The Future for Native Americans?
Although Native Americans eventually gained
citizenship, they received federal support for two more decades.
In the 1950s, however, the Bureau of Indian Affairs terminated
federal services and placed the responsibility for Native Americans
on state governments. Between 1952 and 1956, the bureau also sold
1.6 million acres of Native American land to developers.
Political protests by organizations such as the American Indian
Movement (AIM) call attention to the chronic unemployment and
political disenfranchisement of Native Americans.
For example, twenty-five Native Americans gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving Day 1970.
The protesters wore traditional funeral clothes and convened in
front of a statue of Massassoit, the Wampanoag Chief who aided
colonists in 1621, and then buried Plymouth Rock under mounds
In a more violent effort,
the American Indian Movement took control of South Dakotas
Wounded Knee in February 1973. The forceful occupation of the
reservation to protest local government lasted 71 days and resulted
in 2 deaths, 12 injuries, and more than 1,100 arrests.
Such protests thrust the plight of Native
Americans into the national spotlight. Long-term plans to correct
the situation, however, were often nonexistent.
During the 1980s, several state governments
endowed some reservations with special rights for hunting, fishing,
and high-stakes casino gaming. Some people feel that these rights
have hurt Native Americans more than they have helped them.
Looking back, with 21st century eyes, what do we see? What do we feel? Where do we go from here?