Please note that this site is being revised - it should be completed by June 2012.
This 1-2 day lesson meets various California standards for 8th, 11th, and 12th grade classes (see Standards listed at the end of this guide).
When students walk into class, the theme should be written on the board in a prominent place and the overhead with the 5-Minute Journal Write should be on the overhead projector. Ask students to sit down and write for five minutes
Theme: Contemporary American Indians are not merely the victims of over 300 years of genocidal federal actions and policies; they are also the triumphant survivors who have renewed many cultural, religious, economic, and political traditions within their tribal nations.
5-Minute Journal Write: When you think about American Indians in today's society, what are they like? How do they look? How do they act? Where do they live? Do they have special rights that non-Indians do not have? If so, what are they? [Note: Journal topic should be on an overhead.]
While students are writing, put a two column table on the board with the word "know" in the first and "want to learn" in the second. Then, open the classroom up for discussion:
The lesson content materials presented below may be used in any manner that is best adapted to your classroom. It is presented herein as lecture/discussion.
Most textbook discussions of American Indians abruptly stop at the end of the 19th Century after almost every Indian Nation had been dramatically altered by years of disease, warfare, genocidal federal Indian policies, and assimilation and Americanization endeavors. Indeed, in 1900, only about 250,000 Indian People remained in North America. The mental impression portrayed in our textbooks is grim: American Indians are the victims of Euro-American history.
Such an impression is false; while American Indians were victimized by history, they are also the proud survivors. Indeed, in the 2000 Census, about 4.3 million people identified themselves as American Indian or Alaska Native, reflecting a 26% increase over the 1990 Census. Of those reporting, 74 percent indicated they belonged to a tribe. The largest American Indian tribal groupings were the Cherokee, Navajo, Latin American Indian, Choctaw, Sioux, Chippewa, Apache, Blackfeet, Iroquois, and Pueblo. California reported the largest American Indian and Alaskan Native population in the nation, followed by Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, New York, Washington, North Carolina, Michigan, and Alaska. Additionally, reservations across the country noted that at the turn of the 21st Century, tribal members were returning to their traditional homelands in unprecedented numbers.
But because our textbooks are largely silent about Indians over the past 100 years, very few people know much about American Indians living in the 21st Century. The purpose of our lesson today is to answer several frequently-asked questions about American Indians:
There is no single definition of an Indian. Before Europeans arrived in North America, all the inhabitants were indigenous people who belonged to several thousand different tribes. Tribal citizenship was determined by kinship ties. Today, however, membership in most tribes follow formal mandates and/or require a certain amount of tribal blood often called blood quantum. The amount varies from tribe to tribe. For instance, the Eastern Cherokee simply require their members have 1/16 Cherokee blood. The Hoopa Nation of Northern California has two possible routes to membership: those whose names appear on the official roll of the Hoopa Valley Tribe as of October 1, 1949; and all children born to members of the Hoopa Tribe who are at least 1/4 Hoopa - that is, who have at least 25 percent blood quantum.
Indian nations, or tribes, are the only entities that determine who is and who is not a tribal citizen or member. Various federal government agencies characterize tribal citizens and Indians for various purposes and in other ways. For instance:
In general, Indians are members of one of the following types of tribes:
Any Indian nation that has a formal relationship with the United States government is federally-recognized. That relationship is most often in the form of a treaty or some other legal document that recognizes formal ties between the Indian nation and the US government. Tribes that are federally-recognized are eligible for certain benefits and services from the US government. As of March 2000, there were 556 federally-recognized Indian nations in the lower 48 states and in Alaska. (For a map of federally-recognized Indian tribes in California, click here.)
