casinos that have brought some degree of prosperity to them and their members. Some of

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

the more successful ones are operated by the Mississippi Choctaw in Philadelphia and Mississippi and by the Pequot in Connecticut.

Generally, tribal and individual economic well-being go hand in hand. It is not, however, always a simple, straightforward matter. For example, it is typically an issue of some discussion—and often dissension—as to how much of the “profits” from economic activities are to be either turned back into the business in question; used for tribal activities involving health, education, and welfare programs; distributed to tribal members individually; or used to fund other tribal activities. “Other activities” might include buying sacred tribal sites back from state governments (the Mississippi Choctaw considered buying their sacred mound from Mississippi), or giving donations to the National Museum of the American Indian (as did the Pequot), or making direct political campaign contributions (as was the case with the Southern Cheyenne of Oklahoma).

Conflicting Values and Traditions

Important in the decision to engage in economic activities is the issue of the type of activity to engage in and how chosen activities may or, typically, may not fit into the traditional cultural values of the tribe. Nowhere does more conflict occur than in considering the issue of gambling. Some tribes have explicitly decided not to engage in such activities—as profitable as they might be—because they conflict with important values. Wilma Mankiller, the former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, said that one of the most difficult decisions she made as principal chief was the decision that the Nation would not engage in gaming. “I literally cried when I made the decision,” she said (personal conversation with the author). Gaming could have been very profitable for the Cherokee Nation and could have improved the economic well-being of tribal members, but it is also against Cherokee values.

There are American Indian communities who see economic development either as a return to old subsistence practices or as simply a reaffirmation of such practices. The attempt by the Makah Nation of Neah Bay, Washington, to return to traditional whaling practices is a case in point. Similarly, there are Inuit communities in Alaska who still cherish their traditional, subsistence lifestyles and are determined to preserve them.

EDUCATION OF AMERICAN INDIANS

Europeans sought to convert to Christianity and educate (“civilize,” as they defined it) the native peoples of this hemisphere since, virtually, their first arrival. In 1568, in present-day Havana, Cuba, the Jesuits established a school to educate the Indians of La Florida, which extended far

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
×

north of present-day Florida (Berry, 1969; Thompson, 1957). Spanish, French, and English efforts to “civilize” native people expanded as European colonization progressed.

In the seventeenth century, there were French schools along the St. Lawrence River and educational communities of “praying Indians” in New England. More missions were planned, and some actually established, in La Florida and Virginia and elsewhere by both Catholics and Protestants. The efforts were very much a part of European colonization: “Indians could not be Christians until they first abandoned native habits and accepted ‘civilized’ customs…. ‘Civilization and salvation’ was the credo of nearly every North American missionary, which often proved to be a euphemism for cultural invasion and tribal decline” (Ronda and Axtell, 1978:30). Europeans’ plans for the education of American Indians included not only mission schools but also colleges. The objectives were basically the same—train an elite group of natives who would then teach their own people “civilization and salvation.”

The Charter of 1650 for Harvard College states it is for “the education of the English and Indian youth of this country in knowledge and godliness” (Elliott and Chambers, 1934). Virginians founded The College of William and Mary so that their “Youth may be piously educated in good Letters and Manners, and that the Christian Faith may be propagated amongst the Western Indians, to the Glory of Almighty God,” as its 1693 charter states (Knight, 1949). Few natives enrolled, and considerably fewer graduated.

American Indians did not necessarily see the benefits of such an education. According to Benjamin Franklin, to a 1744 invitation from the Virginia government to send six young men to William and Mary, the Iroquois responded:

Several of our young people were formerly brought up at the Colleges …; but, when they came back to us, they were bad Runners, ignorant of every means of living in the Woods, unable to bear either Cold or Hunger, knew neither how to build a Cabin, take a Deer, or kill an Enemy, spoke our Language imperfectly,…were totally good for nothing…. However,…if the Gentlemen of Virginia will send us a Dozen of their Sons, we will take great Care of their Education, instruct them in all we know, and make Men of them (Smyth, 1907:98–99).

Nor did American Indians given a Christian education in early colleges necessarily stay Christian (though they may have stayed “educated”). William Byrd wrote of American Indian students educated at William and Mary, “They have been taught to read and write, and have been carefully Instructed in the Principles of the Christian Religion, till they came to be men. Yet after they return’d home, instead of civilizing

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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and converting the rest, they have immediately Relapt into Infidelity and Barbarism themselves” (Byrd, 1929:118).

After some 250 years of higher education, Dartmouth is the college best known for having a commitment to the education of Indian youth. Its 1769 charter states it is “for the education and instruction of Youth of the Indian Tribes in this land in reading, writing, and all parts of Learning which shall appear necessary and expedient for civilizing and christianizing Children of Pagans as well as in all liberal Arts and Sciences; and also of English Youth and any others” (Elliott and Chambers, 1934:179). Few American Indians enrolled or graduated from Dartmouth in the ensuing two centuries, however.8

Government Schools

As Whites struggled with the idea of the new country they were creating, they sought to place American Indians within it. It became important for enlightened thinkers, like the revolutionary founding fathers, to believe that American Indians could attain equality with Whites through proper training. Their success would demonstrate to the world that America was carrying out its announced mission as a “New World” for all. Henry Knox, an early architect of U.S. federal Indian policy, wrote in 1792 to Anthony Wayne “If our modes of population and War destroy the tribes the disinterested part of mankind and posterity will be apt to class the effects of our Conduct and that of the Spaniards in Mexico and Peru together” (Knopf, 1960:165).

