Urban American Indian Centers in the late 1960s-1970s: An Examination of their Function and Purpose

Thomas Anthony Britten

Abstract


The post-World War Two effort by the federal government to alleviate endemic poverty on federal Indian reservations and to encourage Indian assimilation into the “mainstream” society by relocating Native Americans to cities is a familiar topic to scholars of contemporary American Indian history. So too are the many problems facing new relocatees, and the rise of urban Indian institutions to assist them adjust to urban life. Considerably less attention, however, has been paid to the specific forms of assistance provided by urban Indian centers, their important functions as “safe places” and oases of cultural preservation, and the serious problems they faced trying to address the complex needs of a burgeoning urban Indian population. This paper seeks to examine the specific functions and purposes of urban Indian centers via an analysis of a National Council on Indian Opportunity (NCIO) survey conducted in 1972 of seventeen Indian centers located across the country. Such an examination will not only shine light on the important functions of Indian centers, but confirm the magnitude of the problems facing Indian relocatees.

 


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References


Urban Indian Center Survey, Record Group 220, Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards, Records of the National Council on Indian Opportunity, 1968-1974, Box 95, National Archives, College Park, Maryland.

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