Shattering the barriers

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Shattering the barriers American Indians, the Office of Economic Opportunity, and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, 1964-1969
Riggs, Christopher
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206 leaves : ; 29 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Since 1900 ( fast )
Indians of North America -- Economic conditions -- 20th century ( lcsh )
Indians of North America -- Government relations -- 1934- ( lcsh )
Indians of North America -- Economic conditions ( fast )
Indians of North America -- Government relations ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 186-206).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, History.
General Note:
Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by Christopher Riggs.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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Resource Identifier:
30674306 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L57 1993m .R54 ( lcc )

Full Text
Christopher Riggs
B.A., University of Southern Colorado, 1991
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the reguirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
rfe f j

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Christopher Riggs
has been approved for the
Department of
Mark S. Foster
n i k l Date

Riggs, Christopher (M.A., History)
Shattering the Barriers: American Indians, The Office of
Economic Opportunity, and Lyndon Johnson's Great
Society, 1964-1969.
Thesis directed by Professor Mark S. Foster
From 1964-1969, many Native Americans took advantage
of the newly-created Office of Economic Opportunity (0E0)
and its "Indian Desk" to improve their lives. The Indians
created or availed themselves of educational and job
training classes, economic development projects, new or
renovated housing, more readily available health care,
cultural preservation activities, and other programs
designed to alleviate the physical as well as the
spiritual burdens of poverty. In several cases, such
efforts yielded meaningful successes. Ultimately, though,
the 0E0 failed to achieve a significant, long-term
reduction of poverty among Native Americans for a variety
of reasonsincluding insufficient funding, the Vietnam
War, and the persistent inconsistency which has
characterized "Anglo treatment of the first Americans
throughout the twentieth century.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.

1. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND ........................ 1
2. NATIVE AMERICANS AND THE OEO .....................22
Midwestern and Eastern Indians ................. 26
Pacific Coast Indians .......................... 39
Southern Indians ............................... 45
Plains and Intermountain Indians ............... 52
Urban Indians....................................98
Cross-Reservation OEO Programs ................ 100
6. THE CYCLES OF INCONSISTENCY........................157
8. WORKS CITED........................................186

In March 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson
called for a declaration of warnot against Communism in
Southeast Asia, but against poverty in America. To
achieve his goal, the Texan implored Congress to pass the
Economic Opportunity Act (Public Law 88-452). The
President stated that his objective constituted nothing
less than forging
an America in which every citizen shares all
the opportunities of his society, in which
every man has a chance to advance his welfare
to the limit of his capacities.1
To insure the successful provision of opportunity
for "every citizen," one thousand Native Americansas
well as their non-Indian "allies"traveled to
Washington, D.C., for the American Indian Conference on
Poverty. Held under the auspices of the Council on
Lyndon B. Johnson, "The War on Poverty," in Great
Issues in American History, vol. Ill, From Reconstruction
to the Present Day, 1864-1981, ed. Richard Hofstadter and
Beatrice K. Hofstadter (New York: Vintage Books, 1982),

Indian Affairs from 9-12 May 1964, the conference's
organizers hoped to persuade policymakers that the
Economic Opportunity Act should address Indian poverty.
The strategy worked. The meeting, combined with lobbying
by Commissioner of Indian Affairs Philleo Nash and the
upcoming November elections, led to Amerindians'
inclusion in the legislationwhich Johnson signed on 20
August 1964.2
The act created the Office of Economic Opportunity
(OEO), which served on the front-lines in the
administration's War on Poverty and as a central
component of LBJ's vision for a Great Society. To
address Native American issues, the agency placed Warren
Cardwell and, later, Dr. Jim Wilsonan Oglala Sioux with
a doctorate in educationin charge of the OEO's "Indian
2Robert L. Bennett and others, "Federal Indian Policy,
1960-1976," in Indian Self-Rule: First-Hand Accounts of
Indian-White Relations from Roosevelt to Reagan, ed.
Kenneth R. Philips (Salt Lake City: Howe Brothers, 1986),
208, 212, 217; Raymond V. Butler, "The Bureau of Indian
Affairs: Activities Since 1945," The Annals of the
American Academy of Political and Social Science 436 (March
1978): 55; Vine Deloria Jr., "Legislation and Litigation
Concerning American Indians," The Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science 436 (March 1978):
88; Alvin M. Josephy Jr., Red Power; The American Indians'
Fight for Freedom (New York: American Heritage Press,
1971), 65-66.

