July 25, 2008

Some tribes weren't tribes

Where the power lies[N]ationalities, and many Indian tribes, do not share a common collective or centralized political organization. The political units of Indian peoples are often located in local bands, villages or lineages. The governing units were local groups that managed and identified local territory, rather than an overall government that held large amounts of collective territory.

Many Indian communities, like the Tlingit or Hopi, did not have centralized principal chiefs, and government and economy was mobilized through villages and clans. Kroeber says, "Ordinarily, the nationality, miscalled tribe, was only an aggregate of miniature sovereign states normally friendly to one another." Kroeber does not deny the sovereignty of Indian government, but suggests that the expression "tribe" in many cases--not all--is a creation of colonial and American officials who want and need more convenient political entities to negotiate treaties, trade and policy.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see The Facts About Tribal Sovereignty.

Below:  Two men who became chairmen after the Hopi adopted a tribal constitution.

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