The historical record prior to 1970 clearly shows the failure of the U.S. government to protect Indian interests or to honor its treaty obligations as mandated under the Constitution. In the 1970s, however, a radical reversal in U.S. policy took place. That policy change--and how and why it happened--is the subject of the present study. Focusing on policy-making processes at the national level, Emma Gross examines the various contributing factors and explores several theoretical models as a framework for understanding the federal government's new emphasis on promoting self-determination and protecting Indian rights and resources.
The study is based on case analyses of major legislation enacted during the 1970s in areas such as land claims, restoration, health, education, and child welfare. Following an analysis of the failures of earlier American Indian policy, Professor Gross considers the elements that affected the policy shift. She looks at the constitutional mandate and the role of legal protections, and discusses self-determination ideology, which became an operative force in generating support for policies reflecting Indian preferences. The importance of federal spending for domestic programs is considered, together with presidential initiatives, congressional advocacy, and the role of Indian leaders and organizations functioning as a special interest group. In assessing future prospects for the Indian political agenda, Professor Gross stresses the need for Indians as a group to continue pursuing their policy goals and objectives through the mechanisms of democractic participation. The first analysis to clarify the empirical basis of U.S. policy-making in this area, Professor Gross's book is relevant to a variety of specialities in political science, as well as the fields of ethnic studies, social work, education, American political history, and sociology.