Panel discusses emergence of self-determination policy
A panel at Northern Arizona University discussed the policy of self-determination that then president Richard Nixon advanced on July 8, 1970.

In a message to Congress, Nixon described federal control of Indian affairs as a failure. He ended Native Americans remained at the bottom of the social and economic ladder despite attempts to isolate them and, later, to assimilate them and terminate the tribal relationship with the U.S.

"We have concluded that the Indians will get better programs and that public monies will be more effectively expended if the people who are most affected by these programs are responsible for operating them," Nixon said.

Ron Esquerra, a member of the Chemehuevi Tribe, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the time. Prior to self-determination, the government controlled nearly every aspect of life on the reservation.

"The feeling was that it was just the right thing to do," Esquerra said at the panel, The Arizona Daily Sun reported.

Thomas Vigil, a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, helped carry out the policy. He said it led to his tribe exerting greater control of its natural resources.

Get the Story:
1970: The year the tribes got power (The Arizona Daily Sun 4/15)

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