Thomas Jefferson advocated intermarriage as well as the adoption of White lifestyles through training. After telling a gathering of Indians to adopt farming and private property, he predicted to them, “you will become one people with us; your blood will mix with ours, and will spread with ours over this great island” (Jefferson). Thus, intermarriage with Whites would “uplift” the entire American Indian race. The problem was those American Indians who insisted on being “Indians” and living un-“White” lifestyles. The solution became mandatory training and education for all American Indians.

Often education was incorporated into treaties. The first mention of education in a treaty between American Indians and the U.S. government was in the 1794 treaty with the Oneida, Tuscarora, and Stockbridge tribes.

8  

In 1969, Dartmouth reaffirmed its commitment to the education of Native Americans; it began to enroll more American Indian students and created a Native American studies program.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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Others treaties incorporating education followed with the Creek Confederacy in 1801, the Kaskaskia (an Illinois group) in 1803, and the Delaware in 1804 (Berry, 1969). Soon, other groups began to establish their own schools—particularly the Five Tribes (Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole). At some schools, manual art was taught as well as regular academics and, of course, Christianity. Typically, students were required to work in the fields to produce food. By the mid-1800s, there were 37 Indian schools run by the U.S. government (Prucha, 1975).

Schools included the Presbyterian Union among the Osage in Indian Territory; the Methodist Episcopal Society school for the Shawnee at Leavenworth, Kansas; the Methodist New Hope Academy (women) and Fort Coffee (men) in Indian Territory for Choctaw; and the Presbyterian school for Winnebagos in Minnesota. By 1881, there were 106 schools run by the U.S. government (Prucha, 1975).

Boarding and Other Schools

When one thinks of the history of the education of American Indians, one thinks first of the American Indian boarding and day schools provided by the U.S. government primarily for elementary and secondary education and vocational and technical training. The schools began generally after the Civil War, with many established in the 1870s through 1890s. Several were on reservations.

In 1878, a group of American Indian students were sent to Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, established in 1868 for former slaves. The Indians were some of the Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne former prisoners, members of southern plains tribes, involved in the “Outbreak of 1874” during the winter of 1874–1875. They had been imprisoned at Fort Marion, Florida.9 Other American Indian students soon followed, and American Indians continued to attend Hampton until 1923.

Carlisle Indian School, of football and Jim Thorpe fame, established at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1879, under Richard H.Pratt, was the first American Indian off-reservation boarding school. It restricted students’ access to their families and gave them half a day of education and half a day of work. It also had an outing system, whereby students were placed

9  

This event is represented in the Dohasan Kiowa Winter Count with a picture of Big Meat, who was killed by soldiers. Above his head is a drawing of Fort Sill, Indian Territory (I.T., now Oklahoma), where some Kiowa were also imprisoned. (See A Chronicle of the Kiowa Indians (1832–1892). Berkeley: R.H.Lowie Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, pp. 10, 18, footnote O.)

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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TABLE 5–6 Schools Under the Auspices of the Five Tribes

 

Schools

 

 

Day

Boarding

Orphan Homes/ Academies

Others

Cherokee Nation

140

1

1

1 colored high school

2 seminaries

Creek Nation

52

6 (2 colored)

1 (1 colored)

 

Choctaw Nation

190

 

5

 

Chicksaw Nation

16

3

1

 

Seminole Nation

Unknown number of schools

Note: “Colored” denotes schools for former slaves of the Cherokee and Creek nations.

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (1903).

with a White family to work for three years. Other boarding schools included Chilocco Industrial School in Oklahoma (1884), Albuquerque Indian School (1886), Santa Fe School (1890), Phoenix School (1892), Pipestone Indian Training School in Minnesota (1893), Chamberlain School in South Dakota (1898), and Riverside School in California (1902).

A 1903 report (U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1903) describes 221 government schools on reservations, 93 boarding schools, and 128 day schools, in addition to schools provided by states and schools in Indian Territory under the auspices of the Five Tribes (Table 5–6). Also listed are 26 off-reservation boarding schools and five off-reservation day schools.

A quarter-century later, it was realized that such schools were not providing the appropriate type of education. The Meriam Report of 1928 noted “that the whole Indian problem is essentially an educational one” (Meriam, 1928:348), and called for the redirection of the education of American Indians. As a result, the 1930s became a turning point, with educational objectives becoming more sympathetic to American Indians. Slowly, schools established for American Indians began to incorporate aspects of American Indian history and culture into their curricula. Following the Meriam Report, the number of boarding schools decreased, as students were increasingly channeled to day schools and, especially, public schools.

By the 1950s, public school education for American Indians had become more prevalent, following legislation terminating federal relationships with tribes and the relocation of American Indians to urban areas, “thus dumping many thousands of additional Indian students into the public school system” (Noriega, 1992:386). There were still, however, well over 200 American Indian schools run by the U.S. government. By 1968, the education of American Indians in the United States was, in the words of the U.S. Senate Special Subcommittee on Indian Education, “a national

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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tragedy” (Prucha, 1975). The solution was greater involvement of American Indians in their own schools. Specific federal legislation was passed— the Indian Education Act of 1972 and the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act of 1975. Also “survival schools” were established by the American Indian Movement, in urban areas primarily (Heart of the Earth in Minneapolis and The Red Schoolhouse in St. Paul, Minnesota), but also on reservations.

