Denise Juneau and Indian Education

In has been well documented that American Indians, particularly those living on reservations, have the lowest levels of education in the country. On Indian reservations, the problems of providing education for Indian children are tied in to the rural nature of these populations—a fact which makes it difficult to find and retain good teachers—as well as cultural differences. Historically, there have been three primary structures for providing education to Indian children: (1) the federal government, primarily through an agency known today as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); (2) Christian missionary schools which were sometimes financially supported by the federal government; and (3) state and local school systems.

Bureau of Indian Education schools in the 21st century are under-funded and the physical conditions of the schools is poor and sometimes considered dangerous. Denise Juneau, who is running of Montana’s sole member of the House of Representatives, has promised not only to support additional funding for these schools, but also to reform the Bureau so that more of this money actually translates into classroom improvements.

In addition, Juneau has pledged:

“I support the Native Education Support and Training Act to create a system of loan forgiveness, scholarships and additional training for educators who serve in schools with a high percentage of Native American students.”

Denise Juneau is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa tribes and a Blackfoot descendent. She graduated from Browning High School on the Blackfeet Reservation and obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from Montana State University. She continued her education and earned a master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

She taught in North Dakota and Montana and worked for the state education agency. She then went back to school and received her juris doctorate from the University of Montana School of Law.

Denise Juneau was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. In 2010, as Superintendent, she launched the Schools of Promise initiative which focuses on improving struggling schools, particularly those on reservations. According to Juneau:

“Children who attend designated Schools of Promise often come from deep, rural poverty. Public assistance services are sparse. The complex needs of these students and their families are often unmet and can make graduation difficult to reach.”

She also points out:

“Schools of Promise is helping these struggling schools make significant progress. The program has become a turnaround model for the U.S. Department of Education given its unique student engagement requirements, school board trustee training, and mental health wrap around services. As a member of Congress I will work to strengthen this initiative to better support struggling schools in all Indian Country.”

Denise Juneau is running as a Democrat against a Republican incumbent. She needs our support. To find out more about Denise Juneau, her policies, and how to help, check out her website.


Denise Juneau, Putting Montana First

In 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act which gave citizenship—the right to vote and to be elected to public office—to all American Indians. Exercising these rights, however, was not easy. It has been unusual for American Indians to be elected to state-wide and national offices.  In Montana, Denise Juneau was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. At the present time, she is running for Montana’s sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Denise Juneau is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa tribes and a Blackfoot descendent. She graduated from Browning High School on the Blackfeet Reservation and obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from Montana State University. She continued her education and earned a master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

She taught in North Dakota and Montana and worked for the state education agency. She then went back to school and received her juris doctorate from the University of Montana School of Law.

In her tenure as Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau has raised academic standards, expanded college and career readiness opportunities and advocated for policies to improve the quality of education in our state and nation.

Denise is facing a tough election. She is running as a Democrat is a Republican state. As an Indian, she faces an anti-Indian, racist sentiment among many of the state’s conservatives. To find out more about Denise Juneau, her policies, and how to help, check out her website.

American Indians Defeat Winchester Model 1873

Montana state Republicans introduced a bill in the legislature to designate the Winchester Model 1873 as the state rifle and honor it as “the gun that won the west.” However, Native American legislators objected to the legislation pointing out that American Indians couldn’t honor a weapon that had brought devastation to their people. The Democratic Native American lawmakers pointed out that this gun carries bad memories for American Indians. The Republican-led House defeated the bill 61-39.  

Republican Edward Greef supported the legislation saying:

“The rifle is a symbol of this historical era. I urge you not to look at the rifle as a weapon, but as a symbol of a place in time.”

Democrat Carolyn Pease-Lopez said:

“For me this is not so much in the past. I must rise in opposition of celebrating such a weapon as this that brought devastation to my people.”

Pease Lopez

Carolyn Pease-Lopez is shown above.


