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Stephen Cornell THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE (Oxford Unive. Press, 1990)

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"heather wileaver" <hdwilea@ilstu.edu> Review: RETURN OF THE NATIVE (Wileaver)
"dan nemtusiak" <dpnemtu@ilstu.edu> Review of THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE (Dan Nemtusiak)

Date: Thu, 9 Mar 1995 13:11:14 -0600
From: "heather wileaver" <hdwilea@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Review: RETURN OF THE NATIVE (Wileaver)

Stephen Cornell THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE (Oxford Unive. Press, 1990)

                            Reviewed By:
                          Heather Wileaver
                     Illinois State University
                           March 9, 1995

The majority of Cornell's book is devoted to retelling the history of Indian-White relations and the transformations that came about as a result of these interactions. Cornell links the historical transformations in Indian economic, political, social, and cultural organizations to the character of Indian activism in the 1960's and 1970's.

Cornell divides these transformations into six periods: Market, Conflict, Reservation, IRA (Indian Reorganization Act), Termination, and Contemporary. Each attempted some sort of Political and economic incorporation of Indians into the larger society and led to different Indian responses.

In the Market period, from the mid-16th century to the late 18th century, Indians actually had a great deal of power when it came to dealing the the Whites. Indians tend to have power when they have something the Whites want and the Whites can not simply steal it from the Indians. In this period Indians had power because of their ability to hunt and provide Whites with furs they could trade. Because of this Indians had a great deal of autonomy and there was little resistence. Through trade with Whites, Indians could obtain tobacco, firearms, and other eventual necessities. However, when animals became scarce and fur went out of style, the Indians lost their power. Whites no longer needed the resources that Indians had to offer. The problem with the power they had with the Whites is that it came from Inian resources, not Indians themselves. This led and Whites' desire to obtain Indian land led to the Conflict period.

Indians were being pushed of their land and left to fend for themselves in climates that were foreign to them and which had little left for them to hunt. Indians were continually relocated. They would be moved to one area and when it was discovered that there might be something of value to the Whites there, they were moved again. Ultimatly they were left with the most unproductive an secluded land. They were not great farmers, but thoise who tried failed because the land was so poor. It has been noted that no White farmer could have raised a crop in these areas either. Indians were excluded from the larger economy and there was little demand for their labor. During this period Indians sank deeper and deeper into poverty. The seizure of their land led to armed resistance and the, as referred to by Cornell, Reservation period.

The Indians were increasingly losing their land through allotment and were becoming more and more dependent on welfare. There was a declining demand for Indian resources. The reservations became more and more under government control. The leaders of the reservations were usually chosen by the government and did not represent the best interest of the reservation. There was a big push for assimilation and forced citizenship. During this period there was very little political resistence, mainly because the Indians were being ignored. However, a big change would take place with the development of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA).

With the implementation of the IRA efforts were made to stabilize land bases and develop reservation economies. There was increased support for reservation communities. The emphasis seemed to be taken off assimilation and put back on Indianness. Many of the programs were initiated by John Collier. Collier's version of the IRA provided for Indian school courses in native history and cultures, special training for Indians o run their own affairs, and invested extensive home rule in tribal organizations. However, im practice it fell short of its goals. First of all it was imposed upon the Indians like most previous reforms. Congress objected to the antiassimilationism of the reforms. Congress modified Collier's proposals for self-government and land consolidation and diluted his emphasis on native culture. Although the plan was nothing like what Collier had proposed it did bring about critical changes. It ended allotment, return tribal ownership of land to Indians that had been taken, but never used by homesteaders, it acquired additional land for the Indians and encouraged the conservation of Indian resources. Most important though, it stated that "any Indian tribe, or tribes, residing on the same reservation, shall have the right to organize for its common welfare." Although the IRA and other programs established by Collier received mixed reactions, they allowed Indians to re-enter into the decision-making process. "The door to a genuine Indian politics, slammed shut the century before, had begun to open." The problem with the IRA and several of Collier's other programs, which were referred to as 'the Indian New Deal," was that they did nothing to change the basic notion that Indians should ultimately assimilate into the society around them. "To intergrate the Indians into the rest of the population is the best solution of 'the Indian Problem.'" This notion led to Cornell's fifth period, Termination and the growth of supratribalism.

In the late 1940's up to the late 1960's the government basically negated everything they had done in the 1930's. The government withdrew its support of the reservation and promoted migration to urban areas. There was "an assult on tribal sovereignty" and assimilation was encouraged again. There was great Indian opposition to Termination because of its disasterous effects. When Congress passed the Menominne Termination Act in 1954 the Menominne tribe was in fairly good economic shape. They had a thriving forest products industry which was providing jobs and income and, although many of the Indians were still in poverty, things were looking better. With Termination, the reservation became a county and therefore was subject to taxes. The tribal hospital, which received government funding, was shut down and other services were cut. The mill had to lay-off workers and sell off much of its land. By the mid-1960's the town was a wreck. The once prosperoius reservation had suffered increased land loss, deepening poverty, and was in need of more, not less, government help. Termination seemed like a huge step backward and lkeft the Indains wondering "Why didn't they leave us alone?"

Supratribalism is also growing during this period. I am not sure I completely understand the concept of supratribalism, however Cornell explains it as an "Indian conciousness." Indians increasingly are thinking of themselves in terms of a whole rather than a bunch of seperate tribes. With this comes more political involvement. They are thinking in terms of what is could for the entire Indain race, instead of what is good for one particular tribe. Strength may not come in numbers in the case of the Indians, but it does make their voice louder.