In 1999, there were almost 100 American Indian day and boarding schools.

Colleges

The first all-American Indian college in North America was Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma, founded in 1880 by the Baptist Home Mission Board. Several academies were then established to provide students for Bacone—the Cherokee Academy, the Choctaw Academy, the Seminole Female Academy, the Waco Baptist Academy for the Wichita (at Anadarko), and The Lone Wolf Mission among the Kiowa (Prucha, 1975).

Pembroke State University was established in 1887 at Lumberton, North Carolina, it, too, solely for the education of American Indians. Originally an elementary and secondary school, Pembroke became a two-year, then four-year college, then a university in 1969, and was the only four-year, state-supported university in the United States exclusively for American Indians. Both Bacone and Pembroke State eventually expanded their mandate to include non-American Indians.

Haskell Indian Nations University (formerly Haskell Institute) in Lawrence, Kansas, was first established as the U.S. Indian Industrial Training School in 1884 as a boarding school focused on agricultural education. A decade later it changed its name to Haskell Institute as it expanded its training. In 1970, it became Haskell Indian Junior College; its current name was taken in 1993, after receiving accreditation to offer a bachelor’s degree in education. It is still only for American Indians, and provides higher education to federally recognized tribal members. In 1995, it had the full-time equivalent of 890 students, representing some 147 tribes.

Since 1969, 29 tribal colleges have been established, either solely or primarily for American Indians. The first was the Navajo Community College in Tsaile, Arizona (1969). Typically, these schools are two-year community colleges offering associate degrees in academic, vocational, and technical areas; they also have programs in American Indian studies, frequently focused on their own tribe. As of 1996, there were three four-year colleges and one offering a master’s degree (National Research Council, 1996:56). There are also other two-year community colleges, not wholly tribally run, that offer instruction in American Indian studies.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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American Indian Studies

The Civil Rights Movement emerged fully in the 1960s. Accompanying it was heightened ethnic consciousness; not only Black became beautiful, any shade became beautiful and any ethnic origin became meaningful. Against these forces, the American academic system was changed. Students became important decision makers in their own education and educational institutions. Formerly all-male colleges became co-ed; and colleges and universities became more racially and ethnically integrated. As increasing numbers of minority students entered higher education, ethnic studies developed organizationally, if not intellectually. Ethnic studies courses found their way into curricula; and ethnic studies programs, departments, and degrees were created. A main driving force was the increased number of Black students calling for Black studies programs. Other groups followed their lead.

The impetus for the development of “Native American” studies was increased numbers of American Indian students. They formed organizations and associations and lobbied university faculties and administrators for academic programs to accompany the student support programs that were developing, and to receive their share of the ethnic studies impetus.

By the mid-1970s, 76 of 100 colleges and universities surveyed had courses dealing with American Indian concerns (Locke, 1974). When American Indian studies entered the academic system, however, it did so primarily as a reaction to the way American Indians were usually studied, rather than as a positive, worthy body of knowledge in its own right. Of particular concern, and inciting particular opposition, was the type of research conducted under the aegis of anthropology, and the “all inclusiveness” of anthropology as the discipline encompassing American Indian studies. An important problem had been anthropology’s focus on American Indians at the point of the “ethnographic present,” as if frozen in time with little prior history—and certainly no significant subsequent history—as “real” American Indians. In no small way, American Indian studies were also a protest against the technique of researchers establishing “friendships” with American Indians solely for research purposes.

American Indian studies also reacted against the history curriculum’s lack of inclusion of American Indians as part of mainstream American history. What American Indian history was included, focused all too frequently on wars, battles, and American Indian warriors, and too little on American Indian views, philosophies, or the oral record. American Indian history was virtually limited to literature covering American Indian-White relationships, as though American Indians had no other history as a group or individually as nations. And, finally, American Indian studies reacted against the almost total lack of study of American Indian societies

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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and cultures by other disciplines, such as sociology, political science, psychology, art, music, literature, religion, or philosophy. The main emphasis of the new area became American Indian history, a topic seemingly present in every American Indian studies program. Focusing on ethnic history was a means of going beyond the traditional anthropological approach, recognizing that American Indians were real people with significant pasts and futures.

Other disciplines were important, but had little foundation; they merely sought to present the American Indian view, whatever that might be. The newly emerging American Indian literature became important. As Washburn (1975) phrased it, the “sophisticated melding of anthropology and history in these books can be deemed the distinguishing characteristic of Indian studies as it is now emerging” (p. 270). There was interest in presenting and describing native cultures, religions, art, music, customs, and practices; and a consideration of contemporary issues was ever-present. Other subjects included federal Indian law (typically not “Native American law,” as traditionally practiced), the education of American Indians, and American Indian languages and linguistics.

