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Working the System 2 – Native American’s Fight within the American Legal System – Don Tucker #3

In the 1930’s the Federal-Tribal Relationship seems to have shifted from a policy of Indian assimilation to one of Indian self-government.  In 1934, the Wheeler-Howard Act, or the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, encouraged tribes to adopt Constitutions and to form federally chartered corporations in order to promote Indian self-govt. Again the issue of tribal sovereignty had reared its head into Native History. The IRA provided a platform for later developments in tribal advancement with the Federal govt. in respect to tribal sovereignty.

Since the 1960’s, Native rights has entered into the era dubbed the period of “self-determination”. This period has been marked by advancements in tribal self-determination, in which tribes were granted the independent power to establish a form of government of their choosing, the authority to determine tribal membership, the power to adminsiter justice and police power, the power to exclude persons from the reservation, the power to charter business organizations, and sovereign immunity in court suits.

These movements of the 20th Century mark the native turn toward working within the system to resist American encroachment into Indian some sense the movements are a shift toward assimilation in fighting through the American system making the the courts and congress the battlefield. But as we’ve learned throughout the course the pen appears to be mightier than the sword, and the issue of improving Indian rights and sovergienty appears to be most successfully fought by working the system.


Working the System 1 – Native American’s Fight within the American Legal System – Don Tucker #2

The issue of Tribal sovereignty seems to have been prevalent throughout the course. But only recently did we as a class examine the legal standing of Tribal authority in the American Judicial system. With the Marshall Trilogy, we found that  it estabished the doctrine of discovery (Johnson v McIntosh – 1823), established a trust relationship of Indian tribes to the US as “domestic dependent nations” and that the relationship resembled that of a “ward to guardian” (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia – 1831), and that Congress had exclusive plenary power over Indian tribes (Worcester v Georgia 1832). In total, the trilogy began a Federal Governmental limit to Indian sovereignty.

As I read the Black Hawk autobiography, I saw the work as in some respects as an attempt by Black Hawk to shift the Native resistance movement to American expansion into Indian Country through a new medium, literature and popular culture, appealing to the moral sensibility of the American reading public. Similarly , Native rights activists and tribes began to work within the American judicial system to resist American expansion into Indian country.  After Removal of the 1830’s it appears that Federal Indian policies of the 19th Century became drastically worse for Native rights. Reservations were created to civilize and Americanize Indians through confinement and dependency on the Federal Govt. The period of Allotment followed which was designed to dismantle the reservation system and further Americanize Indians. But Native resistance in the courts during the 20th Century appears to have made quite a bit of progress on the history of the 19th Century.

Kimutis #4 Continuing Resistance

Ever since reading the autobiography about Black Hawk, I have wondered about whether the resistance movement for American Indians has died out or if there is still resistance to the United States government.  In my research I came across an essay written by Dr. Jack Forbes from the University of California at Davis.  In the essay he wrote about contemporary forms of resistance and also their comparison to African American forms of resistance.  I came across some very intriguing results.

One interesting thing that I found was that there was a large resistance movement during the World War I era.  American Indian tribes grew more organized in the way of governmental structure.  They thought through this way that they could fight the taking of any more Indian land by being equal to the whites in organization.  This would also put a stop to tricky deals made by the U.S. government to take land.  This era sparks a time when resistance heads to the court system of the United States to make a stand against the rapidly diminishing Indian lands.

Another interesting point that was also brought up was that many peace movements and reform movements that African Americans made were actually carried out by American Indians first.  This surprised me because these movements got relatively little press coverage and isn’t really brought up in any history textbooks that I have read.  Peaceful protests were prominent, and a great number of court proceedings took place over Indian lands.  In the 60’s there was an increasing number of American Indian college students.  The increasing number of students led to the creation of more organizations that stood for the rights of all tribes.  Some of those organizations were United Native Americans, Survival of Native Americans, Inc., and the Native Alliance for Red Power.  I found this very interesting as this was also around the same time as the peace movement and large protests on college campuses for African Americans and whites as well.

Overall, the resistance has continued since its earliest forms when Europeans first established permanence on the Americas.  It is ongoing and I think that the resistance will remain strong and never be defeated just because of how strong the sense of identity and pride is in anyone with affiliation to any tribe.

Here is the link:

Kimutis #3 Season of Giving

Since we have entered the season of giving, I would like to make some comments on what Christmas means to the American Indians.  Does it mean anything at all to them? I think that they may not celebrate the holiday exactly, and I don’t think that they celebrate it for any religious affiliations either.  I am talking about the giving and receiving aspect of the holidays.

Of course, the American Indians had no idea what Christmas was until the Europeans came to the Americas.  Until then it was just like any other day of the year.  That sentence is the key sentence though.  Indians have the idea of giving and receiving gifts (reciprocity) everyday of the year.  Perhaps this is why they have such an outstanding way of life.  I know how great the holidays make me feel and always wish it could be Christmas all year long.  Perhaps if I had the chance to live in a tribe from before European contact I would be able to experience just that.

If our society today were to live like this all year long how would our way of life be changed? The answer to that are lower crime rates, a happier society, a closer knit society, and a society that would enforce itself through self control.  All of these things were prevalent in American Indian tribes, and they were a people who were at peace with themselves.