Desk."3 This "desk" or "Indian Division" constituted a
part of the Special Field Programs Office which dealt
with Amerindians, migrant workers, and inhabitants of
areas under American jurisdiction outside of the fifty
states. The 0E0 had a significant impact on American
Indians. The agency gave Amerindians access to money and
programs never before available to themresources most
Amerindians put to good use. Also, consistent with the
community-oriented philosophy of the War on Poverty, the
Desk labored to insure the first Americans a greater say
over their own lives and a path out of poverty. At the
same time, however, the 0E0 tried to bring Native
Americans more into "mainstream" American society but not
by the age-old, brutal approach of forced assimilation.
Rather, the Office of Economic Opportunityand the Great
Societystrove to give Indians the option of enjoying
the full political, economic and social benefits of the
United States as individuals or as members of
strengthened, economically-viable, ethno-cultural
3Albert Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation
of OEO Community Action Programs on Six Selected American
Indian Reservations (McLean, Virginia: Human Sciences
Research, Inc., 1966), 14, 18.

communities. Unfortunately, though, the 0E0 and the
Great Society fell victim to the cruel cycle of
twentieth-century federal Indian policy: reform that
achieves at least some improvement, followed by a socio-
political-economic backlash that halts or even turns back
some, if not many, of the gains.
By the time the 0E0 and its Indian Desk came into
being, the first Americans had long been victimized and
brutalized by those who migrated later to the American
continent.4 The December 1890 massacre of several
hundred Native American men, women, and children at
Wounded Knee, South Dakota, ended the over two centuries
of Indian military resistance to Anglo domination of
North America. As a result, peoples who had once enjoyed
virtually the whole of a continent as their backyard
found themselves confined to so-called "reservations"
tracts of (usually) worthless land that often lacked even
such basic resources as a readily-accessible water
Much of this pre-1960s background material comes
from Howard R. Lamar, "American Indian Policy, 1865-
1987," in Main Problems in American History, vol. 2, 5th
ed., ed. Howard Quint, Milton Cantor, and Dean Albertson
(Chicago: The Dorsey Press, 1988), 122-131.

Reservation residents also lacked control over their
own lives. The United States government, especially the
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), consistently treated
Indians paternalistically, engendering a sense of
dependency among many American Indians. For example,
even when reservation land proved suitable for farming,
amenable to cattle-grazing, or rich in natural resources
(minerals, timber, oil, and the like), the BIA often
leased it to non-Indian individuals or corporations. In
addition, Indians generally could not sell their own
land. Rather, the bureau negotiated with potential
purchasers, made the decision on whether to sell, and
then invested money from the transaction on the Native
American landowner's behalf. By law, the Navajos had to
secure the approval of the Secretary of the Interior (the
agency whose aegis included, since 1849, the BIA) before
they could amend their own constitution or spend their
own money. Further, the BIA forbid the Navajos from
contracting with lawyers on any issue regarding tribal
lands or funds, and, in general, Indian nations could not
employ attorneys without the Secretary of the Interior's
permission. At one point, the federal governmentin an

assimilationist fitdecreed all Native Americans had to
wear their hair short, even though many Amerindians felt
long hair had spiritual importance. Troops descended on
the reservations to enforce the order, and some Indians
had to be bound before their hair could be cut. The BIA
explicitly stated that its duties consisted of
"' protect[ing] the interests of minors and
incompetents,'" and such an attitude may explain why the
government permitted the forcible sterilization of many
Native Americans throughout much of the twentieth
century.5 Even when the federal government occasionally
tried to better Native Americans7 lives, shifts in
administrations or BIA personnel typically ended
beneficial policies. Such inconsistencies engendered
among many Indians a cynicism about federal efforts to
sThe quotation from the BIA appeared in Biloine W.
Young, "The American Indian: Citizen in Captivity,"
Saturday Review, 11 December 1965, 25-26; Paula Gunn
Allen, "Angry Women Are Building: Issues and Struggles
Facing Native American Women," in All American Women:
Lines that Divide, Ties that Bind, ed. Johnnetta B. Cole
(New York: The Free Press, 1986), 407; Peter Farb, "The
American Indian: A Portrait in Limbo," Saturday Review,
12 October 1968, 29; Jenny and others, A Comprehensive
Evaluation, 14, 18; S. Lyman Tyler, A History of Indian
Policy (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Indian Affairs,
1973), 214.