There is the same mix of topics 30 years later, although some have been added—e.g., economic development. “Native American” literature is at the forefront of the humanities facet of American Indian studies. American Indian history in the form of “ethnohistory” remains at the forefront of the social science component.10

American Indian literature is hybrid literature, developed in and around American Indian studies. Literary invention has occurred within it; the subfield is alive and well and productive. Fiction, however, is a form unknown in traditional American Indian societies; so it suffers from not being truly American Indian in this limited sense. Many traditional,

10  

The repatriation of American Indian human remains, grave goods, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony from museums, colleges, universities, and elsewhere as mandated by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990 as well as the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Act of 1989 (which limited its provisions to the Smithsonian Institution) has greatly expanded the importance of ethnohistory, particularly to native peoples but also to museums and educational institutions. Critical to the repatriation process under both NAGPRA and the NMAI Act is the establishment of cultural affiliation between contemporary groups and historic groups represented by the remains or objects. Thus, American Indian groups may, and often must, present different types of evidence to establish cultural affiliation—archaeological evidence, including physical anthropology, written history, oral traditions, ethnography, etc. For repatriation, archaeology and physical anthropology are important components of ethnohistory, along with anthropology and history. The archaeological record and the written record may be eventually reconciled with American Indian memories, in oral traditions, or otherwise.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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tribal American Indians even think some of the writings are insulting to them. Accompanying this fiction has been a rapid increase in biographies and autobiographies of native people, which is an important development.

Despite all the activity, American Indian studies as a separate intellectual entity in higher education is underdeveloped. This does not mean that acceptable courses are not offered (though little innovation may be shown in the courses), that important community service and applied activities are not performed, that students are not adequately advised, or even that important research and writings have not been accomplished. All have, to one degree or another.11 However, the full potential of American Indian studies is unrealized in most American Indian studies programs, in whatever fashion they are organized.

REPATRIATION, HEALING THE TRAUMA OF HISTORY, AND TRIBAL RENAISSANCE

The repatriation of American Indian human remains as well as the repatriation of funerary objects and other cultural objects, identified as “objects of patrimony”—i.e., something owned by the entire people— such as wampum belts, or sacred objects such as medicine bundles, is occurring today because of determined efforts by American Indians to achieve legal changes in American society.

Collecting Human Remains as Objects of Study

It has been estimated that objects obtained from graves and other sacred sites, and skeletal remains of “hundreds of thousands” of American Indians are held in various universities, museums, historical societies, and even private collections in the United States and in other countries (Price, 1991). Whatever the actual figure, the estimates indicate a sizeable problem. It is also estimated that the skeletons, or more typically pieces of them, of several hundred American Indians and countless objects buried with them are uncovered every year in highway, housing, and other types of construction (Price, 1991).

American Indian remains and artifacts have been objects of study and intrigue to non-American Indians for centuries. Reported excavations of American Indian burial sites and mounds date from the eighteenth century. American Indian crania have been objects of particular scientific

11  

There are journals devoted to Native American studies—e.g., American Indian Quarterly, Northeast Indian Studies, American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and Wicazo Sa Review.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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interest since the early nineteenth century. Various scholars actively collected American Indian remains, seeking to explain possible migration from Asia by comparing American Indians with Asians (Bieder, 1986). They also sought to explain physical and cultural differences between and among native peoples and others; often cultural differences were seen as a result of racial ones. In 1839, Morton published Crania Americana, reporting that Caucasians had larger brain capacities and therefore higher intelligence than American Indians, and the “science” of phrenology soon developed. Collecting crania became more widespread, as scholars attempted to relate intelligence, personality, and character to skulls and brains.

The Smithsonian Institution opened in 1846 and provided further impetus for the development of American archaeology, physical anthropology, and ethnology. On May 21, 1862, Surgeon General William Hammond suggested that an Army Medical Museum be established for “the study of military medicine and surgery and that the proposed museum house a collection of specimens of morbid anatomy, surgical or medical, which may be regarded as valuable; together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed” (Hammond, 1862:2). Collecting would be done by U.S. Army medical officers, concurrent with the U.S. Civil War. After the Civil War, as the former Union Army turned its attention westward to confront American Indians on the plains, the Army Medical Museum sought to update its collections in light of the new conflict, as well as obtain other types of specimens. The U.S. Army also became involved as their mandate to handle the “Indian problem” expanded. On April 4, 1867, Surgeon General J.K.Barnes requested that medical officers also collect:

  1. Rare pathological specimens from animals, including monstrosities.

  2. Typical crania of Indian tribes; specimens of their arms, dress, implements, rare items of their diet, medicines, etc.

  3. Specimens of poisonous insects and reptiles, and their effects on animals (Lamb, n.d.:43).

Over time, more than 4,000 American Indian skulls were collected from burial scaffolds, graves, and ossuaries, and battlefields and sites of massacres, and sent to the Army Medical Museum.12

12  

Many other museums also participated in the endeavor of collecting American Indian skeletal remains, including the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and the Field Museum of Chicago, which obtained some remains sent originally to Chicago for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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Some of the human remains and objects subject to legal repatriation were obtained appropriately, with the permission if not actual support of American Indians at the time. Many, however, were not. The fact that many of the human remains and objects were obtained by grave robbing, theft, and fraudulent acts adds to American Indian discomfort and further legitimates claims for repatriation.

