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Today's feature on National Native news part 1 of Native Americas war on poverty. I'm Steve Hamill. Ever since Native Americans were put on reservations more than a century ago they've lived under some of the worst living conditions imaginable. Politicians have tried that repeatedly failed to improve things. One of the most spectacular failures one under the names relocation and terminations. More than 50 years ago when the federal government under the Truman and Eisenhower administrations decided to do away with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and terminate tribes at the same time the government was operating under the assumption that Native Americans must be assimilated moved off reservations into cities. Yan Hamilton reports. Some historians say the Native Americans desire to serve their country in World War to lead them. Unwittingly close to their own destruction as a community and estimated 25000 native men served in the armed forces and hundreds of other native men and women went to the factories to aid the war effort. Government officials praised natives for their patriotism including the commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier. In a CBS interview during the war years Indians have manifested
as a race or income bracket and might have been considered prime material for the propaganda of foreign countries hostile to the American way of life. The new visibility of native people also raised the question of why natives continue to live in isolation on reservations. A strong push toward assimilating natives into mainstream America began in 1050 to the bee i.e. established what at the time was called the voluntary relocation program which paid for training travel and assistance for finding work in urban communities. But life in the city fell short of the dream many natives were placed in seasonal or low paying jobs. Melvin Lee and his family were relocated from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to Sioux Falls Iowa. He says many natives grew bitter and disillusioned in the cities. They got all of. The recall the shit jobs. We just really cleaning up the
places or butchery or working in Hyde cellars I worked in a high cellar when I was 12 13 14 years old. Native historian Donald fix ACOA says many of these relocated workers form communities in low income housing and urban ghetto are sometimes hurt. But a predator because they were the only part of it if you could or by 1960 approximately 35000 natives had been relocated there were at least a third eventually returned to reservations including Melvin Lee. But some had nowhere to go. Saddled with war debts Congress and 1053 had moved forward on a plan to terminate tribes thereby ending tribal sovereignty cutting off health care benefits and many federal obligations guaranteed in past treaties and through previous acts of Congress including the protection of tax free native lands provided by trust status for the laundryman comical
term a nation was vehemently opposed by most native people. As Oliver LaFarge president of the association on American Indian Affairs tried to explain in a television interview in 1054 his various legislation to terminate tribes loomed in Congress. We have never heard so much regret on the part of the FBI any more. Of this. Have a nice Indian state. But it did no good. Between 154 and one thousand sixty two more than 100 bands and ranch areas had been terminated including such tribes as the Menominee of Wisconsin and the climate's in Oregon. Donald fix a CO calls it the worst period in the history of Indian white relations. You look at it look at next. I knew that meant and I did but going to school and that's a very frightening thought. They say hard against it.
In fact it could be said that terminations forced into being a new political consciousness in a whole generation of Native Americans like Melvin Lee I seen it. We had certain rights that was guaranteed to us to treaties and I was kind of learning the treaties and I was learning myself in the next segment of native America's war on poverty. Well look at how relocation frustration led to heightened activism among urban Indians and the creation of the Red Power movement. I'm Dionne Hamilton National Native news features are made possible by black side producers of the PBS series America's War on Poverty airing next week on public television stations nationwide. Public. Radio. International. Today's feature on National Native news part two of our series Native Americas war on poverty.
