Carol A. Hand
Following is the third installment of one of the exam papers written to complete a university degree (Hand, 1999). I am sharing the essay in installments, with minor edits and illustrations added, in hopes that it might be of interest and stimulate thoughtful dialogue. ( Part One defined theory and discussed some of the relevant general theories that continue to guide research, policies, and practice paradigms that limit the exercise of sovereignty by tribal governments over the welfare of their citizens, lands, and resources. Part Two covered theories about the ways in which power over others is imposed and maintained.)
This morning as I worked on editing and reformatting the third installment, I remembered sitting with my unabridged dictionary ready at hand to look up the words that weren’t in my every day vocabulary as I attempted to make sense of the dense theoretical texts I was reading. The margins of my reference texts and resource articles are filled with penciled definitions – a legacy of growing up in a household with very few books. Although I’m not the first generation in my family to go to college (my mother received her RN degree from Loyola University), I was the first one to go on for graduate studies. This is why I have been motivated by a commitment to liberatory praxis (theory-informed liberatory action) and chose to teach at universities that served a high percentage of first generation college students.
The Impact of Domination for Native Americans. Two perspectives explicitly relegate a central position to differential power: captive nations/internal colonies (Snipp 1986a, 1986b, 1988, 1990; Snipp & Summers, 1990) and incorporation (Cornell, 1988). Cast in an economic framework, both theoretical perspectives recount the evolving strategies of domination used by colonial metropoles and the U.S. government to exert an increasing amount of control over indigenous peoples within the United States. While both perspectives explicitly note the significant differences among tribal cultures and the unique challenges each tribe faced at the hands of colonizers, certain similarities can be identified. Table 1 highlights key political and economic events, and the impact of these events for Native American peoples. (Table 1 is included at the end of Part Two.) The captive nations/internal colonies theoretical approach focuses on processes and impacts of economic domination and exploitation (Snipp 1986b). The process of political and economic incorporation of Native peoples into the dominate U.S. structure is viewed as transactional, although the balance of power is unequal (Cornell, 1988). Native resistance, a pivotal part of this transaction, has enabled Tribal peoples to survive as distinct political entities.
Captive Nations/Internal Colonies.
Over the course of Native American and Euro-American interactions, as summarized in Table 1, the economic dependency of Native peoples has deepened as their land base, and the sustenance and autonomy it represented, were expropriated (Snipp, 1990). As Snipp (1990, p. 3) points out, economic dependency has placed Native peoples at a disadvantage “in many arenas of social life.” The legacy of dependency is more than the overt marginalization of Native Americans in political and economic realms: continued marginalization is also reinforced and justified by insidious and covert attitudes which evolve as characterizations of weaker partners in economic exchange situations.
“Relations of domination and subordination can generate perceptions about innate superiority and inferiority, justice and injustice, strength and weakness, and good and evil. Dependency can also provide the foundation of ethnocentric beliefs, racial discrimination, and minority resentment.” (Snipp, 1990, p. 3).
Photo: Clear Cutting Quinault Indian Reservation ( Source )
Snipp (1986a) asserts that the transition Native peoples underwent during the course of increasing Euro-American domination can be characterized by dependency theory as an evolution from the status of “captive nations” to one of “internal colonies.” Although dependency theory emerged from studies of the impact of capitalism in Latin America, the term “captive nations” was developed by historian D’Arcy McNickle to underscore the unique legal recognition of Native American tribal sovereignty within the United States. Nation-to-nation treaties, at least symbolically, conveyed legitimacy to tribes as sovereign “nations.” According to Snipp:
“Captive nationhood expresses the limited powers of self-government retained by tribal leaders after their conquest by the United States. Although the status of captive nation insures a measure of political autonomy, it has also made American Indians heavily dependent on federal authorities for diverse types of assistance.” (Snipp, 1986b, p. 458)
Native American dependency, which includes high rates of poverty, unemployment, and welfare dependency among reservation residents (Snipp, 1989), has made some tribes more willing to agree to sell their remaining resources to foster tribal economic development (Snipp, 1986a &b; Cornell & Kalt, 1990).
Renewed corporate interest in reservation lands, which were once viewed as the least desirable for settlement and agriculture, has emerged in recent years as a less expensive source for the extraction of valuable natural resources (oil, natural gas, low-sulphur coal, water, timber, and ‘lease’ land). The recent push to exploit Indian lands has resulted in increasing pressures on tribal governments from outside developers, leading in many cases to the creation of “internal colonies.” “Internal colonies, also called periphery areas, are created when one area dominates another to the extent that it channels the flow of resources from the periphery to the dominant core area” (Snipp, 1986a, p. 150). From Snipp’s perspective (no date, p. 13), Indian lands, “[l]ike colonial outposts everywhere” can be characterized as “internal colonies,” since extractive and agricultural resources “are being developed primarily for the benefit of the outside, non-Indian economy” (Snipp, 1986b, p. 458).