Another 300 Indian nations are not recognized by the federal government either because they
Only a few dozen state-recognized tribes currently exist in the United States. Prior to the 1950s, most of these tribes were federally-recognized. However, the passage of termination policies during that decade ended federal recognition for 61 Indian tribes in six states and relocated tribal members to urban areas where they were expected to find jobs and assimilate. The explicit goals of termination, as expressed in House Concurrent Resolution 108 passed in 1953, were:
...as rapidly as possible, to make the Indian within the territorial limits of the United States subject to the same laws and entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities as are applicable to other citizens of the United States, to end their status as wards of the United States, and to grant them all the rights and prerogatives pertaining to American citizenship.
Under termination policies, tribes in the designated six states became subject to state rather than federal jurisdiction. Between 1954 and 1962, about one in eight Indians left the reservations and moved to cities where most joined the ranks of the urban poor in low-paying jobs.
About 245 Indian nations are currently attempting to gain federal recognition. Strict procedures for such recognition are set forth in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Summary of 25 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 83. Since 1978, only 15 tribes have received federal recognition through this federal acknowledgement process.
Federally-recognized tribes receive benefits and services from the US government and subsequently, from taxpayers - many of whom include American Indians. The policy and legal basis for most of this assistance is known as the Trust Responsibility. From the late 18th Century forward, Indian tribes signed treaties making peace and ceding lands. Federal courts have interpreted these treaties and other such agreements as creating a perpetual trust relationship with the federal government in accordance with the understandings of the Indians of the time.
The federal government promised to provide benefits and rights to the American Indian peoples in perpetuity, in exchange for their land and other resources. Additionally, the trust responsibility involved a promise that Indian peoples could continue to hunt, fish, and gather on the land that traditionally had been theirs, even though they had officially ceded it to the US government.
Why is it important for all Americans - Indian and non-Indian alike - to know about the trust responsibility? Because there is often a stereotypical belief among non-Indians that they are the only taxpayers and are giving Indians "a free ride," Indian are "super citizens" who receive special privileges, and that Indians receive all sorts of "free" money and benefits. In reality, the benefits Indian people receive are those that have been legally negotiated through treaties - through the trust relationship - and represent an exchange - millions of acres of ancestral lands worth trillions of dollars which, in turn, enriched the federal government and millions of non-Indians - in exchange for certain benefits and services. Federal courts have held that the constitutional rights of non-Indians are not interfered with or displaced by federal Indian trust rights - they are simply different.
Major benefits and services include, but are not limited to, medical and dental care; grants and programs for education; housing programs; aid for developing tribal governments and courts; resource management; and various miscellaneous services. The main federal agencies responsible for providing such benefits and services to Indians are the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS). The BIA, which was originally known as the Indian Office when it was established within the Department of War in 1824, administers programs that benefit the Indian people who are citizens of federally-recognized Indian tribes. The IHS administers medical programs that benefit tribal citizens who reside on or near reservations.
Despite popular misconceptions, Indians do not receive regular or large payments of money from the federal government. There are a few situations in which Indians do receive money, usually as compensation for resources taken by the federal or state governments. For instance, in Humboldt County in Northern California, a court settlement between the Yurok Nation and the federal government ruled that the federal government had unfairly divided the ancestral lands of the Yurok and Hoopa Nations. The judgment required that the Yurok Nation be compensated. This money was divided up among tribal members who were living at the time of the judgment. For those who were minors at the time, the money was held in trust until they became adults. Once they turned 18, eligible tribal members received their portion of the judgment monies. These payments only apply to one generation and will end early in the 21st Century.
Other cases where it appears that Indians receive a "handout" occur when tribal members receive payments from profits made from tribal business. The Hupa people from the Hoopa Valley Nation in Northern California provide an excellent example. The Hupa have marketable resources on their reservation - most notably timber. They harvest such resources for profit and, after all the harvesting and government expenses are paid, there may be a surplus. If a surplus exists, the tribe divides the money equally among its members. Adults receive a check if there is a profit during the year - while amounts owed to minors are held in trust. Upon turning 18, the tribal members receive 18 years of payments, plus interest.
Do you think the federal government should continue to honor the trust relationship it has created with the federally-recognized Indian tribes? Why or why not?