I'm Steve Heil. The federal relocation programs of the 50s and 60s were designed to bring about the assimilation of native peoples into the mainstream culture. As Milt Lee reports they caused reservation history to take a dramatic turn as young urban natives fought to retain their tribal identities. Throughout our history native people holding vast amounts of land have been slowly forced onto tiny plots on the map with some of the worst living conditions possible. The relocation program was an attempt by the United States government to move the people off the reservation and into the cities where the jobs were. Ted mean's grew up on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. I thought I guess that any people would get to the cities and become white people and forget about their their heritage and. Their cultural ties you know to the reservation or to the land. Didn't work though. You know obviously with relocation the reservation was no longer a closed
system. This coupled with the political hotbed of the 60s gave rise to the Red Power movement. The American Indian Movement or team begin as a survival school for urban natives means you know what started in Minneapolis it spread to Cleveland and Milwaukee you know chapters were established in other cities. And then after 72. As when. You know people began organizing around issues on reservations aim took stronger and stronger positions seeking sovereignty in declaring war on conditions such as poverty homelessness racism and corruption. Dennis Banks Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt John to Del Russell and Ted means all products of the relocation era became the leaders of the American Indian Movement. Charlie avarice because a judge for the Oglala Sioux Supreme Court and they also were the ones who became the most acutely aware of the oppression that their people were suffering
back home. They were able to see it because they were outside and learned in the mind of their oppressor in a sense. And so they were able to take this messaging back and wake up the sleeping Red Giant back on the reservation occupied Alcatraz in 1070 followed by the Trail of Broken Treaties and 1070 to a political march that started in California and ended with the takeover of the BFI a building in Washington D.C.. Melvin Lee worked in the Hyde cellar in Sioux City Iowa before joining aim and marching to Washington. Let's backtrack I was one of the last six people in a B.A. we're going to burn it. Say we are going to burn it. It was doused with different chemicals and gasoline as there were so many paper scattered all over anyway when it went up big time. The violent death of Raymond Yellow Thunder in garden of Brasco brought the attention of a team to the
Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. A series of community meetings ended in a 73 day standoff between the federal government and the American Indian Movement. The wounded need to as many called it was a turning point for native people. Carter can't a punkah from Oklahoma reflected on the effects of Wounded Knee. This was an amazing event. You know I work my life and the end is struggle and what happened here at Wounded Knee changed the lives of and in people all over this nation. You know for the last 200 years they had this program of assimilation the best thing is to make us farmers and we're going to the Y society will fall is time intensive refused but it was wearing us down because a Wounded Knee changed all that around. And if people were covering their language change their religion back and if I decided they were proud of me and they were there I was a warrior movement determined
to awaken native peoples to their own power. Many disapproved of the methods but few can deny that the American Indian Movement heralded a greater consciousness since then. Native communities have organized radio stations colleges and health clinics and the surge toward sovereignty continues to move ahead for National Native news. I Milt Lee in our next segment we'll look at the federal government's attempts to help Native America move forward in the fight against poverty. National Native news features are made possible by black side producers of the PBS series America's War on Poverty airing next week on public television stations nationwide. Public. Radio. International. Today's feature on National Native news part three of our series Native Americas war on poverty. I'm Steve Hamill. Shortly after President Lyndon Johnson took
office in 1963 he declared an unconditional war on poverty. Johnson acknowledged the severity of the situation among Native Americans in an address to the National Congress of American Indians at the White House on January 20th 1964. He cited such statistics as the nearly 50 percent average unemployment rate and the 60 percent high school dropout rate. Now all of these are reasons why I have directed. That in a Pac on poverty program. We put our young people in the forefront. Johnson pushed through a series of educational and training initiatives for America's poor. Programs such as the Job Corps Vista legal services community action programs and head start to prepare children for school. Today the Indian Head Start program is one of the most important for Native children on reservations like the Navajo Nation where the average family income is less than $14000 a year. And just over half of its members graduate from high school. George Hardeen reports.
And headstart preschool number one to the City Arizona four year old children sit in a circle on the floor and sing in the Navajo language. Head Start was created in 1965 to ensure that before they entered kindergarten and first grade. Poor kids like these got their vaccinations and learn simple ways to take care of themselves like brushing their teeth and washing their hands between activities that strengthen their dexterity in thinking. Every day here and at hundreds of rural Indian Head Start centers a little time to set aside to reinforce who these kids are as natives. And that's the beauty of Indian headstart They're very they may be very small but they're keeping a culture alive and they're doing it through the young children and through their parents. Linda kills crows director of the Osage nation headstart in Oklahoma and president of the National Indian headstart Directors Association Meeting parents never had the opportunity to know their culture and where we've
reintroduced the language here and our children are learning it. Now the parents are coming back in and our kids are coming home with these words. We want to learn the culture we want about our culture. Learn more about our language. You know it's a rebirth in many places. The tried Sherry Billy was a head start kid 30 years ago having obtained a nursing certificate and now studying toward a degree in speech pathology. Today she's a special needs coordinator for the Navajo Headstart program. She says headstart introduced generations of children like her to concepts of health and education the traditional Navajo families were unfamiliar with as a headstart child I think it helped me a lot and gave me it certainly could jumpstart to a lot of things that I didn't know and it helped me to further my education to make me go for it further. And in turn come back and help my people. Indian Head Start centers are found in isolated native communities in 25 states. About 20000 native children are enrolled in tribal programs with another
12000 in nearby regional centers. But overall only a quarter of all Native kids who are eligible can get into the programs. And every year waiting lists scroll longer. The main problem continues to be a lack of facilities. Last year when Congress reauthorize head start it recognized Native sovereignty by allowing tribes to set their own income and eligibility guidelines and native families who live in border towns to participate in nearby tribal programs. School administrators say the results of Head Start are noticeable and the transition into school for Native kids is easier. Larry Curly runs the Navajo headstart Department. By far the largest tribal Headstart program in the country. He says kids who are unable to be enrolled begin their first days in schools already behind. A lot of those children who don't get those services and going into kindergarten into elementary school unprepared without developing the total child's skills.