The lever-action rifle could fire rounds more rapidly than earlier rifles.  The rifle was never adopted by the military. Over 720,000 of the rifles were manufactured by Winchester for civilian use and these were commonly used in slaughtering both the buffalo and Indians.  

South Dakota versus The Indians, 1961-1963

Following World War II, the United States was faced with the problem of paying for the war and rebuilding the shattered economies of Germany and Japan. While American Indians were technically citizens, they did not or could not vote and thus were not seen as valuable constituents by members of Congress. If the United States got rid of its obligations to Indians, their argument went, then we would have money for more important things. Fueled by the philosophy of the Cold War, the United States Indian policy turned in the direction of: (1) terminating the Indian tribes and giving jurisdiction over the reservations to the states, (2) turning over Indian natural resources-minerals, oil, water-to private, non-Indian companies for development, and (3) asking Christian churches to help administer social programs and assimilate Indians to American life. During the early 1960s, at a time when there was a growing civil rights movement, the State of South Dakota, in its infinite wisdom, sought to carry out this Indian policy by assuming control of the reservations in the state. The Sioux fought back through the courts and through the election process.


Under the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, Indian tribes are domestic dependent nations and are not under the jurisdiction of the states.

At the national level, the new policy regarding Indians was announced in 1951 by Commissioner of Indian Affairs Dillon Meyer in a speech before the National Council of Churches. He announced that the private sector or state governments can better serve the Indian people and the time had come to weaken or dissolve the relationship between Indian tribes and the federal government. He asked that religious groups (meaning Christian) help Indians to assimilate into American society.

Two years later, in 1953, Congress passed Public Law 280 giving state governments the right to assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indian reservations in California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Alaska. The law was created in part because of Congress’s perception of the “lawlessness” of the reservations and a concern to protect non-Indians living near the reservations.  There was no concern for protecting the Indians. Indians were not consulted in creating this legislation.

At this same time, legislation was introduced to repeal the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). Proponents of the appeal felt that the IRA had encouraged un-American socialistic tribal governments. Montana Senator George Malone put it this way:

“While we are spending billions of dollars fighting communism and Marxist socialism throughout the world, we are at the same time, through the Indian Bureau, perpetuating the systems of Indian reservations and tribal governments which are natural Socialist environments.”

South Dakota, 1961

In 1961, lobbyists for the non-Indian Taxpayers League drafted a bill which was introduced in the South Dakota House of Representatives which assumed state jurisdiction over all criminal and civil matters in Indian country under the provisions of Public Law 280. The primary concern of the Taxpayers League was “lawlessness”, especially drunken driving on the highway. Enforcing the proposed law, however, would entail increased costs to the state so the bill was amended to assume jurisdiction only over actions on the highways through Indian country. The bill passed and became law.

In 1990, the law was overturned by the Eighth Circuit Court. According to the Court:

“Absent tribal consent, we hold the State of South Dakota has no jurisdiction over highways running through Indian lands in the state.”

The court found that the 1961 state law extending its jurisdiction over reservation highways was not responsive to Public Law 280.

South Dakota, 1963:

In 1963, South Dakota enacted a law which gave the state civil and criminal jurisdiction on reservations. While South Dakota had a fairly large Indian population, there were no Sioux representative in the legislature and the Sioux strongly opposed this law.

In signing the new law, the state governor stressed equal rights:

“We’ll be giving the Indian equal protection under the law. We hear a lot about civil rights. But until all South Dakotans are treated the same, we’ll never achieve the full potential of our state.”

In response to the new law a new organization – United Sioux Tribes – was formed and a petition drive was started to allow state voters to vote on the issue. In two months they gathered the 14,000 signatures necessary to have the matter considered on a public referendum. In their campaign, the Sioux focus on the voters’ sense of fairness: the state law was wrong simply because the Sioux never consented to it. The referendum passed with 79% of the vote and the law was thus overturned.