Remember that the US Census says that anyone who claims to be an Indian is an Indian for the Census purposes. According to the 1990 Census, almost 2 million individuals - about 0.8 percent of the total US population - identified themselves as American Indians, Alaska Natives, or Native Hawaiians. They represented about 0.8 percent of the total US population. Only around 1 million of self-identified Indians stated that they belonged to federally-recognized tribes. In the 2000 Census, 4.3 million people identified themselves as American Indians, representing 1.5 percent of the total U.S. population.
And where do they live? In 1990, the Census Bureau reported that about 22.3 percent (437,431) of the total number of Indians lived on reservations, while the remainder lived in urban or suburban settings. The 2000 Census findings indicate that for the first time in decades, large numbers of Indians are returning to their reservations - some to find jobs in tribal casinos, others to rekindle their family heritage, and still others to return to family and familiar cultural and environmental surroundings. For instance, the number of Indians on the Navajo reservation increased by 21 percent between 1990 and 2000.
The Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the US with 14-15 million acres of lands bordering Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. A dozen or so reservations have 1 million and more acres. California, which is home to one-fourth of all federal reservations, is also home to more Indians than any other state - 683,000 people. Humboldt County is home to the state's most populous nation - the Yurok, the state's largest reservation - Hoopa, and one of the smallest reservations in the entire US - Blue Lake, where the tribe has less than an acre of land.
In 1830, President Andrew Jackson crafted a federal policy that was designed to remove Indians from their ancestral lands so that non-Indians could have farms. The Removal Act of 1830 authorized the president to make "land exchanges" - forcibly moving dozens of Indians tribes from their ancestral lands in what became known as Indian Territory.
As a result, between 1830 and 1840, somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 American Indians were forcibly marched and resettled by the US Army into Indian Territory in the area we now call Oklahoma. Many others were massacred before they could be persuaded to leave; an unknown number died from disease, exposure, and starvation. At the same time as these first removals, Americans were moving westward and found Indian tribes in areas they hoped to settle. In an effort to settle the areas of the west and to protect Americans from the Indian "danger," Indians were confined to land reserved for their exclusive use - lands that were called reservations.
For the remainder of the 19th Century, Indians were removed in other "land exchanges" to Indian Country - the territory of Oklahoma. The federal government was clear that this was to remain Indian territory and that if it was ever to become a state, it would be one of the Indian's making. However, in 1886, Congress passed the Oklahoma Organic Act which divided Indian Country into two territories: the Territory of Oklahoma in western Oklahoma was opened up to non-Indian settlement; and the Indian Territory in eastern Oklahoma was retained for continued Indian settlement. Then, in 1907, Congress established the State of Oklahoma by merging Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, as well as opened up the new state to additional non-Indian settlement.
Beginning in the 1830s, Indian nations began to lose much of their ability to make their own political, economic, and cultural choices as they were forced to sign treaties with and later were subject to the laws and taxes of the US government. When the first Europeans arrived to North America, all Indian tribes were sovereign.
After the colonial era, the new US Constitution continued to recognize Indian sovereignty. In Article 1, Section 8 - known as the Commerce Clause - the Constitution declared that: "The Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes."
In your opinions, were these Supreme Court decisions fair? Do you think most non-Indian American thought they were fair? Why?
Today, all tribes retain semi-sovereign status. Among their sovereign powers over their internal affairs are those to
In the late 1970s, the Seminole Nation paid close attention to a trend within several state governments that had established gambling lotteries to bring in badly-needed new revenues. Following the lead of such states, the Seminoles opened a bingo parlor. When Florida threatened to close the Seminole operation because it violated state law by offering high prizes, the Seminole sued in federal courts.
Thereafter, two distinct court cases - one in Florida and the other in California - shaped the future for Indian gaming: Seminole Tribe vs. Butterworth (1979) and California vs. Cabazon Band (1987). In both cases, the courts ruled as follows:
Although both cases clearly held that Indians had the right to conduct gaming operating on their reservations, they also ruled that tribal gaming had to comply with the criminal and gaming laws of each state.
