Were the 1960’s and 1970’s a turning point for the equality of Native Americans?
The equality for Native Americans was slowly declining, with the white settlers taking over and the natives were just a hindrance and the whites began devising different ways they could be removed from their homes, land, tribes and even from society as a whole. However the 1970’s were a major turning point, due to the change to become less militant in their approaches that they applied to their fight for their rights, including sit-in’s, negotiation, gaining publicity and being inspired by the ever growing black power movement. This was as a new generation of Native Americans grew, and especially towards the 1940’s (post war) they began to stand up and fight for their rights, religion and culture, and the 1960’s and 1970’s showed a predominate era for their movement in their equality.
The 1960’s and 1970’s showed a massive growth in the Native American movement and a gain in their rights. In 1968 the natives has a ‘fish-in’ (which was a mock of a sit-in), in Washington supreme state court. They gave the government a list of 20 demands, including: allowing Native American leaders to address in congress and to rebuild Indian relations and protect religious freedom and cultural integrity, even though this wasn’t successful. This brought the beginning of the term ‘Red Power’ made by the younger generation, for the more militant side which increased popularity and support that the Native Americans had. It came from the influence of the progression that the black power were having and they wanted to have the same impact in publicity. Also in 1972, over the trial of broken treaties, they took over the bureau’s offices and released that they government could be giving $400 to each family. This showed how the government presented that they were helping the Natives, whereas in reality they were holding back, just as they previously did in the Dawes Act. Another movement by the Native Americans was in 1969 when 14 natives occupied Alcatraz and wanted to turn it into a museum for native culture and tradition, 10,000 natives visited in able to get publicity, but it was rejected and managed to achieve little. Despite the size or impact that each movement was bringing, it still showed that more natives were standing up and accepting the new term of Red Power and therefore beginning to gain freedom and rights.
As more abrupt forms of protest weren’t having a lot of impact, and the Americans were using force and law to over-ride the natives, they decided to use more peaceful forms of protest. They dressed up and joined the police on the streets, ‘monitoring’ them, which was done mainly by the youth, as they were annoyed by the harassment and discrimination they had been brought up to accept. Also the AIM led a protest through the streets on thanksgiving. Since the protection of natives began after the 1953 massacre, the population had managed to double. This brought poverty and discrimination in unfamiliar work and suffered from loneliness and the living standards began to decrease again. There was a high rate of diseases, alcoholism and illiteracy were major problems in the community and the life expectancy was 44% (20 years less than the US) and suicide was highest with in the ages between 16-25, which meant that the New Deal improvements had not been maintained. As more natives were moving into the cities, more sensory for them began. The word ‘Indian’ was band and people had to use the term ‘Native Americans’. Despite the small size of this event, this had a large impact. It was the beginning of the end to the discrimination that they had been suffering for decades. Political advancements in this period included 1975, when the Indian Self Determination Act was passed; this gave Natives more control of their own reservations, rather than have the supervision of the army. Also in 1978 the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed, which gave Natives the right to express their beliefs and exercise traditional religious ceremonies within and outside of reservations. This showed achievement and the progress that the natives were making. They now had gained control of themselves and were involved in working American society. This led to the AIM beginning to promote a positive image of the Natives, and set up a project opening 18 branches around America were set up, in order to make these aims begin to come true.