Cover image for Contemporary federal policy toward American Indians
Contemporary federal policy toward American Indians
Gross, Emma R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Greenwood Press, 1989.
Physical Description:
xxi, 144 pages ; 25 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
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E93 .G87 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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The historical record prior to 1970 clearly shows the failure of the U.S. government to protect Indian interests or to honor its treaty obligations as mandated under the Constitution. In the 1970s, however, a radical reversal in U.S. policy took place. That policy change--and how and why it happened--is the subject of the present study. Focusing on policy-making processes at the national level, Emma Gross examines the various contributing factors and explores several theoretical models as a framework for understanding the federal government's new emphasis on promoting self-determination and protecting Indian rights and resources.

The study is based on case analyses of major legislation enacted during the 1970s in areas such as land claims, restoration, health, education, and child welfare. Following an analysis of the failures of earlier American Indian policy, Professor Gross considers the elements that affected the policy shift. She looks at the constitutional mandate and the role of legal protections, and discusses self-determination ideology, which became an operative force in generating support for policies reflecting Indian preferences. The importance of federal spending for domestic programs is considered, together with presidential initiatives, congressional advocacy, and the role of Indian leaders and organizations functioning as a special interest group. In assessing future prospects for the Indian political agenda, Professor Gross stresses the need for Indians as a group to continue pursuing their policy goals and objectives through the mechanisms of democractic participation. The first analysis to clarify the empirical basis of U.S. policy-making in this area, Professor Gross's book is relevant to a variety of specialities in political science, as well as the fields of ethnic studies, social work, education, American political history, and sociology.

Author Notes

EMMA R. GROSS is Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Utah. She is a specialist in social welfare policy, women and minority studies, and American Indian policy development.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Based partly on interviews with 24 Indian and 42 non-Indian anonymous persons "knowledgeable about Indian policy" conducted in 1984 and partly on published material. Gross argues that the 1970s were a "genuine turning point in the political fortunes of American Indians." His thesis is that, after hundreds of years of "the devastating impact of federal policy on the development of Indian tribes and communities," a reversal occurred, so that "major {{national}} legislation enacted after 1968 has, for the most part, incorporated the policy goals and preferences of Indian constituencies and groups." Gross suggests several reasons for this, among them: the civil rights movement made non-Indians more sympathetic and mobilized some Indian leadership; Indian activism directed attention to Indian demands; and federal programs of the "Great Society" provided more resources to tribes and other Indian organizations. There is much evidence to support this important hypothesis, but the book is too short to do much more than outline; furthermore, the anonymity of respondents makes evaluation of some information (e.g., events within the Nixon administration) impossible. A few tables summarize respondents' comments; useful bibliography. -E. R. Rusco, University of Nevada, Reno

Table of Contents

The Failure of American Indian Policy: History's Verdict
The Constitutional Mandate on Indian Affairs and the Role of Law
The Origins of Self-Determination Ideology and Constitutional Sovereignty Federal Spending and Indian Self-Determination Presidential Initiative and Indian Policy Development Congressional Advocacy in Indian Affairs
The Indian Influence on Policy Development in the 1970s The Future of American Indian Politics
Appendix A Note on Method
Appendix B Landmark Indian Legislation, 1970 to 1980
Appendix C Washington Representatives: Firms Listing Two or More American Indian Clients, Tribes, and/or Organizations in 1983
Selected Bibliography