The Indian Reorganization Act

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Guided by the Constitution, the United States viewed Indian tribes as sovereign nations and thus negotiated treaties with them. By the 1880s, however, American greed and lust for land outweighed any concerns for the Constitution and law. American policy changed and sovereign Indian nations were viewed as impediments to the “civilization” of Indians and a barrier to relieving Indians of their aboriginal homelands. Indians were now seen as immigrants who should assimilate just as other immigrants had assimilated. By the 1920s, it was evident to most people that American Indian policy had created massive poverty. With the election of Franklin Roosevelt and the implementation of the New Deal, American Indian policy changed radically.  

In spite of strenuous objections by Christian missionary groups, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA, also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act) in 1934. The IRA has three objectives: (1) economic development of the tribes, (2) organization of tribal governments, and (3) Indian civil and cultural rights.

Those tribes who voted to reorganize under the IRA were able to adopt their own constitutions and to organize themselves into self-governing entities under federal guardianship. They were also able to incorporate for business purposes. There were, however, a couple of problems with this. First, the federal government viewed the concept of “tribe” and “reservation” as being synonymous. This ignored the fact that there were many reservations which contained more than one tribe and that the tribes on a single reservation often had totally different cultures and histories. Once again, the federal government policies seemed to view all Indians as the same and to ignore the reality of tribal differences. As a result, a number of confederated tribal councils were formed.

The second problem was that the tribes were not truly free to govern themselves. All actions of the tribal council were subject to review and approval by the Secretary of the Interior. In reality, the reservation superintendent, an employee of the Indian Office (later known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs), controlled all tribal council actions. As representative of the Department of the Interior, the superintendent had the power to veto council decisions. The superintendent also acted as custodian of tribal records.

The tribal governments formed under the IRA were not based on traditional Native governments, but on constitutions which were based on the U.S. Constitution. In most cases, the Indian Office supplied the tribes with a boiler-plate constitution which could be modified for their specific tribe(s).

A total of 181 tribes voted for the IRA and 77 tribes rejected it. Of the tribes who voted for the IRA, 93 tribes wrote constitutions which were based on the U.S. Constitution rather than on tribal custom.

There were many reasons why some tribes did not endorse the IRA. It was not uncommon for tribes to be suspicious of the federal government and its motives based on previous dealings with the federal government. There was also a fear that the IRA would increase government paternalism over their lives. Among some tribes, there was a greater interest in having the federal government recognize their treaty rights than in organizing new tribal governments which would be controlled by the BIA. The Yakama, in their testimony before the Senate, stated:

“We feel that the best interests of the Indians can be preserved by the continuance of treaty laws and carried out in conformity with the treaty of 1855 entered into by the fathers of some of the undersigned chiefs and Governor Stevens of the territory of Washington.”

The largest tribe to reject reorganization was the Navajo. Many of the Navajo were disturbed by a stock reduction program promoted by Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier which was intended to reduce overgrazing by limiting tribal herds. Many Navajos felt that a vote for the IRA was a vote for John Collier and thus a vote for stock reduction. Since Navajo sheep had great cultural value they were reluctant to support a program which seemed to attack their core values.

Under the IRA, tribes could create a federally chartered corporation which could borrow money, enter into contracts, and sue. The federal government envisioned the corporation as the primary vehicle for economic development on the reservations. Unlike other corporations, however, the tribal corporations were hampered by government micromanagement of their development proposals.

The Blackfeet in Montana were one of the first tribes to reorganize under the IRA. They embraced the IRA because it gave them access to credit and they felt it would reduce or eliminate federal control of the tribe’s financial and natural resources.  By 1938 the Blackfeet had nearly $160,000 on deposit in the Treasury Department. None of this money was from the federal government, but was money that had been generated by tribal leases. A tribal delegation travelled to Washington, D.C. to obtain $125,000 of these funds for a program of industrial assistance. The Indian Office felt that the Blackfeet had a workable plan, but Congress granted the tribe the funds in reimbursable form. In other words, the tribe was allowed to borrow its own money, but it was not allowed to have it. It was clear that tribal corporations were not the same as other corporations.