"help" them. In addition, BIA policy, whether
benevolently intended or not, arrogantly assumed that
Indians should adopt Anglo cultural mores.6
In 1887, the newly-passed Dawes-Severalty Act also
worked toward that end as well. The legislation called
for the breakup of the tribes by granting each family 160
acres (eighty acres to single adults and forty acres for
other individuals) for use as privately-owned farmland.
To facilitate assimilation into white culture, the law
also provided funds for Indian education. Well-
intentioned or not, "the Dawes Act was a disaster,"
according to historian Howard R. Lamar.7 The allotment
system cost the American Indians nearly two-thirds of
their territory, as reservation lands not granted to
individuals went onto the auction block. According to
attorney and consumer advocate Ralph Nader, the amount of
land controlled by Native Americans shrank from 150
million acres in the mid-nineteenth century to fifty-
three million acres (the approximate size of New England)
by the mid-twentieth century. To cite just one example:
6Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 14.
7Lamar, "American Indian Policy," 127.

In less than two centuries, the Iroquois' land-holdings
declined from eighteen million acres to seventy-seven
thousand. In addition, the BIA, in an effort to sever
extended family ties, often allotted land in such a way
that relatives had to live miles apart from one another.8
Since most western communities resisted integrating
Native Americans into public schools, the federal
government sent Amerindian children to boarding schools.
Sometimes, United States soldiers forcibly took young
people from their homes to guarantee their attendance at
institutions often located thousands of miles away, where
the physical conditions often left much to be desired,
and where white educators typically had nothing but
contempt for the students' heritage.9 The schools, for
Vine Deloria Jr. and Clifford M. Lytle, American
Indians, American Justice (Austin: University of Texas
Press, 1983), 197.
9For a brief discussion of the poor conditions that
all too often characterized Indian boarding schools, see
the excerpts of Dr. Lewis Meriam's 1928 report, The
Problem of Indian Administration, reprinted in Dr. Lewis
Meriam, "The Crisis in Indian Education and the Meriam
Report of 1928," in Main Problems in American History,
vol. 2, 5th ed., ed. Howard H. Quint, Milton Cantor, and
Dean Albertson (Chicago: The Dorsey Press, 1988), 142-
145; David R. Corwin, "Dilemma of the Iroquois," Natural
History 76 (June-July 1967): 6; Ralph Nader, "Lo, the
Poor Indian," The New Republic, 30 March 1968, 14-15; Sun

example, prohibited the display of Native American dress,
religion, language, and cultural outlook. A Hopi
described the experience of attending a United States-run
When my sister started, the teacher cut her
hair, burned all her clothes, and gave her a
hew outfit and a new name, Nellie. She did not
like school [and] stopped going after a few
weeks. About a year later . [she] was
captured [and forced to return to the school].
The teachers had forgotten her old name,
Nellie, and called her Gladys. Although my
brother was two years older than I, he had
managed to keep out of school until about a
year after I started, but he had to be careful
not to be seen by [w]hites. When finally he
did enter school . they cut his hair,
burned his clothes, and named him Ira.10
Needless to say, Clyde Warrior, a Ponca, had little good
to say regarding Indian education as it evolved under the
Dawes Act:
[T]he [f]ederal [government came into our
communities and[,] by force[,] carried most of
our children away to distant boarding schools
for 10 or 12 years. My father's and many of my
generation lived their childhoods in an almost
prisonlike atmosphere. Many returned [to the
reservation] unable even to speak their own
language. Some returned to become drunks.
Chief: Autobiography of a Hopi Indian in Paula S.
Rothenberg, Racism and Sexism: An Integrated Study (New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1988), 100.
10Sun Chief in Rothenberg, Racism and Sexism, 100.

Most of them had become white haters or that
most pathetic of all modern Indians, Indian
haters. Very few ever became more than very
confused, ambivalent, and immobilized
individuals, never able to reconcile the
tensions and contradictions built inside
themselves by outside institutions.11
In other words, after such schooling, Indians could
either "return as strangers to the reservations" or "make
their way in a white world that did not want them."12
Although all Native Americans became United States
citizens in 1924, the conditions under which they lived
did not change significantly until President Franklin D.
Roosevelt appointed former New York social worker John
Collier as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Collier
believed that Native Americans could realize their full
potential only as part of a tribe. Thus, his reformsas
embodied in the 1934 Wheeler-Howard Act and often
referred to as the "Indian New Deal"called for tribes
to function as political-cultural corporations, forbade
lxClyde Warrior, "The War on Poverty," in Great
Documents in American Indian History, ed. Wayne Moquin
and Charles Van Doren (New York: Praeger Publishers,
1973), 357; Clyde Warrior, "We Are Not Free," in Alvin M.
Josephy Jr., Red Power: The American Indians' Fight for
Freedom (New York: American Heritage Press, 1971), 86.
12Farb, "The American Indian," 29.

