“Our” Indians are unique.
The flip side of the "all Indians are alike" myth is
the notion that Indians in a certain state or region are “unique” or
“different” from Native Americans generally. This phrase typically
comes from politicians, bureaucrats and economic interests who prefer
not to accept the tenets of American Indian law, particularly with
regard to the authority of tribal governments. People from states like
California, Oklahoma, and the northern tier states from the Dakotas to
Washington, are most likely to claim this. These states, not
coincidentally, have been litigious against Indians in the past. In
some areas “anti-Indian” groups have promoted the notion that Indians
should be treated the same as all Americans. On one hand, this sounds
right to democratic ears. Most often, however, it really is a disguised
attempt to remove Indians’ property rights and special relationship to
the U.S. government. In areas, such as Oklahoma, people will say, “Our
Indians are different because we don’t have ‘reservations’”. Yet,
because of the allotment policy promoted in the last decades of the
19th century, which divided Indian lands into parcels for adult males
and declared all remaining lands “surplus,” nearly all Indian
reservations have been “allotted.” See discussion article about “Indian
Country.” Like nationalities throughout the world, individual Indian
nations (including Alaska Native communities) are distinct while
sharing many similarities with each other.
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