Experiences in Tribal Self-Determination: Strengthening Native Community Identity and Dealing with Public Perceptions Since the 1960’s


  • Richard M. Wheelock


Today’s aging generation of Native people have had some incredibly diverse experiences with what has been called “Indian Self-Determination.” So much has been written, often by Native scholars themselves, about this historical period that one can hardly produce a suitable bibliography about the policy and its implications in the space of a book-length publication. Yet it has usually been left to fiction-writers, satirists, poets, artists, film-makers and actors to express the human experiences this time of great change since the 1960’s has thrust upon us all. Oral histories of the times will surely reveal more of what the Native people have experienced, too, adding another level of meaning to what historians and scholars have recorded in more arcane, academic terms. After all, the empowerment within Native communities and the revitalization, then the extension of indigenous thought into the surrounding global consciousness in our times has truly been a thing of terrible beauty, perhaps more suitable for expression in terms Native ancestors relied upon: storytelling of the first order. The fact that Native peoples, both as nations and as individual targets of prior assimilation policies, have faced a life-changing, sometimes disorienting social and cultural environment is still little acknowledged in the public consciousness as a result. It is with the hope that my own experiences can be of value to the perspective of today’s Native people that I wish to add my little piece of the lived, human experience with self-determination from my own perspective with this paper.