Virtually all of the 4,000 crania at the Army Medical Museum were eventually transferred to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, to be added to the remains of approximately 14,500 other American Indians, along with non-American Indians. This, supposedly, represents the largest single collection of American Indian remains in the United States, followed by some 13,500 held by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The University of California also has a very large collection. The Hearst (formerly Lowie) Museum at its Berkeley campus has “the third largest number of catalogued skeletal entries in the United States (more than 11,000), representing many more individuals. The majority of remains are those of California Indians from the Northern California coast and the Sacramento Valley (representing more than 8,000 individuals). …[and there are] roughly 1 million or more pieces [of artifacts at Berkeley].”13

Important Research Findings

Research on American Indians’ skeletal remains has generated much important knowledge about such diverse topics as population size and composition, cultural patterns of tooth mutilation, diseases among populations and customs of treatments for the diseases, life expectancies, growth patterns, population affinities, origins and migrations, and diets, including dates when corn was introduced into the diets of the native peoples of North America (Buikstra, 1992). From studying human remains of American Indians we now know, for example, that tuberculosis was present in this hemisphere prior to European contact, as were some other infectious diseases, especially treponema infections; that certain native groups had serious iron deficiencies from a diet heavily dependent on corn;14 and that among some groups, males with more social prestige—as reflected by burial objects—were physically larger than males with less social prestige (perhaps because they had better diets, perhaps because bigger men were simply given more prestige).

13  

“Summary description of UC collections of human skeletal remains and artifacts,” unpublished statement, University of California, n.d.

14  

These and other topics are discussed in Verano and Ubelaker (1992).

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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American Indian skeletal remains will become even more important as objects of study, scholars assert, given recent advances in scientific technology (Ubelaker and Grant, 1989). Benefits of these advances include the detection of immunoglobulin and DNA from bone. The study of immunoglobulins from the skeletons could enable scholars to establish explicit past disease experiences; deciphering the DNA from skeletons could enable scholars to establish genetic relationships among historical populations. This is no small issue, and much of the knowledge gained could benefit both American Indians and peoples of the world.

Some scholars and others assert that the scientific knowledge to be gained from the remains and cultural objects outweigh claims American Indians may have on them. They argue that the scientific value is important not only to native peoples themselves but to the public at large as scholars attempt to reconstruct histories of American Indians. A related view is that the remains and objects now housed in museums and educational institutions belong not only to American Indians, but to all Americans, even to all peoples of the world, as part of the heritage of all humanity. Yet another view is that scholars are keeping and studying the remains because American Indians do not know what they are doing when requesting repatriation. Perhaps they think that someday American Indians will want this knowledge, and it is up to science to preserve it for them.

The Repatriation Movement

Many American Indians believe repatriation must occur despite any scholarly or general public good that may be derived from the study or display of the remains and objects. They assert that cultural and spiritual factors outweigh science and education. Furthermore, they point out that society and the government have already placed all sorts of restrictions on research deemed inappropriate. Particularly important, American Indians contend, is that Americans have been resolute in regard to returning to the United States the remains of American soldiers who died on foreign shores defending this country. American Indian skeletons obtained from battlefields, as many of those in the Army Medical Museum were, are remains of American Indians who died defending their homelands. It is felt that refusal to return the remains of American Indian warriors killed in battle implies that these fighters—and civilians killed in battles and massacres—are less deserving of an honorable burial than

American servicemen and -women who died for the United States. American Indians have attempted to legally prevent the collection of their human remains and cultural objects for more than a century (Cole, 1985). In the 1970s and 1980s, they increasingly demanded that ancestral remains and sacred objects be returned to them for proper disposal or

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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care. National American Indian leaders, such as Walter Echo-Hawk of the American Indian Rights Fund and Susan Shown Harjo of the National Congress of American Indians, continued to seek the repatriation of human skeletal remains, from the Smithsonian and elsewhere. Professional associations such as the Council for Museum Anthropology, Society for American Archaeology, American Anthropological Association, and American Association of Museums became involved and issued position papers. Various universities also debated the issues, forming committees and panels to develop policies.

One idea considered but discarded was to “create a national memorial where bones ‘which are not useful for scientific inquiry’ would be buried, ‘giving due regard to the religious and ceremonial beliefs and practices of those Indians, Aleuts and Eskimos whose ancestors may be included in the Smithsonian collection’” (New York Times, 1987).

The private sector also became involved in the repatriation movement, just as it did in the Civil Rights Movement. A major turning point was when Elizabeth Sackler purchased for $39,050 three Hopi and Navajo ceremonial masks in 1991. Her intent was to return them to the tribes. She then established the American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation to assist native groups in retrieving important cultural objects from private individuals and organizations.15 The Foundation continues to be active in repatriation.

During the 1980s, the Pan-Indian Repatriation Movement began to experience some success through the passage of federal and state laws not only calling for the repatriation of human remains and objects to descendants, but also preventing the further disenfranchisement of remains and objects. Not only has the success of the repatriation movement revitalized Native America by providing new-found self-esteem, the task of actually repatriating human remains and cultural objects has also revitalized communities by bringing members together in the struggle as well as reaffirming important knowledge about many cultural and sacred objects. It is not always an easy undertaking, however; but the end result is worth it.

State and Federal Laws

Repatriation legislation has been enacted at both the state and federal levels. Some laws simply reiterate and reapply existing laws against grave robbing, trespass, and vandalism, or general public health and cemetery laws; nevertheless, 11 states have laws addressing the disposition of pre-

15  

The Foundation has recently published Mending the Circle to assist native groups with their repatriation efforts; it is distributed free of charge to them.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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historic aboriginal remains and grave goods (Price, 1991:43). The landmark state legislation was probably Nebraska’s 1989 Unmarked Human Burial Sites and Skeletal Remains Protection Act. In passing the Act, Nebraska became the first state with a general repatriation statute. It provides for the protection of unmarked burial sites throughout the state and the repatriation to relatives or American Indian tribes, within one year of a request, of human remains and associated “burial goods” held in state-sponsored or state-recognized public bodies (Peregoy, 1992; for a survey of state laws, see Price, 1991).

