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

Thomas Anthony Britten


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.

Full Text:



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.

Richard G. Woods and Arthur M. Harkins, An Examination of the 1968-1969 Urban Indian Hearings Held By the National Council on Indian Opportunity, Part IV: The Indian Center (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1971).

Report on Urban and Rural Non-Reservation Indians, Task Force No.8, Final Report to the American Indian Policy Review Commission (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1976).

Nicholas G. Rosenthal, Reimagining Indian Country: Native American Migration and Identity in Twentieth Century Los Angeles (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

James H. Gundlach and Alden E. Roberts, Native American Indian Migration and Relocation: Success or Failure, The Pacific Sociological Review 21 (January 1978).

Renya K. Ramirez, Native Hubs: Culture, Community, and Belonging in Silicon Valley and Beyond (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007).

Judit Szathmri, Urban Adjustment: American Indian Self-Help Organizations in Milwaukee, Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 8 (Fall 2002).

U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, Sub-Committee on Indian Education, Indian Education, 1969, Hearing, 91st Congress, 1st session, parts 1-2 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969).

Donald L. Fixico, Termination and Relocation: Federal Indian Policy, 1945-1960 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1986.

Alan L. Sorkin, The Urban American Indian (Washington, D.C.: Lexington Books, 1979).

Grant Arndt, Contrary to Our Way of Thinking: The Struggle for an Indian Center in Chicago, 1946-1953, American Indian Culture and Research Journal 22 (1998).

Alan L. Sorkin, Some Aspects of American Indian Migration, Social Forces 48 (December 1969).


  • There are currently no refbacks.