And so they come in at a disadvantage unlike many federal programs Indian Head Start does not appear threatened by impending budget cuts from the new Congress because it's so successful with kids. One fear however is that legislators could try to fund it through block grants to states rather than to tribes opening a whole range of new sovereignty questions for National Native news. I'm George Hardeen in Tuba City Arizona. National Native news features are made possible by black side producers of the PBS series America's War on Poverty airing next week on public television stations nationwide. Public. Radio. International. Today's feature on National Native news part four of our series Native Americas war on poverty. I'm Steve Hummel at the time President Johnson declared his unconditional war on poverty in 1964 only 10 percent of the native population had housing the Met minimum standards. In a speech to Native leaders the president
announced his plans for housing in Indian country. As a beginning I am pleased to announce today that by the largest and housing program in the history of the United State I'm informed by Administrator Bob Weaver who is present and commission and I at they have approved the construction of three thousand one hundred new homes on 50 reservations and 17 states in the following year Congress created the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But HUD has never been able to meet the demand for native housing particularly in Alaska Native villages and the federal government has often come under fire as it's attempted to provide adequate unsanitary homes for natives there. The end Hamilton reports although the war on poverty began in the mid-1960s. It was nearly 30 years before the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development came to Alaska HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros came to see a new co-operatively funded 20 unit dwelling complete with running water
in the Arctic Village of Sela wick. He also came to see what are often called third world living conditions. It's been a long tough road for Alaska natives in need of housing. HUD did not build here until after the question of native land claims was settled. So it was the late 1970s before many of the older dwellings began to be replaced by rows of HUD homes. They looked inappropriate and too often they were. Norma ballot and a newbie at artist and former city council member and Solo Act says that for years. State and federal agencies have failed to come up with housing and sanitation systems that work. Ballot says millions of dollars have gone down the toilet. Back in one think the late 70s early 80s that. Government spend millions of dollars. Getting each house these humus toilets. And they said that you know that would that would solve the problem. And not one where the lack of proper sanitation has had a severe
impact on native health with raw sewage being hauled by hand from homes and nearly half of the 200 villages in the state primarily relying on communal water spigots outbreaks of diseases such as hepatitis are common. The project in solo work is a beginning but a small one. Marla Knight of HUD's Alaska office says the complex's wastewater system can serve other housing as well. What that has done everyone on that end of town are being hooked up into that system too. Elsewhere in Alaska HUD has been criticized by some native homeowners for what they call shoddy workmanship. Six villages in southwest Alaska filed suit against Hutt and the regional tribal housing authority last year for two hundred twelve homes they claimed had been poorly designed and built. John Hanson owns a home in the village of a lucky not one of 25 homes built in the village in the early 1980s. At the time of the suit Hansen said his house began to fall apart shortly after he moved in
and he said it was dangerous. When you turn on the lights it's a judgment call you don't want. Oh right right. Well you're right. Marlon Knight admits there were problems with some homes contractors tried to cut corners to keep costs down and tried to apply lower 48 building methods to an Arctic environment. But Knight says HUD has learned its hard lessons and now it's in the process of refurbishing some homes but repairs are slow in coming. Meanwhile over 6000 new houses are needed in Alaska. While HUD can only afford to build about 200 a year our funding is as you can figure out yourself if you get 200 units a year. How long that's going to take to catch up knowing that every year people children are growing older and coming into age where they have their own families.
Although funding remains inadequate. Jackie Johnson chairwoman of the National American Indian Housing Council and a claim get from Alaska agrees with HUD officials that the agency has begun to turn things around. Her group has been working with HUD to revamp the Native-American program to allow for more tribal flexibility and to create more culturally appropriate housing for tribes. I'm Diane Hamilton National Native news features are made possible by black side producers of the PBS series America's War on Poverty airing next week on public television stations nationwide. International. Today's feature on National Native news part five of our series Native Americas war on poverty. I'm Steve Hamill. As the 1980s gave way to the 70s there was an about face in federal Indian policy decision makers abandon the idea of terminating trust responsibility to tribes and embrace the concepts of self-determination and self-government.