In 1988 Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), affirming the Supreme Court's decision that federally-recognized Indian tribes are sovereigns and they may conduct gaming activities on their lands. IGRA sets forth tribal and federal regulations for traditional Indian gaming, bingo, pull tabs, lotto, punch boards, tip jars, and certain card games on tribal land. IGRA also requires a Tribal/State compact for all other forms of gaming.
By the turn of the 21st Century, there were about 212 Indian tribes in 24 states involved in some kind of gaming. States may not tax tribal casinos, nor may they refuse to enter into a compact with an Indian nation because they cannot impose a tax, fee, charge, or other assessment. The National Indian Gaming Commission states that high-stakes gaming revenues cannot be used for any purposes other than to:
In short, according to federal regulatiaons, gaming on Indian reservations is legal if it does not conflict with the criminal and gaming laws of the state, and if the revenues received from gaming are only used for the above 5 purposes.
By the late 20th Century, Indian gaming was a complicated and controversial business in many states. California provides an excellent case study. After the passage of IGRA, California Governor Pete Wilson and the tribes attempted to negotiate gaming contracts as prescribed by state and federal law. At the heart of the issue was the tribes' desire to continue to offer slot machine gambling in their casinos even though it was outlawed by the California Constitution at the time. Although Governor Wilson negotiated a compact with the Pala Band of Mission Indians in San Diego County on March 6, 1998, which was to be a model compact for the other tribes, California gaming tribes objected to the strict limit it placed on the type and number of lottery-style machines. Thus the tribes worked to place Proposition 5 on the November 1998 ballot and to take the issue of Indian gaming to California voters.
Proposition 5 - "Tribal Government Gaming and Economic Self-Sufficiency Act of 1998 - passed and thereafter, the following rules applied to Indian Gaming in California:
Furthermore, the proposal says that tribal casinos will be self-regulated and governed by a tribal-appointed gaming board and that there will be no direct state or local involvement in casino operations. The initiative set up a fund designed to reimburse local governments for their costs associated with casino operations. It also allocated two percent of casino net profits to non-gaming tribes.
The California Supreme Court struck down Proposition 5 on August 24, 1999, ruling that it violated the 1984 state Lottery Act, an initiative constitutional amendment that banned casino-style gambling in California. Governor Gray Davis then negotiated new tribal-state compacts with nearly 60 tribes allowing them to:
Under the compact, Indians would also make quarterly payments for gambling addiction programs to the state based on the number of slot machines they owned. The compacts were contingent on the passage of Proposition 1A, a constitutional amendment which appeared on the March 7, 2000 ballot. California voters approved the measure by a 65 percent margin. . In April 2000 four Bay Area card clubs and two Northern California charities, fearful of losing business to full-fledged casinos, asked the federal government to declare Proposition 1A invalid on the grounds that it offers preferential treatment based on ethnicity and was therefore unconstitutional. On December 22, 2003, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Proposition 1A, finding that federal law allows states to grant Indian tribes a monopoly on Nevada-style casinos.
During the recall campaign of Governor Gray Davis, candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger called on California's gaming tribes to contribute more of their gambling revenue to the state, 25% of which would translate into $1.25 billion/year. On January 7, 2004, Governor Schwarzenegger appointed Daniel Kolkey to renegotiate compacts with casino-owning tribes. One of the critical negotiating issues was whether to increase the number of slot machines allowed per tribe in return for more state revenue from gaming operations. Under existing compacts each tribe was limited to 2,000 slot machines which could pay up to $300/day/machine.
