American Indian Studies
American Indian Studies
Reasons for Emergence of American Indian Studies in 1960s and 1970s
The slow progress of American Indian studies has been largely attributed to political interference at the national level and partially at the tribal level. The acknowledgement of American Indians and the subsequent inquiry into their affairs in the late 1960s and early 1970s were triggered by a social commotion for civil rights within American. This rebellious political activity and social dissent among American Indian communities gained national awareness after several major events including the invasion of Alcatraz Island in 1968, the occupation of the Department of the Interior building in 1972, and the siege at South Dakota in 1973 (Henson 18). Academic institutions such as universities also promoted the studies into American Indians through the efforts of pressure groups for changes in the syllabuses, ethnic balance and admission criteria.
Protests at San Francisco State University and the University of California at Berkeley contributed greatly towards increased studies into American Indians (Kidwell 45). These efforts created new ethnic departments and academic programs that were backed by political stakeholders who saw the introduction of Indian programs as a method of attracting underrepresented students. The ultimate acknowledgement by the U.S. government entrenched the American Indian community in the education sector (Henson 28). These efforts placed key Indian men and women in influential positions in schools and other educational institutions.
Link between American Indian Studies and Contemporary Indians
The development of ethnic studies to cater for the American Indian community that was ignored for several decades had several consequences for future generations of Indians. The studies greatly sensitized the American population on the presence of different native communities as well as their identities, history and cultures. Currently, Indians are acknowledged as a genuine community similar to many other communities in North America. More importantly, the studies into American Indians and their cultures cleared out the issues concerning jurisdiction of tribal American Indians leadership and the formal United States government. After it was established that the studies were significant, the deliberations into the legislation and policy concerning American Indians were done for several years. The result was a set of laws that separated the jurisdiction between tribal leaders and federal authority. Indian leaders were responsible for land issues in their territories as well as other issues such as health zoning and employment (Henson 36). These studies also dispelled many stereotypes associated with Indians.
Contribution of American Indian Studies to the Lives of American People
American people have previously had a difficult time accepting American Indians as part of their society and the contribution of American studies in the situation served to change the relationship between the two parties. The American society is constituted by an assortment of different ethnic groups and in the blend; American Indians were suppressed and neglected. However, the instigation of American Indian studies has created sufficient awareness among other communities on the culture, history and identity of the Indians. The studies also released new academic information on Indians that was documented and used in educational institutions and other parts of the society such as museums, exhibitions and art galleries.
Studies into the American Indian community have created new precedents in law especially regulations concerning the relationship between customary and contemporary law. American Indians have maintained their cultural ways of life for several decades and the acknowledgement of the tribe by the state introduced dialogue into how the two separate law systems could coexist within the United States. Therefore, studies into American Indians introduced elements of Indian customary law into the United States law system.
Henson, Eric C. The State of the Native Nations: Conditions under U.S. Policies of Self-Determination: the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
Kidwell, Clara S. “American Indian Studies: Intellectual Navel Gazing or Academic Discipline?” American Indian Quarterly. 33.1 (2010): 1-17. Print.
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