This entire history of Indian-White relations leads up to Cornell's Contemporary period: the 1960's to the present (which in this book is 1988). It is during this period that we see an "Indian P0litical Resurgence." Increased political involvement and activism forced the government to listen, for a change, to what the Indians want instead of the govenment pushing what they want onto the Indians. There is still a desire to incorporate Indians into the larger society, but it is being sought in a less forceful way. Incorporation is being pursued, as much as possible, through cooperative arrangements instead of coercion. Indians are becoming more involved instead of excluded from the economy. This may sound good on the surface, as in the fur trade, it is Indian resources that are of interest to the Whites, not the Indians themselves. When the raw materials that are under Indian control and are of value to the Whites run out will the Indians be forgotten again? Will the Indians power only last as long as their resources? If history repeats itself the answer is most certainly yes. Perhaps with Indians' increased political involvement and unity we won't repeat the past

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Date: Thu, 16 Mar 1995 15:30:26 -0600
From: "dan nemtusiak" <dpnemtu@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Review of THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE (Dan Nemtusiak)


By Dan Nemtusiak

Illinois State University

I have always been interested in Native Americans and when I had the opportunity to learn more of their history, I welcomed the chance. Stephen Cornell, author of "The Return of the Native", examines the turbulent history of the American Indian and attempts to explain the recent political resurgence of the Indians. He does this by first explaining the political and economic relationships between the Indians and the early Euro-American settlers of the United States.

Cornell breaks down the process of linking Indians to the Euro-American political economy into six periods. These periods are labeled by Cornell in the following order: market, conflict, contemporary, reorganization, termination, and finally contemporary.

The first period mentioned is the market period. Cornell explains that the major industry that the Indians basically cornered was the fur trading. This fur was initially sought by European explorers, followed by American settlers. The process of making furs was known only to the Indians and thus, it became very difficult for European and American settlers to obtain these valuable commodities elsewhere. In time, demand for Indian furs grew so great that intensified hunting quickly depleted the game population. This not only hurt the Indian's economy, but also lowered their food supply. It now became very important to maintain trade with the Europeans because now not only were the economic interests of the Indians at stake, but food and other supplies were needed for their own survival. This led to increased conflicts between tribes for trade routes and hunting land. The next period is entitled conflict. It is during this time that the fur industry is slowing and European and colonial settlers have increased greatly in number. It has now become more important to the American economy to search for other means of economic and industrial development. This search ultimately ended up in the quest for land, Indian land. The land occupied by the Indians proved to be the most fertile for farming, and the most abundant in natural resources. With the end of the Revolutionary War came the surrender of British owned land to the United States. This was disastrous to the Indians because it meant the loss of even more land to the American settlers.

The third period is what Cornell refers to as the reservation period. It is during this period that the American government begins seriously acquiring Indian land. Cornell states that this acquiring of land could be placed into two categories: assimilation and removal.

Assimilation was the process of persuading Indians to leave their land and move to other settlements to pursue a more civilized, American way of life. This would include becoming more involved in the American economy and work force. The American government pushed the Indians into entering the agriculture industry, Unfortunately, the new land that was given to the Indians was low quality and farming produced sub-standard crops which yielded little profits.

Removal was the other option that the American government gave the Indians. This was the process of moving the Indians to another location, but not requiring them to learn the American way of life, as was the way with assimilation. Through this option came the eventual passing of the Dawes Act in 1887. This authorized the allotment of land to individual Indians and, in essence, placing them on their own separate reservations. In addition to the Dawes Act, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was established which created Indian courts that were given the authority to fine and punish Indians for performing acts of Indian culture. These were all attempts to break up the Indian unity and lesson their political power.

Although the U.S. government preferred breaking up Indian tribes and placing them on their own reservations, they had little concern over whether or not certain tribes stayed together, only that the Indians were concentrated and kept in certain areas of the country. It was this concentration of Indians that caused the government's plan to break up the Indian unity to fail. During these times of what Cornell calls "tribalization", many Indian politicians gathered together to lobby the U.S. government for better land and more access to resources. In essence, the allotment plan, according to Cornell, had formed a more centralized Indian political structure.

The reorganization period is discussed next by Cornell. During the 1930's and 40's, a policy called the Indian Reorganization Act was implemented. This policy gave Native Americans a very substantial increase in political power and recognition. It gave them the ability to acquire more land for reservations and hunting, and the ability to become more involved politically with the U.S. government. It was now possible to obtain lawyers for representation, organize corporations for economic development, and negotiate with all levels of government. While these rights were always present, they were not always recognized until the passing of the IRA. This opportunity to mobilize would finally give the Native American the political rights and respect he deserved.

By the mid 1940's, Cornell explains that the IRA is not as successful as it was hoped. Indian reservations were slowly becoming "ghettos" where the Native American was almost outcast from the general society and little economic development was taking place. Instead of trying to advance their culture, Cornell believes that the IRA had almost separated them from the mainstream of America. The thought now was to incorporate the Indians into the new American way of life and marketplace. It also included ending governmental intervention into Indian affairs. This led to changing reservations into counties, and the termination of government assistance for Native American programs such as education and health. The result was that many Indians went deeper into poverty and depression. Political frustration occured and the general Indain population was negatively affected.

In recent years, Native Americans have become more successful in the general society. While still maintaining many reservations, local communitites of Indians have begun sprouting across the U.S. With the aide of anti-discrimination laws and more educational grants, it has been possible for Indians to increase their economic and social status. The main goals that Native Americans now seek are better ways to integrate Indian-White cultures, and to gain more political ground.

Before reading Cornell's book, I never realized how difficult politically it has been for Native Americans. His book effectively relays this message. However, he did not proceed in a chronological order and I found this to be very confusing. It was very difficult to distinguish where Native Americans were coming from politically when the author continuously jumps around in time. I have no arguments with his ideas and opinions and other than the complaint above, I found this book to be very informative and not very controversial. Cornell uses a historical tone throughout the book to reduce any controversy of his opinions.

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