While Kolkey negotiated with the tribes, a coalition of eleven California card clubs and five California racetracks qualified an initiative for the November 2004 ballot, the "Gambling Revenue Act of 2004." Proposition 68 would require all 53 gambling tribes to pay 25% of their net slot machine revenue to the state. Refusal by even one tribe to pay would trigger a provision allowing racetracks and card clubs to install slot machines at their sites, thus breaking the tribesí monopoly on casino-style gambling. The racetracks and card clubs would pay 33% of their revenues, estimated to be about $1 billion/year, into a trust fund which would support law enforcement, firefighters, and programs serving abused children.
The tribes countered this measure in two ways:
Proposition 70 would require the gaming tribes to pay 8.84 percent per year in taxes on their gambling revenue, equal to the state's corporate tax rate, and would remove all limits on the scope and size of gambling the tribes could offer in their casinos. The governor initially took no public stand on the two ballot measures, then announced his opposition to both. In June 2004, he then announced a set of compacts with five leading gaming tribes and declared that the new compacts were a better deal for the gaming tribes and California taxpayers than the two November ballot propositions. The compacts
After the compacts were approved by the state legislature, the governor negotiated five additional compacts in August. All but one were approved by the legislature. Both Propositions 68 or 70 failed in the November 2004 election, thus giving credence to the compacts negotiated by the governor in 2004.
Since late 2000, Indian gaming has generated revenues of $5.1 billion per year in California and California Indians have become the largest contributor to California political campaigns. Gaming has become so lucrative that hundreds of Native Americans are petitioning the Bureau of Indian Affairs for recognition of new California tribes in order to buy land and build casinos.
All residents of the United States, including Indians, must pay federal income tax. However, whether or not Indians are subject to state income taxes is more complicated. The situation for California Indians is illustrative. California Indians do not pay state income tax if they are an "eligible" Indian, live on a reservation or Indian trust allotment, and work on the reservation or trust allotment. If they live or work off the reservation or trust allotment Indians, must pay state income tax. Indians pay real property tax on property owned off a reservation or trust allotment, but do not pay property tax on land or buildings built on reservation or trust allotment land. However, if the land is owned by a tribe or individual Indian "in fee" the property is subject to taxation. Indians are not subject to fees and licenses that apply to buildings or activities that occur on reservations or trust allotments. Indians are exempt from paying vehicle license fees by legislation signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999 if vehicles are used primarily on reservation land. Indians pay sales tax on sales off reservation and trust allotment land, but are exempt from paying sales tax on most sales on reservations.
American Indians entered the 21st Century with a great deal of optimism. Not only has the population increased of those who identify themselves as American Indians, but thousands are returning to their ancestral homelands. Many reservations are being revitalized by the revenues generated from tribal casinos and many have experienced a rebirth of traditional tribal culture, religion, economics, and politics.
Suggestions for extending the lesson to cover the topic of Contemporary Indian Activism. If time permits, this lesson can easily be extended into a discussion of contemporary Indian activism. Clearly, with the Indian gaming example provided in this lesson, it is easy to see the role of Indian activism in this picture. However, there are many other issues that have attracted a great deal of Indian activism in the past decade. To see a lesson plan that emphasizes this topic, See Red Power Yesterday and Today. (Once in the site, scroll down several pages to the lesson for "Day Three" and begin with the section entitled, "Contemporary Indian Activism."
If you wish to evaluate how well the students understood this short mini-lesson, we suggest the following two-day homework assignment.
Students should pick an Indian nation - either from a list the teacher has compiled or one in which they have some interest or knowledge - and find answers to the following questions:
Students should write a 2-3 page paper with the answers. Then, working in assigned groups of 3-4 persons, students will share their papers by taking turns reading them aloud. In their groups, students should then discuss the following:
When they have finished their discussions, students should come together as a class and each group should share the answers to the last two questions.
8.2 Students analyze the political principles underlying the U.S. Constitution and compare the enumerated and implied powers of the federal government, in terms of ... (3) the major debates that occurred during the development of the Constitution and their ultimate resolutions on areas such as shared power among institutions, divided state-federal power, slavery, and the rights of individuals and states (later addressed by the addition of the Bill of Rights).
