Study Questions

  • What were the most important cultural differences between American Indian tribes and the dominant society? How did these affect relations between the two groups?

  • Compare and contrast the effects of paternalism and coercive acculturation on American Indians after the end of the contact period with those on African Americans under slavery. What similarities and differences existed in the two situations? Which system was more oppressive and controlling? How? How did these different situations shape the futures of the groups?

  • How did federal Indian policy change over the course of the 20th century? What effects did these changes have on the tribes? Which were more beneficial? Why? What was the role of the Indian protest movement in shaping these policies?

  • What options do American Indians have for improving their position in the larger society and developing their reservations? Which strategies seem to have the most promise? Which seem less effective? Why?

  • Compare and contrast the contact situations of American Indians, African Americans, and Australian Aborigines. What are the most crucial differences in the situations? What implications did these differences have for the development of each group’s situation after the initial contact situation?

  • Characterize the present situation of American Indians in terms of acculturation and integration. How do they compare with African Americans? What factors in the experiences of the two groups might help explain contemporary differences?

  • What gender differences can you identify in the experiences of American Indians? How do these compare with the gender differences in the experiences of African Americans?

  • Given the information and ideas presented in this chapter, speculate about the future of American Indians. How likely are American Indian cultures and languages to survive? What are the prospects for achieving equality?

  • Given their small size and marginal status, recognition of their situations and problems continues to be a central struggle for American Indians (see the quote that opens this chapter). What are some ways that the group can build a more realistic, informed, and empathetic relationship with the larger society, the federal government, and other authorities? Are there lessons in the experiences of other groups or in the various protest strategies followed in the “Red Power” movement?