carving up reservation lands further, and provided money
for tribes to purchase more territory. The Johnson-
0'Mailey Act ordered the Bureau of Indian Affairs to
allow other agencies to take over some of its functions.
A 1935 law encouraged the creation of Indian arts and
crafts, as well as the expansion of the market for such
artwork. Admittedly, only about seventy-five tribes
became incorporated as part of the Indian New Deal.
Lamar points out, though, that Indian craftwork did
experience a revival; that the amount of land under
Indian control increased for the first time in over two
hundred years; that Indian infant mortality declined; and
that the Indian population began to grow for the first
time in decades. In addition, day schools began to
replace the hated boarding schools, and funds became
available to pay for Indian enrollment in 'mainstream"
high schools and colleges.
Collier's approach, however, fell victim to
Congress's fiscal conservatism of the late 1930s and the
exigencies of World War II. By the mid-1940s, the Indian
New Deal had come to an end, and the federal government,
once again, displayed a sympathetic ear toward advocates

of "Americanizing" the first Americans. During the
1950s, such assimilationistsprimarily western
Congressional representativesbecame known as
"terminationists." They desired to terminate
Washington's treaty obligations with the Indian nations,
to sell off reservation lands, and to place the Indians
under state, authoritythereby assimilating them into
Anglo society.13
The termination experiences of the Menominees of
Wisconsin and the Klamaths of Oregon, though, proved
disastrous. Prior to their termination, the former
nation enjoyed a relative degree of self-sufficiency, as
well as good schools, a good hospital, and a communally-
owned sawmill. Once incorporated into a county under
state jurisdiction, however, public assistance costs rose
significantly, the hospital closed, the schools' quality
declined, the sawmill failed to provide an adequate
number of jobs, and large tracts of land went onto the
13In addition to Lamar, see Larry W. Burt, Tribalism
in Crisis: Federal Indian Policy, 1953-1961
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982), ix,
5; Deloria and Lytle, American Indians, 20; Alvin M.
Josephy Jr., Now that the Buffalo's Gone: A Study of
Today's American Indians (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1982), 86.

auction block because the Menominees could not pay state
property taxes. In addition, Menominee County found
itself last or almost last in ratings of income, housing,
property values, education, employment, sanitation, and
health among Wisconsin's counties. For a time, the
Indians could not even hunt and fish on their own
property without paying for a state permit. As for the
Klamath, they had their former reservation land sold out
from under them. Although the tribe's members received
money from the sale, Texas Senator Ralph W. Yarborough
pointed out that termination produced a decline in the
number of Klamath high school graduates and an increase
in suicides, crime, and alcoholism. One author aptly
described the federal government's policy as having
"eviscerated Indian civilization."14
The situation improved somewhat during John F.
Kennedy's presidency. In 1961, Kennedy appointed a
committee to examine the government's Indian policy.
Quotation from John F. Bauman, "Forgotten
Americans: The Migrant and Indian Poor," in Readings in
American History, vol. II, Reconstruction to the Present,
5th ed. (Guilford, Connecticut: Dushkin Publishing
Group, 1980), 192; Citizens' Advocate Center, Our
Brother's Keeper: The Indian in White America, ed. Edgar
S. Cahn (New York: New Community Press, 1969), 18-20.

More significant, American Indians could take advantage
of construction jobs created by the Public Housing
Administration's low-rent housing projects on South
Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation and elsewhere. The Pine
Ridge Sioux also used government money to encourage a
fishhook snelling company to set up shop in the community
in 1961. The Small Business Administration made loans in
an attempt to facilitate industrial development in Native
American communities. In addition, the Area
Redevelopment Act, the Public Works Acceleration Act, and
the Manpower Development and Training Actall of 1962
provided vocational training for the country's original
inhabitants. The first of these new laws permitted
Indians to construct new tribal headquarters, community
centers, and undertake other capital improvements. One
historian estimated that, in two and one-half years,
thirteen-hundred Native Americans participated in
Manpower Act programs. Donald J. Greve of Oklahoma, a
Native American Methodist minister, combined ARA funds
with private donations to set up the Sequoyah Carpet
Mills. The company manufactured carpets for clients
throughout the United States and provided about thirty