Oklahoma was exempt from the IRA because of the opposition of Senator Elmer Thomas. Thomas argued that Oklahoma Indians no longer had reservations (these had been dissolved when statehood was granted). Furthermore, Senator Thomas claimed that Oklahoma Indians had no wish to reestablish reservations and they opposed any plan by Washington bureaucrats to impose reservations on them.  

Even with its limitations, the IRA marked the beginning of a new era for Indian tribes. Once again, tribes were seen as sovereign with a right to self-government, even though that self-government was limited by a paternalistic federal system.


UPDATE: Extremist Republican Attacks INDN’s List and Kalyn Free as “Radical”

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Rex Duncan is at it again!  Typical of the Republican play book, Rex is trying to distract voters from his lack of experience and questionable ethics.   Indian Country Today just published an article showing how Rex’s ballot initiative even threatens tribal treaties.

Rex’s newest target is INDN’s List itself!  In a recent mail piece (see below)  against INDN candidate, Jeff Jones, Rex attacks Jeff for receiving support from INDN’s List, which he calls a “radical liberal organization.”  And sticking with the Republican script, he posted a picture of Jeff, Speaker Pelosi President Obama, and Kalyn Free.

Rex Duncan even went so far as to attack INDN’s List founder, Kalyn Free, as a liberal activist.  The truth is Kalyn Free, like our endorsed candidate Jeff Jones, has far more experience prosecuting criminals and putting them in prison than Duncan! 

Make a contribution to INDN’s List today to hold Rex Duncan accountable for these lies and distortions!  Let’s show him that his attacks on INDN’s List make us stronger and raise more money for our excellent and highly qualified candidates, like Jeff Jones!

Rex Duncan knows he is not qualified to serve as District Attorney.  Rex knows voters will choose Jeff’s integrity and experience over his lack of prosecutorial experience and questionable ethics.  That’s why The Tulsa World just endorsed Jeff Jones in his race for DA!  They said, “Duncan has supported a number of extreme positions and pushed several other irrelevant issues during his years in the legislature.”

Arizona’s Secretary of State

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In Arizona, the number two person in state government is the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State becomes governor if the governor is unable or no longer wants to serve. This has happened a number of times in Arizona history.

The race for Arizona Secretary of State is particularly interesting this year. The challenger is Chris Deschene, an enrolled member of the Navajo tribe.  

Education is one of the concerns on the minds of Arizona voters. The Republican incumbent takes the standard “no increased taxes” anti-education approach. Deschene, on the other hand, sees education as investment in the state’s future. He has promised to review the state’s corporate-tax loopholes and close those first. This is an approach which is offensive to the Republicans’ corporate base.

As the grandson of a World War II Navajo Codetalker, Deschene worked hard to obtain an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. He graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and served for ten years as an infantry and special forces reconnaissance officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served two tours overseas in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and acted as Executive Officer for his reconnaissance company, leading more than 160 Marines. He completed his service as a decorated officer with the rank of Major.

After returning to Arizona, Deschene earned both a law degree and a a Masters in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis in renewable and alternative energy development.

Arizona does not have a good record with regard to Indian voting rights. During his campaign for the Arizona House of Representatives, Chris faced a challenge to his nominating petitions that sought to take advantage of contradictions within Arizona’s election laws in order to disenfranchise rural PO Box voters by taking away their right to select and nominate their own candidates. The Secretary of State had the jurisdiction to step in and provide a solution for the discrepancy, but chose not to get involved. Chris didn’t hesitate to take the fight to court and won, protecting the rights of rural voters to participate and nominate their own candidates, regardless of their PO Box addresses.

As State Representative, Deschene sponsored House Bill 2730 which would clarify the PO Box issue and protect voters’ rights as a matter of law. He also sponsored House Bill 2729 which sought to increase and define the technical qualifications for members of the committee who oversee Arizona’s electronic voting machines. HB 2729 recently passed out of the House with unanimous support and will soon be voted on by the Senate on its way to becoming law.