The federal government has increasingly enacted legislation aimed at protecting the rights of American Indian groups vis-à-vis ancestral remains and sacred objects. Twentieth-century legislation may be dated from the Antiquities Act of 1906, which granted the federal government jurisdiction over all aboriginal remains and artifacts on federal property. Other important legislation followed.

Specific federal legislation on repatriation that has been enacted since the 1980s began with Public Law 101–185 in November 1989, which established the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) as part of the Smithsonian Institution. A component of this law mandated the return of American Indian human remains and funerary objects held by the Smithsonian to appropriate individuals and groups. NMAI also mandates a repatriation review committee “to monitor and review the inventory, identification, and return of Indian human remains and Indian funerary objects.” The committee is composed of five individuals, at least three of whom are selected from individuals nominated by American Indian groups. The amendment to NMAI added two members to the committee, both of whom are to be “traditional religious leaders.”

In October 1990, Public Law 101–601, the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), was enacted. NAGPRA concerns the disposition of American Indian human remains and artifacts in federal agencies (other than the Smithsonian) as well as in institutions receiving federal support (McManamon, 1994). It increases the protection of American Indian graves on federal and tribal land, proscribes commercial trafficking in American Indian remains, requires the inventory and repatriation to culturally affiliated tribes or descendants of all collections of American Indian remains and associated funerary objects held by federal agencies and federally funded museums (and universities), and also requires the repatriation of American Indian sacred objects and cultural patrimony.16

16  

Public Law 101–601, Sec. 7, Pt. a. For a history of this law see Trope and Echo-Hawk (1992). “Cultural affiliation” as defined in NAGPRA, means, “there is a relationship of shared group identity which can be reasonably traced historically or prehistorically be-

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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NAGPRA gave institutions five years to complete inventories of human remains and funerary objects, with a possible extension of time, and three years to provide summaries of unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. After the inventory, six months are allowed for notifying tribes of affiliated remains and funerary objects. Full repatriation efforts under NAGPRA are only now really commencing, with the Smithsonian ahead of many other museums and institutions in actual repatriations. Nevertheless, many important issues remain to be settled in implementing NAGPRA. Two are (1) whether nonfederally recognized tribes are entitled to repatriated remains and objects (they are by the Smithsonian), and (2) what to do about remains or objects when cultural affiliation cannot be established.

The Smithsonian Institution made the decision to adhere to Public Law 101–601 as well as Public Law 101–185, thereby extending the mandate of repatriation to include not only human remains and funerary objects but also sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony. In 1996, an amendment to NMAI was passed by the U.S. Congress, amending the Act along the lines of the NAGPRA legislation, whereby a strict time schedule is set for repatriation of objects of cultural patrimony, sacred objects, and human remains and funerary objects.

The repatriation process has great potential for bridging the gap between native worlds and larger society. As it developed, repatriation of human remains polarized advocates of reburial and advocates of study and preservation in repositories. Little compromise occurred between American Indian repatriation activists and researchers; yet, some degree of compromise is not only desirable, it is necessary. Science and scholarship have much to offer to American Indians, as American Indians attempt to recapture their lost histories. American Indians are no longer powerless in American society, but are important actors in shaping their own destinies. American Indian values, wishes, and perspectives must be respected by scholars. Although some disciplines such as anthropology have histories of applied work with American Indians, the repatriation process is providing new challenges for the application of scholarly disciplines to real-life concerns of American Indians.

   

tween a present-day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable ear-lier group.” Under the provisions of NAGPRA, a seven-person review committee was es-tablished to monitor and review the law’s mandated repatriation activities. Three of the members are appointed from nominations of Native American groups and religious lead-ers, at least two of whom must be “traditional Indian religious leaders”; three members are appointed from nominations of museum and scientific organizations; and one member is appointed from a list suggested by the other six members.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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HEALING THE WOUNDS FROM THE TRAUMA OF HISTORY

On the morning of Friday, October 9, 1993, a small group of Northern Cheyenne arrived at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. They had come for their dead. Almost 115 years earlier, on January 9, 1879, at least 83 members of Dull Knife’s (a.k.a. Morning Star’s) band of 149 Northern Cheyenne had been massacred by U.S. government soldiers near Fort Robinson, Nebraska, after the Cheyenne’s final, desperate attempt for freedom. They had been removed to a reservation in Oklahoma to live with the Southern Cheyenne in 1877, and now had fled toward their homelands in Montana. They were captured, however. They were then held in the stockade at Fort Robinson with little food, water, or even heat. After two weeks, they attempted to escape. During the attempt, at least 57 Northern Cheyenne were killed; 32 others escaped but were trapped on January 22 at the edge of Antelope Creek. In the massacre that followed, 26 were killed. Most of those killed in the escape attempt were buried near the fort; those killed at Antelope Creek were buried nearby in a mass grave. The bones of 17 of the Northern Cheyenne dead were collected for scientific study by the U.S. Army Medical Examiner. In 1880, the mass grave at Antelope Creek was exhumed, and the bones of 9 more Cheyenne dead were obtained. The bones— mostly crania—were later transferred to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The bones were from Cheyenne ranging in age from a 49-year-old adult to a 3-year-old child; the child was one of those massacred at Antelope Creek. In October 1993, all were being returned to their people in a joint repatriation effort made by the Smithsonian and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard, which had obtained skeletal remains from Antelope Creek.