Native Americansmostly Comanche and Kiowawith jobs,
training, a profit-sharing plan, free hospitalization,
life insurance, free legal assistance, short-term loans,
and a scholarship fund. In addition, the company's
homebuilding plan, as of mid-1966, provided housing for
one hundred families.15
If Kennedy planted a few seeds, Lyndon Johnson sowed
a vast harvest of projects under the auspices of the 0E0
(as well as other agencies), which benefitted
Amerindians. Given the deplorable conditions in which
many Native Americans lived, such benefits seemed long
overdue. One journalist gave a first-hand account of an
Indian family's poverty:
No road exists. You teeter across a stream,
bend under two low white birches[,] and you see
the shack. Seven people call it home. It has
15Edward Lazarus, Black Hills/White Justice: The
Sioux Nation Versus the United States, 1775 to the
Present (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991),
259; Kathryn L. MacKay, "Warrior into Welder: A History
of Federal Employment Programs for American Indians,
1878-1972" (Ph.D. diss., University of Utah, 1987), 232;
Deloria, "Legislation and Litigation," 87-88; John Paul
Eddy, "A 'Private-Plus' Plan to Ease Poverty," The
Christian Century 83 (31 August 1966): 1064. Henry W.
Hough, Development of Indian Resources (Denver: World
Press, Inc., 1967), 202; Murray L. Wax, Indian Americans:
Unity and Diversity (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971), 58.

two rooms, open holes for windows, no doors.
It has no water, no electricity. The bathroom
is that clump of bushes 20 yards from the
entrance. Four calendars from last year
provide the decor. Two pieces of wood, a
rusted can[,] and a rock are the children's
toys. The time is now, the Gross National
Product has just leaped another eight and a
half percent, and the Steven Goodwater family
has no shoes. Goodwater is an American
The OEO's first annual report stressed that most Indians
found themselves
condemned to a life marked by disease and
malnutrition, low income[,] arid a high infant
mortality rate, [and] little chance for work.17
16Charles Mangel, "Warpaint for the Senator's Wife,"
Look, 4 April 1967, 24.
It should be noted that Native Americans constituted
part of a larger "culture of poverty." The United States
Government estimated that thirty to thirty-five million
Americansabout one-fifth of the populationlived in
poverty. Of these, eleven million were children and ten
million were persons of non-European decentblacks,
Hispanics, Indians, and the like. Regardless of age or
color, these thirty to thirty-five million people
commonly suffered from ill health, sub-standard housing,
inadequate schooling, and joblessness. Such factors made
the poor readily susceptible to "debt, despair,
dependence, and crime." See Patricia M. Wald, Law and
Poverty: 1965, ed. Abram Chayes and Robert L. Wald
(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1965), 2;
War on Poverty: A Hometown Fight (Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1965), 2.
170ffice of Economic Opportunity, A Nation Aroused:
First Annual Report (Washington, D.C.: Government
Printing Office, 1965), 59.

During remarks to the National Congress of American
Indians, LBJ pointed out that
it is a fact that America's first citizens, our
Indian people, suffer more from poverty today
than any other group in America. That is a
shameful fact.18
Data support the Harvard Law Records assertion that "the
'American Indians are by far the worst fed, worst-clad[,]
and worst-housed group in the United States,'" who
received "'the poorest educational and medical services
in the country.'"19 In 1965, Indian life expectancy
averaged forty-two to forty-three years; in some areas,
like Arizona and Alaska, the expectancy did not even
reach forty. The infant mortality rate exceeded that of
the rest of the nation by seventy percent. In addition,
the death rate for children under eleven was four times
higher than the remainder of the country. Reservation
residents suffered a death rate from tuberculosis 400
percent higher than the rest of the country. The number
lsU.S. President, Public Papers of the Presidents of
the United States (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing
Office, 1965), Lyndon B. Johnson, Book I, 22 November
1963 to 30 June 1964, 149.
19Harvard Law Record quoted in Stan Steiner, "The
American Indian Ghettos in the Desert," The Nation, 22
June 1964, 626.

of deaths from influenza and pneumonia was 300 percent
higher. The number of hepatitis cases among Indians
exceeded the cases among non-Indians by 800 percent;
cases of gonorrhea were 500 percent higher; strep throat
infections, 1,000 percent higher; meningitis, 2,000
percent higher; dysentery, 10,000 percent higher.
Reservations also suffered from epidemicssuch as
measles and syphilisuncommon elsewhere and which "had a
deadlier effect on the first Americans than did the
Indian Wars."20
Native Americans faced other problems, too. A
paucity of water, equipment, and knowledge meant that a
great deal of reservation land remained unproductive.
Approximately three-fourths of all Indians lived in sub-
standard dwellings. Author Stan Steiner characterized
reservation housing as "a rural slum of shacks and one-
room huts" where many residences even had dirt floors. A
significant number of homes lacked running water, safe
heating methods, electricity, and sanitary facilities.
20VISTA Serves: A Summary (Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1967), 30; quotation and most
of the information on diseases taken from Stan Steiner,
The New Indians (New York: Harper and Row Publishers,
1968), 197.

For example, only a third of the Passamaquoddy on Maine's
Point Pleasant Reservation had flush toilets and only
one-half had running water; a survey of twenty-two Eskimo
villages found that out of 799 homes, only eight percent
(sixty-four) had running water and only two percent
(sixteen) had flush toilets. Eighty percent of all
American Indians had to haul their own water, and seventy
percent of all water sources qualifiedor would have
likely qualifiedas tainted. On the Peter Dana
Reservation in Maine, septic tank drainage polluted water
from the area's lake, while contaminated water on the
Penobscot Reservation near Bangor had caused a typhoid
Income and education left much to be desired as
well. Reservation residents had an average of eight
years of education, four years less than the national
average; this stemmed, in part, from a fifty percent
21"The Natives: Even Hope Is Scarce," Business Week,
4 November 1967, 152; Office of Economic Opportunity, The
Quiet Revolution: Second Annual Report (Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1966), 49; Office of Economic
Opportunity, The Tide of Progress: Third Annual Report
(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1967), 34;
VISTA Serves, 30; LaRue Spiker, "Under the Indian Sign: A
Blanket Over Homicide," 200 The Nation (25 April 1966):
486; Steiner, "The American Indian Ghettos," 625.

school dropout rate. Many Indians did not fully
understand English or customs outside their immediate
community. Family income generally hovered around thirty
dollars a week, or approximately fifteen-hundred dollars
per year-three-quarters less than the national average.
(Even African-Americans living in the economically
impoverished Los Angeles area of Watts made, on average,
sixty-four dollars per week.) As one article described
the economic situation in the Navajo nation, "Poverty is
everywhere."22 Reservation unemployment generally ranged
from forty to ninety percent. For example, as of 1964,
the Indians at the Pueblo de Acoma Reservation suffered
an 89.6 percent unemployment rate; the Indian residents
of eighteen New Mexico Pueblos, 77 percent; the Hopis,
71.7 percent; the Blackfeet, 72.5 percent; the Pine Ridge
Sioux, 63 percent; Sissetan Sioux, 35 percent; the
Standing Rock Sioux, 57 percent; the Mississippi
Choctaws, 86.1 percent; the Navajo, 30.8 percent; the San
Carlos and Fort Apache Apaches, 61 percent; Alaskan
Eskimos, 60 percent; the White Earth Chippewas, 60
22,,Where the Real Poverty Is: Plight of the American
Indian," U.S. News and World Report, 25 April 1966, 104.

percent. As a result, the OEO identified eighty to
ninety-five percent of the total United States Indian
population as living below the poverty line.23
23Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 311;
Mangel, "Warpaint for the Senator's Wife," 24; OEO, A
Nation Aroused, 28, 59; "The Natives: Even Hope Is
Scarce," 152; OEO, The Quiet Revolution, 49; OEO, The
Tide of Progress, 34; OEO, VISTA Serves, 30; Steiner,
"The American Indian Ghettos," 624-625. The Indian
population of Maine had a poverty rate of eighty-two
percentas compared to seventy-five percent for blacks.

The OEOheaded for most of the Johnson
administration by Peace Corps director and Kennedy in-law
R. Sargent Shriver Jr.made a wide variety of programs
available to both Indians and non-Indians alike. The
Community Action Programs (CAPs) called on local leaders
to form Community Action Agencies (CAAs) for the purpose
of organizing public and private resources to battle
poverty. This took place either through national
programs or by developing and administering projects
specifically designed for a local area. The Job Corps
offered remedial education and job training, focusing on
individuals sixteen through twenty-one years old who had
dropped out of school. The Volunteers in Service to
America (VISTA), after receiving special training, went
to live among and help the poor. The Head Start program
provided economically disadvantaged children
preschooling, assistance in developing verbal skills as
well as special abilities, and medical and dental care.
The Follow Through program attempted to carry the

benefits of Head Start beyond the preschool level. The
Neighborhood Youth Corps (funded by the 0E0 but
administered by the Labor Department) encouraged young
people to stay in or return to school, or enhanced school
dropouts' chances for finding a job. The Work Experience
program endeavored to increase the employability of poor
adults. Medicare Alert strove to inform individuals of
the availability of Medicare benefits. The Adult Basic
Education project worked with adults lacking a good
education by encouraging them to become active in civic
and community life, as well as teaching them about
arithmetic, languages (many Indians lacked a basic
knowledge of English), homemaking skills, and other
subjects. Like Work Experience, Adult Basic Education
received its funding from the 0E0 but fell under the
aegis of the Department of Health, Education, and
Welfare. The Legal Services program, as the name
implied, provided legal assistance to the poor.24
24Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Affairs, 1965: A
Progress Report from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs
(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1966),
22; 0E0, The Quiet Revolution, 7, 31-32; Office of the
Vice President, The Vice President's Handbook for Local
Officials: A Guide to Federal Assistance for Local
Governments (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing

According to the 0E0, Indians stood out as one of
the first groups to set up Community Action Programs and
to avail themselves of government funding. By 1965, one
hundred tribes in twenty states had initiated Community
Action Programs and had received a total of $19,747,000
in grants; the largest grant$920,400went to the
nation's largest tribe, the Navajos. Two years later,
out of an estimated 380,000 reservation residents, CAPs
provided services to 304,000 members of 114 tribes at an
approximate cost of $21,845,947. The following year, OEO
spent $22,853,963 on Indian programs; combined with other
agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the
federal government spent $448,393,000 on Native Americans
in 1968. By 30 June of that year, over sixty Community
Action Agencies labored on behalf of 129 reservations
where eighty percent of all non-urban Indians lived. The
amount of money allocated per tribe varied from
relatively small amounts for sparsely-populated
reservations to fairly significant amounts for heavily
populated communitiessuch as the Navajo reservation,
home to one-forth of all reservation Indians. In
Office, 1967), 105.

addition, Indians not living on federal reservations
(such as sixty-five thousand in Oklahoma) could take
advantage of programs in their local areas. Generally,
the 0E0 funded up to ninety percent of a local CAP'S
cost, including money for development, training,
administration, and technical assistance. In some cases,
however, the office and its Indian Desk provided full
25Probably California's Mission Creek Reservation,
with only a few acres and fifteen Indian residents, stood
out as the country's smallest reservation. Vine Deloria
Jr., "This Country Was a Lot Better Off When the Indians
Were Running It," in Alvin M. Josephy Jr., Red Power:
The American Indians' Fight for Freedom (New York:
American Heritage Press, 1971), 248. Sar A. Levitan, The
Great Society's Poor Law: A New Approach to Poverty
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969), 266; "The Office
of Economic Opportunity Has Announced. .," A News
Summary of the War on Poverty, 15 January 1968, 4; 0E0,
The Quiet Revolution, 15; OEO, The Tide of Progress, 7-9,
33-34; Ladders of Opportunity: The Way Out of Poverty
Through Community Action (Washington, D.C.: Government
Printing Office, 1968), 29; Francis Paul Prucha, The
Great Father: The United States Government and the
American Indian, vol. II (Lincoln: University of
Nebraska Press, 1984), 1094-1095; Alan L. Sorkin,
American Indians and Federal Aid (Washington, D.C.: The
Brookings Institution, 1971), 166-167;. Wald, Law and
Poverty, 110-111; James J. Wilson, "OEO Indian Programs:
New Hope for Old Emma," Communities in Action, August-
September 1966, 25; Office of Economic Opportunity, The
First Step . on a Long Journey, vol. 1 (Washington,
D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1965), 59.

Midwestern and Eastern Indians
Whatever the amount, large numbers of Native
Americans throughout the country put the 0E0 to good use.
In Minnesota, the Chippewas at the James Lake Reservation
(a pseudonym given to the area in an anthropological
study) stood out as one of the first Indian nations to
learn of the 0E0 and to apply for a grant in the fall of
1964. Although the community did not get the full
$375,000 it requested, the Indians7 CAP, nevertheless,
included home improvement courses, clubs and
organizations for the young and the elderly, recreation
programs, supervised study halls, remedial reading
classes, guide training, guidance and referral services,
and day care centers. The project also created thirty-
three jobs.26
Other Chippewas took advantage of the opportunities
presented by the OEO as well. One community's CAP
components consisted of a Head Start preschool, a Nelson
Amendment project (in which older people, the chronically
26Gretel H. Pelto, "Chippewa People and Politics in a
Reservation Town," in Anishinabe: 6 Studies of Modern
Chippewa, ed. J. Anthony Paredes (Tallahassee:
University Presses of Florida, 1980), 280-281.

