Indian Self-Determination

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  • American Indian self-determination is the concept that the indigenous peoples of the United States have the right to determine their own futures through their tribal governments. The United States initially treated Indian nations as independent powers, with which it made treaties until 1871. U.S. Supreme Court chief justice John Marshall declared them to be “domestic dependent nations” in 1831. However, as the power of the United States grew and that of the Indian nations waned, American Indians were increasingly restricted to reservations and treated as wards of the federal government under the control of federally appointed Indian agents.

    The goal of federal policy in the nineteenth century and throughout much of the twentieth century became that that of “Americanizing” American Indians, with the eventual goal of ...

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