Even though Christmas is not celebrated, there is a celebration that is relatively close to Christmas.  The winter solstice was often celebrated by Native tribes such as the Hopi.  The Hopi held a ceremony called the “prayer offering” ceremony which was to give prayer and thanks for the coming new year.  This is similar to our New Year’s celebration and our New Year resolutions. You can read more on the Hopi tradition and its origins at the link below:

Kimutis #2 Iroquois Lacrosse

A big topic that we covered in class over the past couple of weeks was autonomy and sovereignty.  Would the American Indians be recognized as a separate nation from the United States?  How much power should they be given?  Well this problem is still not resolved apparently.  I came across an article about an Iroquois Lacrosse team.  You may be wondering what this could possibly have to do with the subject, and I will explain myself.

The Iroquois were the first to invent Lacrosse, and as the creator, they compete in many tournaments throughout the world.  What makes them different though is that instead of competing and representing the United States, they compete as their own separate nation.  This was surprising to me, but it does get better.  The team was set to play in a tournament in the United Kingdom in July.  All of their players were given passports by the Iroquois Confederacy to compete.  Even so, the United States would not recognize the players and let them back in the United States without a U.S. passport.  Because of this, Britain would not grant the players visas, unless they were able to get passage back to their own country.

The sense of identity runs strong through the entire population of the Iroquois confederacy.  One player said that he would rather miss the tournament than have to go with a U.S. passport.  This shows me how much they would just like to represent themselves and no other entity.

I was completely surprised to find out that we still had problems like those from the past.  I had no idea that the struggle for sovereignty was still around.  I think this shows how strong the culture of the American Indians is, and how much they value that culture as well as their identity.  The team was allowed to compete eventually, and it was a step in the right direction in conserving their sovereignty.

the Iroquois at nationals.




Anthony Kimutis #1 Battling Diabetes

During discussion the other day, one comment about the types of food given to the Indians as they were removed from their habitations struck my interest.  The topic of diabetes is well known among the 3.3 million American Indians, and according to an article published in USA Today, 16% of American Indians have diabetes.  This percentage is almost twice the amount of diabetes among whites.  Does the rampant diabetes problem stem from the removal in the 19th century? How are American Indians dealing with the problem?


One reason that the American Indians may be so susceptible to diabetes is from the foods they ate prior to removal, and how active their life styles were.  My biology professor said something during class that sparked my attention (for once). She said that a reason southwest Indians may be seeing alarming diabetes rates and high rates of obesity is because they could do so much work and use a great amount of energy off of very little input or food.  The food that they ate was very healthy, and the meat was very lean.  Once they were forced off of their land, the food they were given had a high fat content, and they were doing much less work which lead to excessive obesity and diabetes.  Other articles support this idea, so what are the tribes doing to ward off this disease?


Much like we have seen in Prof. Hoxie’s class, a call to go back to the traditional culture is growing more popular.  Traditional foods were much healthier, and this is what many tribes are prescribing to combat the diabetes problem.  According to the article, tribes are beginning to listen to the elders, and one thing that the tribes have been doing is making the return to harvesting, gathering, and preparing traditional foods.  Even the Department of Agriculture is partnering with tribes along the North and South Dakota border.  Here the DA is offering fresh produce vouchers that the elderly can use at the local markets.  Other ways of causing awareness for the call back to traditional foods is through traditional dances held to support the idea.


Overall, American tribes are moving toward a unification and call back to traditional ways to combat a modern disease.  Sound familiar? I think so and I believe that sometime in the future, diabetes rates will be considerably lower among Indians.  Like the article says, “Key to many programs is the rebuilding of pride and self-esteem, and keeping in mind the spiritual component of healing and overcoming diabetes.”

Link to the article:



Chief Illiniwek – Luke Guthrie

The controversy over Chief Illiniwek as the mascot of the University of Illinois occurred a few years ago.  Personally, I never knew much about the details of the debate between the two sides, but I would of liked to see the mascot remain.  I remember as a young person coming to some Illinois basketball games and watching the Chief perform at halftimes;  additionally, I witnessed the great fan pride and spirit appear when the chief took the floor among the Illini nation.  This tradition at the sporting events captivated me when I was little and was one of the reasons I became such an Illini fan growing up. 

Saying this, I failed to realize the aspects behind the debate and the views of the opposing side.  For example, I did not know the debate lasted for much of three decades with opponents of the tradition applying pressure towards the university and its board of trustees.  In 1990, the board was forced to intervine and come to a decision whether to support the mascot and tradition or to abandon it; obviously, they decided to support the Chief.  The Illinois General Assembly backed this decision a couple years later with their support too. 

This opposition of Chief Illiniwek and the tradition saw it as a race based sporting mascot, not the unitement of school pride and spirit as I visualized it as a young kid.  They voiced their opinions with billboards reading, “The Chief and the tradition of white supremacy” or protestors signs such as, “Save the children, not the fake”.  These signs surprised me greatly upon seeing them; I never have thought of the chief as representing these kind of terrible issues. 

Furthermore, after continued pressure for many sources of opposition through the following decades, on campus and off campus, the issue was once again raised before the board of trustees in 2006.  Except this time with much higher stakes, the NCAA had ruled against it, threating post-season banning from sporting events.  With little that could be done, the board of trustees were forced to retire the Chief, forever. 

I am sad that this is what happened; and that the opposing sides could not come to some sort of common ground, even with receiprocity being an underlying value in Native American culture.  It is still awesome to see the Illinois fans still honoring the tradition at sporting events, but at some point, this will slowly begin to lose support from lack of understanding.  In addition, I am still confused how the NCAA can rule against the tradition of Chief Illiniwek, but other mascots in college sports of similar nature still exsist, such as the Florida State Seminoles.  I fail to see the differences between these two traditions and mascots.

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