By Adrian Jawort
What was it about American Indians that drew hippies to them?
I think there was this perception that Indian people lived outside the mainstream of American culture, and in that perception of what Indian values were—I’m not talking about realities here, but stereotypes even—these were people who lived simply, lived off the land, and lived lives of deep spirituality. Also, hippies were seeking alternative ways of living. They were rejecting suburbia and white middle-class values, capitalism and they looked around the landscape and latched upon Indians—or their own ideas of what they assumed they were all about. In some cases the peyote movements brought some Indians and hippies together—a ‘long-hair convergence’—but some Natives were really willing to engage with them because they saw them as politically useful.
What made Indians realize they needed the help of whites?
Those Indians most politically active realized having allies was essential for several reasons. As you know, the Native American population in this country is small percentage-wise, so they simply didn’t have the political power to change things without any non-Indian allies. There was also the whole matter of educating Natives about political issues, so they also used non-Indians as conduits into the process of political change. They found people sympathetic to write about Indian issues to help give greater attention to them. They also found lawyers—of course Native American lawyers were involved as well—to get issues into the courts.