Photo: Superfund Sites in Indian Country ( Source )
Snipp (1986b & 1988) argues that through the process of subjugating tribes and imposing captive nationhood, increasing dependency set the stage for internal colonialism: captive nationhood created “the poverty, dependence, and isolation of most tribes, [and thus] is an indispensable element in the process by which tribes become outposts for outside non-Indian interests” (Snipp, 1986b, p. 472). From the perspective of dependency theory, “internal colonialism is an extension of practices that add economic dominance to the already subordinate political status of the tribes” (Snipp, 1986b, p. 464). Thus, consistent with resource dependence and political economy theories, dependency theory predicts that given the evolving status of tribal peoples and governments, federal and corporate pressures will have greater force. However, not all tribes have been equally impacted by the transition from captive nationhood to internal colonies given differences in the endowment of natural resources that they control and their willingness to allow extractive development (Snipp, 1986b; Cornell & Kalt, 1990). Despite the heavy environmental determinism implied by dependency theory, Snipp and Summers (1990, p. 178) note that through the policy of self-determination enacted in 1975, the United States government has ushered in an era of promise for tribal “economic and social equity.” In order for these new opportunities to bear fruit in terms of successful development, however, Snipp and Summers (1990) assert that federal support is a crucial element.
In contrast to the environmental determinism of dependency theory, Cornell (1988) emphasizes the transactional nature of relations between Native Americans and colonial powers throughout history. Cornell (1988, p. 5) points out that in the years of early interaction, specific tribes (e.g., Iroquois, Creeks, Cherokees, and Lakota) “were central actors in the political drama. While they seldom were involved directly in decision making, they often set the terms on which decisions were made,” largely by playing the European colonizing nations against each other in order to extract the most advantageous terms.
“In time, however, U.S. power and numbers prevailed, and the Indian influence in Indian affairs rapidly declined. Struggles between sovereign powers were replaced by rigid patterns of dominance and subordination…. From the end of organized Indian resistance in the nineteenth century until the last few decades, Native Americans have been barred systematically from meaningful participation of almost any kind in those decision-making processes most affecting their communities and lives.” (Cornell, 1988, p. 5)
Photo: Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and Fracking ( Source )
Despite this exclusion, however, Cornell (1988) contends that Native Americans continued to resist domination in whatever avenues were open to them, consistent with the views of resistance underscored by Foucault (1988; Dreyfus & Rabinow, 1983) and Gramsci (1994, 1995). Cornell, like Williams (1994), characterizes hegemony as an “active process,” where values, meanings, and practices are incompletely incorporated, sometimes contradictory, and undergoing constant revisions and adjustments (Williams, 1994).
“In the long drama of Indian-White interaction, each actor has been forced to respond to the actions of the other or to the consequences of those actions, manifest in concrete social conditions and relationships. While mutual, this conditioning process has been uneven. Although in the early years Native Americans on occasion exerted considerable influence over the actions of the invaders and the shape of events, over time they found themselves increasingly constrained, caught in an ever more elaborate mesh of circumstances and relationships beyond their control. In the pattern of their subjugation lies the shape of their resistance. Human beings, as Karl Marx pointed out in a famous passage, make their own history, but under circumstances not of their choosing and with materials handed down from the past. New histories are built on the foundations of the old; only with time do they transcend — or remake — their origins” (Cornell, 1988, p. 7).
Throughout the history of their interactions, Native Americans have become increasingly linked to the “Euro-American political economy” as a result of “the incorporative process” (Cornell, 1988, p. 12). From a pre-contact status as sovereign, autonomous societies, Native Americans were at first voluntarily integrated into the international fur trade as skilled producers. However, with the depletion of fur-bearing animals, changing European markets, and increased immigration, European settlers were more interested in land. “Independence” from the European metropole for American colonists, and massive waves of immigrants, increased the pressure to open up land for settlement, relegating Native Americans to an ever-more marginalized geographic, social, and political status. While diplomacy and armed resistance were an early response to pressure, increasingly Native Americans were forced to find other methods of resistance. When external forces appeared unsurmountable, religious movements arose as Native peoples looked to the supernatural and to their own cultures for meanings and solace (Cornell, 1988).