From Washington D.C. Joel Southern looks at the replanting of the roots of sovereignty in Indian country by the mid-1960s it became clear to federal officials and legislators that the terminations policy toward tribes was making things worse for Native Americans not better. In 1968 President Lyndon Johnson documented the plight of native people. He called them the forgotten Americans and a special message to Congress. That message touted the importance of Johnson's education job training and self-help programs for Native Americans and laid the groundwork for a new set of policies drawn up by President Richard Nixon and his aides. Brad Patterson worked on Native issues under Nixon civil rights advisor Leonard Garment. Paterson says the low socio economic status of Native Americans prompted Nixon to act the stage was set to be able to do something at American population. I was very sympathetic Indian population desperately needing some assistance. And the take away from the government Patterson government and others developed ideas that were eventually sent to Congress and President Nixon's own special message about Native Americans where it
differed with Johnson's was on the role of the federal government in keeping with the Republican ideal of limiting centralized power. Nixon wanted tribes to have more say about spending the federal program dollars set aside for them. The date July 8 1070 vice president Spiro Agnew briefed the press on Nixon's version of self-termination policy that his procedures and his thoughts were going to be consistent with regard to the decentralization of power in Washington. And we had to return some authority to the NDA. Nixon called on Congress to repeal all remnants of terminations. In part because he felt that fear of terminations made tribes cling harder to the federal government and discourage self-sufficiency. Also key to his message was the concept of letting tribes run federal programs for themselves instead of depending on bureaucrats in the Interior Department and the old Health Education and Welfare Department. Nixon praised the concept when he signed what he considered to be an important
symbol of his commitment to sell or terminations a bill returning the sacred blue lake lands in New Mexico to the blow. And finally this bill indicates a new direction in Indian affairs in this country. A new direction in which we will have the cooperation of both Democrats and Republicans. One in which. There will be. More of an attitude of cooperation. Rather than fraternal is one of self-determination rather than terminate. One of mutual respect. Nixon began restoring recognition and lands to terminated tribes beginning with the Wisconsin Menominee Zin 1073 in 1905 during the Ford administration Congress finally passed legislation that opened up the opportunity for tribes to run federal programs for themselves for 20 years now self-determination has been the rule despite resistance from agencies like the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service. Native historian Don Fick Soko says it has made a difference.
Reservation economy I think. Right. I think that that's what self-determination has strengthened the tribal sovereignty movement and his native leaders increase their clout they're calling for even more control over federal program spending key legislators are listening. The Democratic controlled 100 third Congress approved legislation to increase the scope of self-determination and self-government there could be more of the same with anti-big government Republicans in charge during the 100 Fourth Congress. Arizona Republican John McCain chairs the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. I think my first priority would be to review our self-governance of self-determination legislation which we were recently able to past and see how we can best implement that legislation because I believe that it is the direction which we should have taken long ago. McCain and others in Congress are promoting more self-determination and self-government for tribes because they believe the federal government has failed to live up to its promises.
They say for all the gains that have been made far too many Native Americans still live in third world poverty conditions for National Native News I'm Joel Southern in Washington D.C. National Native news features are made possible by black side producers of the PBS series America's War on Poverty airing next week on public television stations nationwide. Public. Radio. International.
National Native News Special Features
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Koahnic Broadcast Corporation
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Koahnic Broadcast Corporation (Anchorage, Alaska)
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Episode Description
This five part series focuses on the Native American war on poverty. The series moves through federal programs that harmed Native America like the 1952 Voluntary Relocation Program and government attempts to "terminate" Native sovereignty in order to alleviate World War II debts from 1954-1962. Federal attempts at assimilation through relocation and termination failed in their goals and sparked political consciousness in the Native people. The American Indian Movement (AIM), also known as The Red Power Movement, was born in 1972. Lyndon Johnson sought to provide federal support to the Native nations as a part of his war on poverty in America. Focusing on unemployment, education, and housing, Johnson fought for Native sovereignty again. Richard Nixon continued this movement toward self determination in the Native nation.
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National Native News is a nationally broadcast news series that provides news for Native and non-Native Americans from a Native American perspective.
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Associate Producer: Hamilton, D'Anne
Copyright Holder: Koahnic Broadcast Corporation
Producer: Heimel, Steve
Producing Organization: Koahnic Broadcast Corporation
Reporter: Lee, Milt
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Identifier: NNN01091995 (Program_Name_Data)
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Duration: 01:15:00
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Chicago: “National Native News Special Features,” 1991-01-08, Koahnic Broadcast Corporation, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “National Native News Special Features.” 1991-01-08. Koahnic Broadcast Corporation, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: National Native News Special Features. Boston, MA: Koahnic Broadcast Corporation, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from