At the ceremony, the bones were officially turned over to an impressive Northern Cheyenne delegation, represented by the tribal chair, the Crazy Dogs society of warriors, the Elk Horn society, Sun Dance priests, four women who were fourth-generation descendants of Dull Knife, and, most important, James Black Wolf, Keeper of the Sacred Buffalo Hat. The remains were carefully arranged on small Pendleton blankets; a pipe ceremony was performed, words and prayers were said, a drum was played, and songs were sung. Each person’s bones were then wrapped in the blanket and interred in cedar boxes for the journey home to Montana and final rest.

During the ceremony, it was discovered that a shattered lower part of a skull from the Harvard museum matched an upper part of a woman’s skull from the Smithsonian. Either at death 115 years earlier or afterward, the young woman’s head had been shattered into two pieces, each piece taken to a different location. She had been collected as two different

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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people; but on October 9, 1993, was reunited not only with her people, her skull itself was reunited.

(After the ceremony, a young native man from the Smithsonian came up to me and told me about the 3-year-old’s skull. “The child was a little girl. I saw her. She was dressed in white and had yellow ribbons in her hair. I told the Cheyenne I had seen her, and that she was now happy. They were very pleased. They thanked me for telling them.”17)

On the way to Busby, Montana, for burial of the remains, a stop was made at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The journey then continued to Montana. A small teddy bear was given to the little girl and placed in the cedar box with her remains. She and the other Cheyenne were buried on a hill near Two Moon Monument. A permanent memorial near the graves will be established.

It is theorized by some (Duran et al., 1998; Duran and Duran, 1995) that events in the history of a people can cause a trauma to that group much in the same way catastrophic events in an individual’s life may cause lasting trauma. Psychologists have stated that “if a person is traumatized, the trauma must be resolved for the person to be psychologically healthy” (e.g., Duran et al., 1998:62). Similarly, when a people are traumatized, the trauma must also be resolved; if not, the group psyche remains wounded. Without resolution, some have even argued that the effects of historical trauma are “intergenerationally cumulative, thus compounding the mental health problems of succeeding generations” (e.g., Duran et al., 1998:64).

Many of the arguments for historical trauma, and its need for resolution come from studies of the Nazi Holocaust (Bergman and Jucovy, 1990). According to Duran et al., effects of historical trauma include “difficulty in mourning over a mass grave, the dynamics of collective grief, and the importance of community memorialization” (Duran et al., 1998:66). European Jews live “among the perpetrators and murderers of their families” (Fogelman, 1991:94), which has not allowed them the more healthy griev-

17  

As chairman of the Smithsonian Institution’s Native American Repatriation Review Committee, I attended the ceremony in Washington, D.C. It was even more meaningful for me because my mother had died a few days before. I had stopped in Washington to attend the ceremony before continuing on to Vian, Oklahoma, for her funeral the following day. At the Washington ceremony, I kept thinking that my mother would be laid to rest only a few days after her death; these Northern Cheyenne had waited in museums for more than a century before they could be buried. I also thought that my mother had a long, full life and had died peacefully; these Northern Cheyenne men, women, and children had lived fore-shortened lives that ended violently, cruelly. Nevertheless, the return of their ancestors appeared to have brought some measure of healing to the attendees. As they said, “Naevahoo’ohtseme” (We are going back home).

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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ing process of American Jews (Fogelman, 1991; Duran et al., 1998). Likewise, “Native Americans live in a colonized country where similar patterns of grief have emerged” (Fogelman, 1991), and which also has hindered a healthy grieving process.

Other American Indian groups in the United States have attempted various ways to heal the historical traumas they experienced. The Dakota Sioux uprising of 1862 in southern Minnesota resulted in numerous Sioux deaths. It also resulted in the largest single, formal execution in U.S. history—the mass hanging of 38 Sioux at Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862 (Thornton, 1987). One hundred twenty-five years later, the Dakota Sioux established a “year of reconciliation,” whereby they attempted to deal with the events of 1862, and “come to terms with what happened, and move on with our lives, but not forget” (personal conversation with the author).

The forced removal of the Cherokee Indians from the Southeast into Indian Territory during the late 1830s is well known in U.S. history. It was such a tragic event and caused so much pain and death that it was named literally “the trail where we cried” and has become known as the “Trail of Tears,” in Cherokee “Nunna daul Tsuny.” An estimated 4,000 men, women, and children died on the thousand-mile trek. The event stands as the single most significant event in the history of the Cherokee Nation. In an effort to deal with this trauma and confront the pain it caused, the Cherokee established a Trail of Tears Association, whereby the event is commemorated annually and the graves of those who were removed are marked with a special medallion—our attempt to heal the wounds of the trauma of history.18

On December 29, 1890, several hundred Sioux men, women, and children were massacred by soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry19 at Wounded Knee Creek. Earlier, a band of 350 Sioux had fled their reservation in order to practice their new religion—the Ghost Dance. The massacre occurred when the troops were attempting to disarm the escaped Sioux and prepare them for shipment back to their reservation. After the massacre, the Cavalry left with their dead and wounded. A burial detail was sent out a few days later to bury the Indians. In the meantime, other Sioux

18  

I said, at a presentation to the 1998 meeting of the Trail of Tears Association, “We are lucky in this regard. We have confronted this sad part of our history, have recognized it, and have been able to heal some of the hurt it caused us as a people. Other Indian groups are not so fortunate.”