“Faced with continuing crisis, declining capacities for secular action, and a political arena effectively closed to them, a number of Indian groups chose other strategies directed, first, to the transformation of the world and then, when such efforts failed, to the tasks of survival, to the maintenance of culture and community as a means of lived resistance to the effects, if not directly to the system, of oppression.” (Cornell, 1988, pp. 65-66)Photo:
Photo: American Indian Movement Wounded Knee Occupation ( Source )
As an ironic twist, however, the very forces of assimilative subjugation strengthened the capacity and will of Native resistance by fostering the development of “Indianization” and “Tribalization.” (See endnotes for definitions.) Cornell points out that Europeans viewed native peoples as virtually indistinguishable, a view not shared by indigenous peoples whose identity was strictly bounded by tribal affiliation. It was only through the imposition of homogenous colonial and federal policies that “Indian identity — as distinct from tribal identity — has become a conscious and important basis of action and thought in its own right” (Cornell, 1988, p. 107). For example, boarding schools, which were effective instruments of detribalizing Native youth, also fostered the development of a supratribal consciousness among youth from many tribal nations. Urban relocation, designed to incorporate Native peoples into urban America, again reinforced the development of supratribal consciousness as impoverished Native enclaves banded together to survive in an alien environment. In the 1950s, federal termination policy provided a compelling issue around which supratribal politics could coalesce (Cornell, 1988).
“Tribalization” began to develop as a result of colonial relations (through the need for collective tribal diplomacy, negotiation, and conflict), but was formalized with the enactment of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA). Heralded as the “Indian New Deal, ” the IRA is a pivotal historical event from Cornell’s perspective. Through its provisions, the IRA: (1) stabilized the land base by ending allotment and, (2) recognized the legitimacy of tribal governments which were based on Euro-American constitutions and principles and subject to Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) approval and oversight (O’Brien, 1989). As Cornell (1988, p. 93) points out, the IRA did not challenge “the fundamental belief that Indians would, and probably should, be assimilated ultimately by the society around them.”
“In the implementation of the IRA, tribes were asked to choose between an alien constitutional form of government and the uncertainties of the pre-IRA period. The institutions provided for through the IRA were Euro-American in origin, applied more or less uniformly to a hugely varied mosaic of cultures and in widely divergent local situations. The form of political organization the tribes were encouraged to adopt, with its representative government, electoral districts, tribal officers, and so forth, was derived from political and legal traditions very different from theirs…. The IRA and the Indian New Deal set out to grant Indians a limited but enlarged degree of control over their affairs and destinies, but did so in the service of ends preselected by the dominant society and through methods given by that society, after its own models.” (Cornell, 1988, p. 94)
Cornell argues that the important change signified by the IRA was a move from federal attempts to assimilate individuals (e.g., through boarding schools and allotment), to a focus on integrating Native Americans into the mainstream society through the imposition or Euro-American socio-political institutions. The impact of the IRA was the “homogenization” of tribal structures and the exacerbation of intratribal factional conflict. The values and practices embodied in the imposed Euro-American institutions clashed with those embodied within tribal institutions, “replacing relatively fluid indigenous systems of social coordination and authority with relatively rigid ones rooted in non-Indian traditions” (Cornell, 1988, p.100). Tribalization, the process of group formation as a form of identity and resistance, was co-opted by the IRA. The tribal structure, once composed of multiple independent lineage or band units with a shared ancestry, language, culture, and sense of identity as a people — a “conceptual community” — has been replaced by the “political community” (Cornell, 1988, p. 103). Embedded within this relatively recent political entity, “the tribe,” are many factions with differing views of what it means to be a member of that particular culture. Figure 2 illustrates Cornell’s (1988) characterization of this transition from a unified conceptual community comprised of multiple political units to a single political unit with multiple self-concepts among members.
Cornell’s (1988) analysis of the present day reality within tribal communities identifies two dimensions on which conflict emerges among members: (1) the degree to which they agree or disagree with the current structure of Indian-White relations; and (2) the degree to which they embrace or reject the institutions of the larger society.
With respect to the first dimension, the structure of Indian-White relations, Cornell (1988) asserts that most tribal members are dissatisfied with non-Indian controls imposed on tribal communities, such as federal funding limitations, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) procedures and staffing, and isolation from federal policy and administrative levels other than the BIA. The point of disagreement among different intra-tribal factions hinges on the degree of change they advocate. Some members merely want to reform aspects of the relationship (e.g., more Indian personnel in the BIA or increased federal funding for specific services), while others are interested in transforming the structure of Indian-White relations (e.g., the creation of a separate cabinet-level department within the federal executive branch for Indian Affairs).