The Republican plan for voting involves the creation of voting centers, a plan which would make it more difficult for rural voters-many Indians in the state live in rural areas-to get to the polls. Deschene has suggested opening weekend polling sites for the rural areas.

While Deschene’s Republic opponent supports Arizona’s illegal-immigration law, Deschene voted against SB 1070. With regard to SB 1070, Deschene says:

“It (SB 1070) does nothing to address border security. It puts our public-safety officers in a no-win situation. And what it really does is hurts our economy.”

While Republicans often talk about their support for small business (translation: large corporations), Deschene has actual small business experience. As co-founder of a successful law practice, he represents tribal and rural communities across the country, working to develop infrastructure for natural and energy resources, providing much needed economic development and jobs in communities that need it most.

For more information about Chris Deschene check out his website.


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American Indian Candidates: John Oceguera

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For thousands of years the Agai-Dicutta Numu (Trout Eaters People) band of the Northern Paiute had lived within the Great Basin area of what is now the state of Nevada. Traditionally, the Paiute was peaceful people who ruled over their own affairs. They had little need for chiefs. The people governed themselves through a combination of consensus and a cultural norm of service.

When the United States acquired Nevada from Mexico following a brief war, things began to change for the Indian nations within the region. The United States negotiated treaties and appointed chiefs. Then, in 1924, Indians acquired citizenship and the right to vote. Voting, however, is only part of their participation in politics: getting tribal candidates elected to state offices in also important. One of these candidates is John Oceguara, an enrolled member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe.  

Political Background:

In 2000, John Oceguera was elected to the Nevada State Legislature as Assemblyman for District 16 in Southeast Las Vegas. The voters in District 16 have returned John to office every two years since that time.

Oceguera served on four legislative committees in his freshman year: Commerce and Labor, Constitutional Amendments, Judiciary, and Transportation.

By 2003, Oceguera was named Assistant Majority Leader and Vice-Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. He also served on both the Commerce and Labor Committee and the Transportation Committee. During the period between legislative sessions, he served on the Legislative Subcommittee to Study the Death Penalty and Related DNA Testing. Additionally, he was one of a select number of young legislators appointed to a Toll Fellowship, a bipartisan organization which trains new legislators nationwide.

In the 2005 session of the Nevada Legislature, he continued as Assistant Majority Leader, chaired the Transportation Committee, served as vice chair of the Committee on Commerce and Labor, and continued to serve on the Judiciary Committee.

Following that session, Oceguera chaired interim committees to review regulations and study legislative security. He was vice chair of the Legislative Commission, and continues to hold that position. Trusted with additional leadership duties, John served in 2005 and 2006 on the Committee to Consult With the Director and the Legislative Counsel Bureau Biennial Budget Review Committee.

At the beginning of the 2007 legislature, Oceguera became Assembly Majority Leader and took over the reins as chair of the Committee on Commerce and Labor. He continued working on the Judiciary Committee.

In Carson City, Oceguera has a reputation for being thoroughly informed on the issues, ready to ask the tough questions and willing to go the extra mile for the district he represents. Back in his district, he is known for keeping the lines of communication open to the residents and businesses there. He takes a grass roots approach to both campaigning and representation, often going door-to-door, meeting with the voters and hearing their concerns first-hand.

Professional Background:

John Oceguera is a firefighter who has worked his way through the ranks of the North Las Vegas Fire Department. He was appointed as Assistant Fire Chief in 2008.

With regard to higher education, John Oceguera has a  B.S. in Fire Administration from Cogswell College (1995) and a  Masters in Public Administration from UNLV (1998). He was one of the first to enter the new William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV and, in 2003 received his Juris Doctorate in law.

Current status:

At the present time, John Oceguera is on track to become the next speaker of the house. He is being challenged by a republican and needs our support. He has been endorsed by INDN’s list.

