Ambiguous tribalism: Unrecognized Indians and the federal acknowledgement process
AuthorMiller, Mark Edwin
History, United States.
Political Science, General.
Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThere are currently over two hundred Indian groups seeking recognition by Congress or the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Every month, articles appear detailing recently acknowledged tribes such as the Pequot opening high stakes gaming enterprises. This study examines several once unrecognized Indian communities and their efforts to gain federal sanction through the BIA's Branch of Acknowledgment and Research or Congress. By focusing on four Indian communities, the Pascua Yaquis, the Timbisha Shoshone, the Tiguas of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, and the United Houma Nation, this work explores the strategies groups pursue to gain acknowledgment and the different outcomes that result. In its details, the work reveals ethnic identity in relation to the state bureaucracy while also demonstrating that groups must "play Indian" to both Indians and non-Indians to prove their racial and cultural identity. The case studies examine ethnic resurgence and cultural survival, the effects of the civil rights movement and Great Society social programs on these entities, and the historical impact of non-recognition on groups in several regions of the United States. This study also takes a broader look at federal acknowledgment policy. By analyzing the historical development of the policy and the administration of the BIA program, it ultimately concludes that the program has succeeded. While the new emphasis on recognizing tribes clearly represented a rejection of anti-tribal agendas of the past, its reliance upon written documentation and skepticism towards petitioners represents continuity in federal Indian affairs by maintaining the restrictive polices of earlier eras. Because it reflects the interest of many reservation tribes, the BIA process works as it was intended: in a slow and exacting manner, to limit the number of groups entering the federal circle. The recognition arena is thus a complicated amalgamation of modern Indian issues. Parties entering the process must maneuver complex terrain and deal with issues of scholarship and advocacy, concerns over gaming and motivations, and issues of racial and cultural authenticity. In the end, however, it is these complexities that make this study a multidimensional portrait of Indian policy, ethnic identity, and tribal politics in the post-termination era.
Degree ProgramGraduate College