19  

The Seventh Calvary was the regiment commanded by General George A.Custer, who was defeated by the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne and other tribes on June 25, 1876, in the Battle of Greasy Grass, or, as more well-known, the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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learned of the massacre and collected some of the dead. When the burial detail arrived January 1, 1891, a heavy blizzard had covered the remaining dead bodies. One hundred and forty-six men, women, and children were collected and buried in a mass grave. Seven generations after the massacre, the Sioux “undertook a communal memorialization through the Tatanka Iyotake (Sitting Bull) and Wokiksuye (Bigfoot) Ride, which traced the path of the Hunkpapa and Miniconju massacred at Wounded Knee” (Duran et al., 1998). It was time for them, they said, to put the event behind them and go on with their lives, but not forget.

Repatriation and Healing the Trauma of History

The repatriation process has helped American Indian groups to achieve some closure on traumatic events of their histories. For example, some of the Sioux massacred at Wounded Knee wore sacred Ghost Dance shirts; they were stripped of these shirts before being dumped into the grave. Six of these shirts ended up at the National Museum of Natural History; one was displayed in a museum exhibit with the caption that it was taken from the Wounded Knee “Battlefield.”20 The Smithsonian officially had 29 “objects” from those massacred including a blanket from “a dead body,” a pair of boy’s moccasins, and baby jackets and caps. The return of the objects to the descendants of those killed occurred in September 1998.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

Trends in demographics, tribal sovereignty, economic development, education, and repatriation are extremely important for American Indians in American society. Demographically, American Indians are now not only surviving in society, but also increasing in numbers. However, the ways American Indians define themselves, and are defined by our society, are changing; and this may have far-reaching implications for American Indians in the twenty-first century.

American Indian tribal sovereignty is alive if not well, and numerous court cases will continue to emerge as the legal relationships between

20  

In the fall of 1986, I was a fellow at the National Museum of Natural History. I remember vividly a trip one afternoon with a curator into the attic of the National Museum of Natural History building to examine some of their North American Indian collections. He volunteered to show me these shirts. He pulled out a drawer from a large cabinet. There they were; almost 100 years after it occurred, I was a witness to a remaining legacy of the massacre at Wounded Knee. The shirts have bullet holes and are stained with blood; some still have medicine bags attached.

Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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American Indians and society continue to be debated, refined, and changed. Important, however, is the fact that American Indians may once again emerge as powerful political players on the national scene—not just as moral entities, but also as significant economic entities. This is in part because of the newly possible economic development of American Indian tribes. The twenty-first century holds much promise for American Indians in this regard.

Educationally, American Indians have gained some measure of control over the education of their youth, a trend unlikely to reverse itself in the new century. Also important, educationally, is the emergence of American Indian studies. It has the potential to fundamentally alter American conceptions about American Indians and bring important new knowledge bases within the realm of academe; unfortunately, that potential is largely unfilled.

Finally, the legally mandated repatriation of American Indian human remains and objects back to the native communities from which they came—and to which many would say they belong—is fundamentally altering the relationships of American Indians with society and academe. Important in this is the movement toward alleviating the traumas of history many American Indians experienced with colonialism and still find unresolved.

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Suggested Citation:"5. Trends Among American Indians in the United States." National Research Council. 2001. America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9599.
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Page 169
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America Becoming: Racial Trends and Their Consequences, Volume I Get This Book
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The 20th Century has been marked by enormous change in terms of how we define race. In large part, we have thrown out the antiquated notions of the 1800s, giving way to a more realistic, sociocultural view of the world. The United States is, perhaps more than any other industrialized country, distinguished by the size and diversity of its racial and ethnic minority populations. Current trends promise that these features will endure. Fifty years from now, there will most likely be no single majority group in the United States. How will we fare as a nation when race-based issues such as immigration, job opportunities, and affirmative action are already so contentious today?

In America Becoming, leading scholars and commentators explore past and current trends among African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Native Americans in the context of a white majority. This volume presents the most up-to-date findings and analysis on racial and social dynamics, with recommendations for ongoing research. It examines compelling issues in the field of race relations, including:

  • Race and ethnicity in criminal justice.
  • Demographic and social trends for Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.
  • Trends in minority-owned businesses.
  • Wealth, welfare, and racial stratification.
  • Residential segregation and the meaning of "neighborhood."
  • Disparities in educational test scores among races and ethnicities.
  • Health and development for minority children, adolescents, and adults.
  • Race and ethnicity in the labor market, including the role of minorities in America's military.
  • Immigration and the dynamics of race and ethnicity.
  • The changing meaning of race.
  • Changing racial attitudes.

This collection of papers, compiled and edited by distinguished leaders in the behavioral and social sciences, represents the most current literature in the field. Volume 1 covers demographic trends, immigration, racial attitudes, and the geography of opportunity. Volume 2 deals with the criminal justice system, the labor market, welfare, and health trends. Both books will be of great interest to educators, scholars, researchers, students, social scientists, and policymakers.

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