John OcegueraRepresentative John Oceguera, an enrolled member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe, has spent his life serving the community as a firefighter and member of the IAFF. In 2008, he was named Assistant Fire Chief of the North Las Vegas Fire Department. In the state legislature John has been an effective leader and most political insiders believe he is on track to be the next Speaker of the House.

John is being challenged for reelection by a Republican for the Nevada State House of Representatives in District 16.


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Native American Netroots Web BadgeCross Posted at Native American Netroots

 An ongoing series sponsored by the Native American Netroots team focusing on the current issues faced by American Indian Tribes and current solutions to those issues.


Arizona, Indians, and Elections

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Arizona has a checkered history when it comes to American Indians in the electoral process. From the time Indians were granted citizenship in 1924 and until after World War II, Arizona took the position that Indians were “wards of the government” and therefore “under guardianship.” Under the state’s constitution, and persons “under guardianship” were prohibited from voting.

In 1944, Arizona Attorney General’s office ruled that Indians who were living outside the reservation and who were subject to state laws and state taxation were not eligible to vote. In 1948, however, Frank Harrison and Harry Austin, both Mohave-Apache at the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation, attempted to register to vote and were not allowed to register. In Harrison v. Laveen the Arizona Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs that their Arizona and United States constitutional rights had been violated. With this decision, Indians were granted the right to vote in the state.  

Having the right to vote is only one part of the picture in politics. Getting Indian candidates elected is the other. In 2010, Arizonans have the opportunity to elect an American Indian as the Secretary of State (second in line to the governor). Freshman lawmaker Chris Deschene (Navajo) has won the Democratic nomination for the office. In the general election Dechene will face Republican Ken Bennett who assumed the position when Jan Brewer was elevated to governor.

Deschene, an enrolled Navajo tribal member, currently serves as State Representative in Arizona’s 2nd Legislative District. Showing that Indians still face election discrimination in Arizona, his biography notes:

During his campaign for the Arizona House of Representatives, Chris faced a challenge to his nominating petitions that sought to take advantage of contradictions within Arizona’s election laws in order to disenfranchise rural PO Box voters by taking away their right to select and nominate their own candidates. The Secretary of State had the jurisdiction to step in and provide a solution for the discrepancy, but chose not to get involved. Chris didn’t hesitate to take the fight to court and won, protecting the rights of rural voters to participate and nominate their own candidates, regardless of their PO Box addresses.

American Indians in Arizona, and in many other western states, still face a battle in getting their votes to count and Indian candidates usually face an uphill battle to get elected. The Indigenous Democratic Network, INDN’s List, is the only grassroots political organization devoted to recruiting and electing American Indian candidates and mobilizing the Indian Vote throughout America on behalf of those candidates. INDN’s list has endorsed Deschene.

Chris’s website: http://www.descheneforarizona….

INDN’s list website:

First Indian and Steelworker Wins Statewide in Arizona

American Indian Biography: Vice-President Charles Curtis

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Charles CurtisIndian citizenship and participation in American politics involves more than just voting: it also involves having Indians elected to public office. One of the first Indians to be elected to national office was Charles Curtis.

Curtis was born in 1860 near present-day North Topeka, Kansas. His mother was a descendent of Kansa (also called Kaw) chief White Plume. White Plume was the son of an Osage chief and had been adopted into the Kansa. Later, Curtis’s tribal affiliation would be listed as Kansa (or Kaw) or as Kansa-Osage.

He was raised in part by his maternal grandmother and attended an Indian mission school on the Kaw Reservation. After the Cheyenne attacked the Kaw at Council Grove in 1868, Curtis was moved to Topeka where he later attended Topeka High School.

In 1881, Curtis was admitted to the bar and soon entered politics as a Republican. In 1885 he was elected county attorney for Shawnee County and his political career began.

