Before Europeans arrived in what is now known as the United States, over 600 diverse Native nations lived on the same land. This encroachment and subsequent settlement by Americans forcibly disrupted the lives of all indigenous peoples and brought about staggering depopulation, loss of land, and cultural, religious, and economic changes. These developments also wrought profound changes in indigenous politics and longstanding governing institutions. David E. Wilkins' two-volume work Documents of Native American Political Development traces how indigenous peoples have maintained and continued to exercise a significant measure of self-determination contrary to presumptions that such powers had been lost, surrendered, or vanquished.
Volume One provided materials from the 1500s to 1933. This collection of primary source and other documents begins in 1933 and spans the subsequent eight decades. Broadly, the volume organizes this period into the following distinctive eras: indigenous political resurgence and reorganization (1934 to 1940s); indigenous termination/relocation (1940s to 1960s); indigenous self-determination (1960s to 1980s); and indigenous self-governance (1980s to present). Wilkins presents documents including the governing arrangements Native nations created and adapted that are comparable to formal constitutions; international and interest group records; statements by prominent Native and non-Native individuals; and sources featuring important innovations that display the political acumen of Native nations. The documents are arranged chronologically, and Wilkins provides concise, introductory essays to each document, placing them within the proper context. Each introduction is followed by a brief list of suggestions for further reading.
This continued examination of fascinating and relatively unknown indigenous history, from a number of influential legal and political writings to the formal constitutions crafted since the American intervention of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, will be an invaluable resource for scholars and students of the history, law, and political development of Native peoples.
David E. Wilkins is McKnight Presidential Professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the author and editor of more than ten books on indigenous politics and governance. Wilkins is a citizen of the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina.