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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .


Contemporary Native American Political Issues
Troy R Johnson ed.,

(Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 1999)
324pp. Index. Hb.: 32.00; ISBN 0-7619-9060-7. Pb.: 14.99; ISBN 0-7619-9061-5; 14.99.



This important collection brings together eleven essays by contemporary Native and non-Native scholars, each of whom addresses one of the book's four organizing themes: nationalism and sovereignty, international indigenous rights, economic development, law and justice, repatriation, and activism. Though the collection is slightly uneven, some essays more polemical than scholarly, most of the work is extraordinarily rich. All of it is accompanied by concise, clear contextual essays by the editor.

Among the most important essays are those dealing with economic development, with justice, with repatriation, and with activism. In the first case, Ronald Trosper explores key differences between Native and western capitalist economic concepts while Gary Anders offers a fascinating consideration of the knotty issues involved with Indian gaming practices. In the section "Law and Justice," Donald Greenredefines Native American criminality, explaining how overcultural ideas which shape federal, state, and local practices with regards to Indian communities, together with day-to-day neglect by local law-enforcement agencies stimulates continuing conflict on reservations. Carole Goldberg then explores and explains the vexed situation suffered by California's non-federally recognized tribes under Public Law 280. In the following section, "repatriation," Goldberg extends her exploration to issues involving repatriation in California. In that same section, Robert Peregoy's "Nebraska's Landmark Repatriation Law" provides a stimulating and path-breaking discussion of the first state law governing the repatriation of Native remains and burial objects. This essay's depth makes it one of the best in the collection. Last, "Activism" offers a single essay, co-written by Troy Johnson, Duane Champagne, and Joanne Nagel. Here the authors argue for a much more complex understanding of Native American resistance movements, dating the contemporary movement not to the take-over of Wounded Knee by AIM in 1973 but rather to the take-over of Alcatraz Island in 1969-71. In addition to this revision of what has become popular culture's understanding of the contemporary "Red Power" movement, they explore the important and neglected links between modern politics and the long history of organized Native resistance, particularly those movements usually characterized as "religious revitalization movements." That these, too, were mass movements of resistance and revolution finally makes clear to non-Native scholars what Native intellectuals have known for some time. Spirituality is not separate from politics (or culture, or life) in the Native world.


Patricia Penn Hilden
University of California, Berkeley




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