Conflict within the second dimension, the structure of tribal institutions, reflects fundamental differences in worldviews in terms of integrative versus segregative goals. According to Cornell (1988, pp. 152-153),
“Integrative goals, while advocating change of some sort — reformative or transformative — in Indian-White relations, for the most part accept the appropriateness in the Indian setting of Euro-American economic and political institutions and, in general, the appropriateness of dominant culture…. In general, however, those institutions and, to a large extent the culture they carry are accepted as models on which the institutional shape of Indian societies can be based. Such goals are integrative in that they endorse, in effect, the integration of Indians into the dominant institutional patterns and culture, either as individuals or as groups.”
Those tribal members who reject the appropriateness of Euro-American institutions within the tribal setting advocate segregative goals, that is, the creation of new institutions which better reflect tribal culture and traditions.
By combining these dimensions, four combinations emerge which reflect the diversity of views within tribal communities: (1) integrative-reformative; (2) integrative-transformative; (3) segregative-reformative (a null category given that segregation implies fundamental change which rules out reform); and (4) segregative-transformative. Cornell (1988, p. 157) argues that the governmental structures created under the Indian Reorganization Act are integrative, and while those who support these structures may advocate change in Indian-White relations or in “the distribution of wealth and power within those relations” — i.e., integrative-reformative goals — they are unlikely to question “the appropriateness in Indian communities of dominant-group institutions, which, after all, they in effect represent.” Integrative-transformative goals emerged in the 1960s as urban Indians organized to demand separate services, and in the 1970s as tribal governments demanded reduced governmental controls and increased self-determination. Cornell (1988, p. 159) argues that tribal governments,
“have a stake in the institutions of the larger society, which provided their own formative models and in which they are substantially embedded, but they also want to increase their autonomy. They tend naturally, then, toward transformative integrative goals; for the most part their political efforts have favored dominant economic and political institutions, but have sought to place those institutions under Indian control.”
Segregative-transformative goals have become more salient since the 1960s and 1970s, as Indian resistance to the status quo has grown, but are the purview of radical individuals and groups outside of the political governing structure.
Photo: Occupation of Alcatraz – 1969 to 1971 ( Source )
Intra-tribal conflict, then, is based on profound differences in worldviews and goals among members. The most fundamental split is between those who accept dominant institutions, and those reject them. Cornell (1988, p. 162) notes that those who accept dominant institutions and try to work within the system to transform relations and enhance Indian power could be viewed as “realists.” “Radicals,” however, are interested in preserving and/or recreating culturally appropriate institutions, and in segregating the tribal community from the intrusive and antithetical Euro-American institutions and values. This intratibal conflict is not new. In other times, “realists” and “radicals” have been called “progressives” and “traditionals/conservatives”, or “mixed-bloods” and “full-bloods.” What is new is the degree to which dominant organizations have penetrated the very fabric of tribal communities. As dominant cultural institutions and the values they represent take hold in tribal communities, resistance is stifled.
“Alternative conceptions of political organizations, or community and social life, gradually become less imaginable and more difficult to realize. The opportunity to make a ‘meaningful choice’ in fact is reduced as Indian communities inadvertently come more and more to resemble non-Indian ones.” (Cornell, 1988, pp. 183-184)
The policy of self-determination enacted in 1975 places tribal governments even more firmly at the center of Indian-White relations, relegating those tribal members who advocate radical change to more marginal positions. While most tribal governments “are fiercely nationalistic defenders of the perceived interests of their peoples and remain highly suspicious and critical of the federal government” (Cornell, 1988, p. 207), their dependence on federal recognition and resources forces conformity to dominant institutional structures, practices, and values. Cornell (1988, p. 211) points out that as dominant institutions and values are operationalized on a daily basis, it may become more difficult for tribes to maintain “distinctive communities of culture.” As tribal communities lose distinctive cultures, it may become more difficult to justify federal recognition of a separate governmental structure. Cornell (1988, p. 212) observes that:
“The protection of sovereignty and treaty rights depends to some extent on public, non-Indian support. If Indian nations come to be viewed not as carriers of distinct ways of life, involuntarily put to risk by the larger society, but simply anachronistic legal residues of an unfortunate past, that support may disappear. In a peculiar way, distinctiveness is a form of security.”
Photo: Carlisle Indian Boarding School (1879-1918) ( Source )
Cultural survival is precisely the issue that led Native American people to press for the enactment of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 (Unger, 1978)…
To be continued…
1. “Indianization” is the term Cornell (1988, p. 72) uses to characterize the formation of group consciousness among indigenous peoples across Tribal boundaries.
2. “Tribalization” refers to the political organizations which have gradually emerged “as focal points of Indian identities.” Cornell, 1988, p. 72)
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