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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 of sand.

In a more violent effort, the American Indian Movement took control of South Dakota’s 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?



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