In this lesson, students learn about divided federal, state, and tribal powers as delineated in the Constitution and as interpreted by the US Supreme Court.
8.5 Students analyze U.S. foreign policy in the early Republic, in terms of ... (3) the major treaties with Indian nations during the administrations of the first four presidents and their varying outcomes.
In this lesson, students learn about how various treaties affected Indian People in the 20th and 21st centuries.
8.8 Students analyze the divergent paths of the American people from 1800 to the mid-1800's and the challenges they faced, with emphasis on the West, in terms of ... (1) the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828, the importance of Jacksonian democracy and his actions as President" (2) the purpose, challenges and economic incentives associated with westward expansion including the concept of Manifest Destiny (e.g., " accounts of the removal of Indians and the Cherokees' "Trail of Tears," settlement of the Great Plains) and the territorial acquisitions that spanned numerous decades.
In this lesson, students learn about President Jackson's support of the Removal Act of 1830 and its consequences on Indian people, as well as the consequences of Manifest Destiny on Indian people.
8.12 Students analyze the transformation of the American economy and the changing social and political conditions in the United States in response to the Industrial Revolution, in terms of ... (2) the reasons for the development of federal Indian policy.
In this lesson, students learn about the actions and consequences of federal Indian policy on Indians of the 20th and 21st Centuries.
11.1 Students analyze the significant events surrounding the founding of the nation and its attempts to realize the philosophy of government described in the Declaration of Independence, in terms of ... (3) the history of the Constitution after 1787 with emphasis on federal versus state authority and growing democratization.
In this lesson, students learn about divided federal, state, and tribal powers as delineated in the Constitution and as interpreted by the US Supreme Court
11.3 Students analyze the role religion played in the founding of America, its lasting moral, social and political impact, and issues regarding religious liberty, in terms of ... (3) incidences of religious intolerance in the United States.
In this lesson, students learn that many Indian nations have struggled throughout the 20th Century to renew their traditional religions, despite efforts by the federal government to eliminate their traditional spiritual practices.
11.8 Students analyze the economic boom and social transformation of post-World War II America, in terms of ...(6) the diverse environmental regions in North America, their relation to particular forms of economic life.
In this lesson, students learn about the economic and political reasons for terminating some Indian tribes during the 1950s, especially in relation to the timber industry of the Pacific Northwest.
11.11 Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society, in terms of ... (5) the persistence of poverty and how different analyses of this issue influence welfare reform, health insurance reform and other social policies.
In this lesson, students learn about the ways various Indian nations have tackled the problems of poverty and unemployment on their reservations, as well as how they are dealing with increasing numbers of members returning to their ancestral homelands.
12.2 Students evaluate, and take and defend positions on the scope and limits of rights and obligations as democratic citizens, the relationships among them, and how they are secured, in terms of ... (6) how one becomes a citizen of the United States.
In this lesson, students learn how various Indian nations determine membership in and responsibilities toward tribal governments.
12.5 Students summarize landmark U.S. Supreme Court interpretations of the U. S. Constitution and its amendments, in terms of ... (3) the effect of the interpretations of the U.S. Constitution.
In this lesson, students learn about key US Supreme Court decisions that limited tribal sovereignty and that determined the legality of tribal gaming casinos on Indian lands.
12.7 Students analyze and compare the powers and procedures of the national, state, tribal, and local governments, in terms of: ... (1) how conflicts between levels of government and branches of government are resolved (2) the major responsibilities and sources of revenue for state and local governments (3) reserved powers and concurrent powers of state governments (4) the Ninth and Tenth Amendments and interpretations of the extent of the federal government's power (5) how public policy is formed, including the setting of the public agenda and how it is carried out through regulations and executive orders (6) the process of lawmaking at each of the three levels of government, including the role of lobbying and the media (7) the scope of presidential power and decision-making through the examination of case studies.
In this lesson, students learn about tribal gaming and its legality in relationship to federal and state governments.