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The Other Movement

Indian Rights and Civil Rights in the Deep South

Denise E. Bates

Publication Year: 2012

The Other Movement: Indian Rights and Civil Rights in the Deep South examines the most visible outcome of the Southern Indian Rights Movement: state Indian affairs commissions. In recalling political activism in the post-World War II South, rarely does one consider the political activities of American Indians as they responded to desegregation, the passing of the Civil Rights Acts, and the restructuring of the American political party system. Native leaders and activists across the South created a social and political movement all their own, which drew public attention to the problems of discrimination, poverty, unemployment, low educational attainment, and poor living conditions in tribal communities.

While tribal-state relationships have historically been characterized as tense, most southern tribes—particularly non-federally recognized ones—found that Indian affairs commissions offered them a unique position in which to negotiate power. Although individual tribal leaders experienced isolated victories and generated some support through the 1950s and 1960s, the creation of the intertribal state commissions in the 1970s and 1980s elevated the movement to a more prominent political level. Through the formalization of tribal-state relationships, Indian communities forged strong networks with local, state, and national agencies while advocating for cultural preservation and revitalization, economic development, and the implementation of community services.

This book looks specifically at Alabama and Louisiana, places of intensive political activity during the civil rights era and increasing Indian visibility and tribal reorganization in the decades that followed. Between 1960 and 1990, U.S. census records show that Alabama’s Indian population swelled by a factor of twelve and Louisiana’s by a factor of five. Thus, in addition to serving as excellent examples of the national trend of a rising Indian population, the two states make interesting case studies because their Indian commissions brought formerly disconnected groups, each with different goals and needs, together for the first time, creating an assortment of alliances and divisions.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xvi

It is curious that after all that has been written about the dramatic changes that the Ameri can South underwent in the sec ond half of the twentieth century, very little has been written about the transformative role that American Indians played in this process. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the region was a hotbed...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xxii

Like any other “labor of love,” this book would not have been possible without the support of numerous people and institutions. The National Academies and the Ford Foundation provided the bulk of funding I needed to conduct my research, along with the Louise Foucar Marshall Foundation, the Michael Sweetow...

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1. Back on the Map: The Emergence of a Deep Southern Indian Rights Movement

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pp. 1-40

In 1970, Ernest Sickey, a father of three in his late twenties and leader of Louisiana’s Coushatta Tribe, appeared at attorney Ruth Loyd Miller’s private practice office with his family, pleading for legal assistance on behalf of his community.1 The approximately 250 Coushatta of Allen Parish had endured almost twenty years...

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2. “We’ll Do It in the Spirit of Brotherhood”: Inter- Tribal Politics and the Challenge of Centralizing Representation

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pp. 41-69

The 1980s held the promise of a new era for Alabama Indian affairs. In the extreme southern portion of the state, Poarch Creek leaders Calvin McGhee, his son Houston, and Eddie Tullis set change in motion when the 1978 Mims Act established...

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3. Acknowledging Indians in a Bipolar South: Shifting Racial Identities

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pp. 70-98

On May 16, 1981, Norman Billiot sat in an overcrowded cellblock in Louisiana’s violent and tense Angola Prison. He was drafting a distressed letter to the state Indian affairs office appealing to Helen Gindrat, LOIA’s new director and fellow Houma community member. He wanted Gindrat to help him with the “racial problem...

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4. Starting from Scratch: Struggling to Improve Indian Lives

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pp. 99-140

After she was fired from her job of fourteen years because of persistent absenteeism caused by health problems, Mildred Smith of the Louisiana Band of Choctaw found herself in a dire situation. A mother of four, Smith was burdened with sight and hearing impairments. Although resourceful enough to continue earning...

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5. A Regional Makeover: Tourism and How Indians Remade the South

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pp. 141-171

In 1976 the romantic and harmonious lifestyle of south ern Chero kees who managed to eke out an existence in the isolated stretches of the Appalachian Mountains captivated the nation. The critically acclaimed New York Times best- selling and self- identified...

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Conclusion

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pp. 172-176

The Indian Rights Movement of the 1970s and 1980s is a story of transformation. As the regional political and economic culture shifted under the pressure of the black civil rights movement, industrialization, urbanization, and the growing influence of the Republican Party, marginalized southern Native populations joined...

Appendix: Other Tribes of the South

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pp. 177-180

Notes

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pp. 181-232

References

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pp. 233-248

Index

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pp. 249-256


E-ISBN-13: 9780817385941
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317591

Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: Contemporary American Indians
Series Editor Byline: Heidi M. Altman

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Southern States -- Politics and government.
  • Indians of North America -- Civil rights -- Southern States.
  • Indian activists -- Southern States -- History.
  • Southern States -- Race relations.
  • Civil rights movements -- Southern States -- History.
  • Indians of North America -- Southern States -- Government relations.
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