In 1892 was elected to Congress and began the first of eight terms in the House of Representatives. Like many others of this era, Curtis felt that Indians had to be assimilated into American culture. Assimilation meant that traditional cultures and languages had to be destroyed.

In 1898, Curtis wrote a bill to extend the provision of the Dawes Act over Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The Act-known as the Curtis Act-stipulated that tribal governments would continue to exist only to issue allotment deeds to tribal members and to terminate any other tribal business.

One of the tribes for which the Curtis Act would have major impact was the Cherokee. The Cherokee objected to the bill and sent a delegation to Washington to testify but they were not allowed access to the rooms where committees were debating the bill. Corporate representatives, on the other hand, had free access to the committees.

While in the House, Curtis worked on a number of committees, including the Committee on Territories, the Committee on Way and Means, the Committee on Public Lands, and the Committee on Indian Affairs. His work for assimilation, allotment, and detribalization led to opposition by many of the tribal leaders in Indian Territory. Overall, his work set the stage for Oklahoma statehood in 1907.

With the 1902 Kaw Allotment Act, the Kaw Nation was officially dissolved. As enrolled members of the tribe, Curtis and his three children received a total of 1,625 acres in Oklahoma.  

In 1907, Curtis was elected to the United States Senate. He was defeated for re-election, but ran again in 1914 and served in the Senate until 1929.

While in the Senate, he attempted to prohibit the Indian use of peyote (a sacrament used by the Native American Church). His efforts on this matter, however, failed to pass.

In 1928 he made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination. However, he ran as Herbert Hoover’s vice-president and was elected. At the inauguration in 1929, he had an Indian jazz band perform.

When he retired from public elected life in 1934, having been defeated for re-election, he had served longer in Washington, D.C. than any active politician. He was the last vice-president to wear a beard or mustache while in office.

In addition to promotion Indian assimilation, Curtis was also a strong supporter of women’s suffrage and Prohibition. He died in 1936.  

Wounded Knee: A Book Review

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There are perhaps three major military conflicts between American Indians and the American military which have entered into popular culture through movies, novels, and popular histories. These would include the battle at the Greasy Grass, also known as the Little Bighorn, where Lt. Col. George Custer was defeated; the 1877 Nez Perce War, which was supposedly led by Chief Joseph; and finally there is Wounded Knee, sometimes called a massacre, sometimes called a battle. The books written about these events are often aimed at romanticizing the Indians, romanticizing the military, and/or presenting a military history of the battle. It is rare for any of these conflicts to be placed in a larger context of either Indian history or American history.

Heather Cox Richardson’s Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre is a book which should be read by all progressives, not because it is about American Indians, or the massacre at Wounded Knee, but because it provides insights into the consequences of partisan politics which are similar to today’s events.  

For those interested in American Indian history, the book provides a good overview of the conflicts between the Sioux and the American government. This overview is not limited to Wounded Knee, but also includes Red Cloud’s War and the American obsession with gold and private property. It also provides some good insights into the nineteenth century reservation system, including the arguments over whether Indian Affairs belonged in the Interior Department or the War Department.

Religious freedom is aspect of the conflict at Wounded Knee. The Indian agent, called Young-Man-Afraid-of-Indians by the Sioux, hit the panic button when he heard about the Ghost Dance. Professor Richardson does a good job of telling the story of Wovoka’s Ghost Dance movement without relying on the imaginative tales told in the nineteenth century popular press.

With regard to the battle, Professor Richardson points out:

“This had been the largest military mobilization of the U.S. Army since the Civil War, involving fully a third of the army. About nine thousand soldiers moved to South Dakota: of those, about five thousand had been stationed at the Pine Ridge agency.”

With regard to the political motivation of this military deployment, she points out:

“Troops brought contracts and government money into the chronically poor West, money that would be most welcome in the current economic depression there. Troop deployment would also show that the administration was looking out for the settlers, promoting their welfare as it had indicated it would do when it pushed so hard for western development.”

Overall, the book looks at Wounded Knee as a part of a larger political process, which is only partly centered on American Indians.

The author points out that:

“Republicans maintained that economic growth created jobs and fueled an ever higher standard of living, pointing to the fabulous houses of the nation’s rich and the increasing wealth evident, for example, in Mrs. Harrison’s jewels, as proof that their system worked. Their opponents, Democrats and members of various reform parties, countered by pointing to falling wages, child labor, and city tenements as evidence that the system was broken.”

‘Individualism, Private Property, the Law of Accumulation of Wealth, and the Law of Competition’ were the very height of human achievement, multimillionaire steel baron Andrew Carnegie cheerfully pronounced.”

“Republicans had adopted into their political worldview the idea that the government’s role was to promote business, and they legislated to do just that. Economic development, they argued, would promote the good of all Americans.”

“The Harrison Republicans were consummate party politicians, willing to ignore reality, manipulate government machinery to stay in power, and destroy those in the way of their plans.”

“Anyone opposing the Republicans’ extreme pro-business policy opposed America, Republicans believed, and must be silenced.”

The political philosophies of the nineteenth century Republicans sound vaguely familiar, like something you could hear on Fox News any night of the week.

I hope that Professor Richardson has a second book in mind, one which looks at the impact of economic philosophies upon American Indian nations during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I would like to see her follow up on this statement:

“Late nineteenth-century Republicans’ emphasis on specific kinds of economic development ultimately crippled Sioux success in the American economy.”

Remove the word “Sioux” and substitute “Indian” and then document how Republican concepts supporting big business have aided poverty on reservations around the country. This is just a hint that I think Professor Richardson should put the economic development of Indian reservations into this larger picture.  

Join INDN’s List on Facebook and Twitter

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INDN’s List has worked on 45 winning campaigns for American Indian candidates across the nation and significantly increased voter turnout throughout Indian Country over the past five years.  We are working daily with candidates to win this November and working with our partners to help increase turnout in Indian Country.  But there’s more that we can do.

That’s why INDN’s List has created a comprehensive social media plan to engage American Indians across the country and reach out to people who have not participated in the political process.  

But we need your help!

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My Abenaki heritage

( – promoted by navajo)

I just wanted to share my experiences with Abenaki culture and go into depth on who the Abenakis are, etc.  

I first found out that I had Abenaki blood when I was 15 years old. Dad took me down to the Tribal Affairs office to get my tribal card. I’ve been a member of the Missisquoi Abenaki Nation, St.Francis-Sokoki band since that day.

But first, who are the Abenaki? We were considered the original inhabitants of what now makes up the state of Vermont. We are the People of the Dawn.

I don’t want this blog to be a history lesson but I will be glad to link to an excellent resource for those who would like to learn more about the Abenakis. I know Wikipedia is not always reliable but it is basic enough and I can confirm that it’s reliable based on my knowledge of Abenaki history:…

While we were recognized by the state of Vermont as a PEOPLE and not a tribe in 2006, we are still fighting for federal recognition.

However, I am conflicted in many ways. In some way, I truly want to embrace the culture of my ancestors.

On another hand, I am disgusted at what passes for tribal leadership nowadays. I feel that there needs to be a stronger voice if the Missisquoi band of Abenakis are to attain federal recognition one day. I personally want to be involved in bringing about change and replacing the corrupt tribal leadership.

But, politics aside, I am proud of my heritage. I have a lot of respect for my mother because even though she kept my heritage from me for many years, once I finally became involved in Abenaki culture (mainly through pow-wows and friends), I never really looked back.

Politics will always play a part in the struggle of the Missisquoi Abenakis. We have dealt with the State of Vermont and their disrespect for Abenakis for far too long.

Who knows what the future holds? All I know is that I am hoping for the day that the tribe will once again rise and the corrupt leaders will realize the error of their ways. We are already quite a progressive tribe but we lack unity due to the divisions between many Abenaki families.

Consider this my introduction.