Preservation of Indian Culture

November 8, 1972

Report Outline
Activism Among American Indians
Conquest and Treatment of Indians
Indian Culture in Modern Society
Special Focus

Activism Among American Indians

Ever since they signed their first treaty with the new United States in 1778, American Indians have listened in bemused silence to white promises to protect their cultures, preserve their lands, and respect their humanity. In two centuries, virtually none of the promises has been kept. Indians have seen their ranks decimated, their lands overrun, and their cultures shattered by the inexorable advance of white civilization.

Indian silence has been based not on stoicism, but on total impotence in the face of white depredations. When the Indian wars ended in the late 19th century, the Indians found themselves broken as a people, without a voice in the management of their own affairs, and their unity as tribes and nations lost, perhaps forever. Their few friends in the white world often shared the view that Indians were little more than children, unable to care for themselves and incapable of meeting the challenges of daily life. In the frontier society, the low economic, cultural and political state of the Indians was taken as evidence of their inherent racial inferiority.

The era of silence, and the Indians' acquiescence in the white verdict of their inferiority, has come to an end. Since the close of World War II, and especially in the last decade, Indians have found a voice, and have begun groping toward political unity. Indian activism began to erupt on a nationwide scale in the mid-1960s, and it has continued to rise in the first years of this decade. In 1965, Indian groups banded together to stage a series of “fish-ins” in defense of Indian fishing rights along the rivers of the state of Washington.

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