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Collective Action

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Professor Cottrel

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Collective Action • Pan-Indianism refers to intertribal social movements in which several tribes, joined by political goals but not by kinship, unite in a common identity. Today, these pan-Indian efforts are most vividly seen in cultural efforts and political protests of government policies. • Proponents of this movement see the tribes as captive nations or internal colonies. They generally see the enemy as the federal government. Until recently, pan-Indian efforts usually failed to overcome the cultural differences and distrust between tribal groups. Although there are some exceptions (e.g., the Ghost Dance), it took nearly a century and a half of BIA policies to accomplish a significant level of unification. • A recent and the most visible pan-Indian group is the American Indian Movement (AIM), which initially created a patrol to monitor police actions and document charges of police brutality. Eventually, it promoted programs for alcohol rehabilitation and school reform. By 1972, AIM was nationally known not for its neighborhood-based reforms but for its aggressive confrontations with the BIA and law enforcement agencies. Native Americans Today 1) Religious and Spiritual Expression • Like other aspects of Native American culture, the expression of religion is diverse, reflecting the variety of tribal traditions and the assimilationist pressure of the Europeans. Initially, missionaries and settlers expected Native Americans simply to forsake their traditions for European Christianity, and, as in the case of the Ghost Dance, sometimes force was used to do so. • Today’s Native Americans are asking that their cultural traditions be recognized as an expression of pluralist rather than assimilationist coexistence. • Today, many Protestant churches and Roman Catholic parishes with large tribal congregations incorporate customs such as the sacred pipe ceremony, native incenses, ceremonies affirming care for the earth, and services and hymns in native languages. After generations of formal and informal pressure to adopt Christian faiths and their rituals, in 1978 Congress enacted the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, which declares that it is the government’s policy to “protect and preserve the inherent right of American Indians to believe, express, and practice their traditional religions.” This act was amended in 1994 to allow Native Americans the right to use, transport, and possess peyote for religious purposes. • Another area of spiritual concern is the stockpiling of Native American relics, including burial remains. Contemporary Native Americans are increasingly seeking the return of their ancestors’ remains and artifacts, a demand that alarms museum and archeologists. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 requires an inventory of such collections and provides for the return of materials if a claim can be substantiated. • Many scholars believe the ancient bones and burial artifacts are valuable clues to humanity’s past, and understanding that reflects a difference in cultural traditions. Although Western scientists have been dissecting cadavers for hundreds of years, many tribes believe that disturbing the graves of ancestors will bring spiritual sickness to the living. 2) Economic Development • The Native Americans are an impoverished people. Compared to Whites, Native Americans are dismally behind on all standards of income and occupational status. A 1995 national survey showed that overall unemployment is more than 30 percent. Among those who have jobs, a third earned less than $10,000. Those who are employed are less likely to be managers, professionals, technicians, salespeople, or administrators. • Native Americans generally find work in one of three areas: tourism, casino gambling, and government employment. • Tourism is an important source of employment for many reservation residents, who either serve the needs of visitors directly or sell souvenirs and crafts. This area of work faces a number of challenges: 1) Craft work rarely realizes the profits most Native Americans desire and need. Most Whites are interested in trinkets, not the more expensive and profitable items. 2) Many craft workers have been manipulated by other Native Americans and Whites to produce what the tourists want; creativity and authenticity often are replaced by mechanical duplication of “genuine Indian” curios. 3) There is a growing concern and controversy surrounding art such as paintings and pottery that may not be produced by real Native Americans but nonetheless fetches high prices. • A more recent source of significant income and some employment has been the introduction of gambling on reservations. Forms of gambling, originally part of tribal ceremonies or celebrations, existed long before Europeans arrived in the Western Hemisphere. T
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