unemployed, and those physically unable to work gained
short-term employment through engaging in beautification
activities), and a Neighborhood Youth Corps. The
Indians' program also allowed for the hiring of a janitor
to clean the community hall. A third group of the
Minnesota Indians established a Neighborhood Youth Corps
which built two sets of bleachers used for an annual
powwow; after the celebration, the Corps members cleaned
up the area and repaired damage incurred during the
festivities. One Chippewa CAP set up a handicrafts
factory that ultimately expanded into a reservation-wide
crafts cooperative that produced high quality goods.27
The Fond Du Lac Reservation used 0E0 dollars to publish a
newspapercalled Found You and, later, Fond Du Lacand
to create a Senior Worker Action Program that served two
hundred elderly and disabled individuals.28
27Timothy Roufs, "Social Structure and Community
Development in a Chippewa Village," in Anishinabe: 6
Studies of Modern Chippewa, ed. J. Anthony Paredes
(Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1980), 208-
209, 213, 234; Michael A. Rynkiewich, "Chippewa Powwows,"
in Anishinabe: 6 Studies of Modern Chippewa
(Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1980), 81.
28American Indian and Alaskan Native Newspapers and
Periodicals, 1925-1970, vol. 2, ed. Daniel F. Littlefield
and James W. Parins (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986),

The White Earth Chippewas launched their CAPheaded
by a Chippewa college graduate and school teacherafter
receiving funding in April 1965. One of the program's
components involved social workers encouraging dropouts
to return to school. In an effort to decrease juvenile
delinquency caused by boredom, the Chippewas set up a
recreation program so that young persons could play
sports, go to dances and movies, and make arts and
crafts. Educational aspects of the CAP included Head
Start; a study hall directed by a mixed-blood Chippewa
woman which provided a school room and library for
children and adults; and remedial education classes
designed primarily to improve Chippewa reading ability
(which ranked, on average, three years behind that of
whites). The Indians hoped to expand the program to
include cultural enrichment, a credit union, training in
building skills and home management, beautification,
instruction to allow adults to complete high school or
the equivalent, and legal aid. In addition, as of July
140; 0E0, The Quiet Revolution, 50-51.

1966, the CAP had created 109 jobs held by Indians and
On Minnesota's Red Lake Chippewa Reservation, tribal
chairperson Roger Jourdain secured funding for a training
program in carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work, as
well as $500,000 to purchase "training materials" with
which the Native Americans constructed much-needed
housing. (In all, three Minnesota reservations
participated in this home-building project that provided
dwellings for forty-five families and trained ninety
Indians in construction.) At Red Lake, seven of thirty
trainees had earned their journeymen's cards by 1966 and
many others anticipated getting their cards the following
year. Also, the reservation had a Comprehensive Health
Services program which treated four thousand people in a
one-year period. Operated by the Red"Lake Community
Action Agency and the Public Health Service Community
Hospital, the OEO lauded the program as a prototype for
29Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 314-

addressing American Indian health care needs throughout
the country.30
Also, the residents of northwestern Minnesota's
White Earth, Red Lake, and Leech Lake Reservations
participated in the OEO's Rural-Minne Concentrated
(Community?) Employment Program (CEP). This CEP provided
enrollees with basic education as well as job training,
development, and location for the 223,000 people
(including seven thousand Indians) of northwestern
Minnesota. The OEO considered the Indians to be the
"hardest hit" of all the area's population because the
reservations afforded few jobs and since the Native
Americans' strong familial ties made them reluctant to
look for off-reservation work. Thus, by providing
training and job development locally, the CEP worked to
30,1 CAP Newsline: OEO Healthright, Communities in
Action, February-March 1968, 15; Philip S. Deloria, "The
Era of Indian Self-Determination: An Overview," in
Indian Self-Rule: First-Hand Accounts of Indian-White
Relations from Roosevelt to Reagan, ed. Kenneth R. Philip
(Salt Lake City: Howe Brothers, 1986), 198; Office of
Economic Opportunity, As the Seed Is Sown: Fourth Annual
Report (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office,
1968), 41; OEO, The Quiet Revolution, 51.

keep families together while trying to help alleviate
economic hardship.31
Many Minnesota reservations also benefitted from.the
presence of VISTA volunteers. On the Chippewas' White
Earth Reservation, VISTAs worked with the indigenous
population in a variety of fashions, including the
facilitation of community improvement and development;
providing vocational training; teaching courses in
remedial reading, home management, arts and crafts,
driver education, and Chippewa history; counseling;
assisting senior citizens; sponsoring and chaperoning
children's field trips; creating recreational activities;
serving as health aides; and establishing a day care
center as well as a study hall. On the Mille Lacs
Reservation, VISTAs worked with the Indians on community
development and counselling, along with the development
of a day care center and recreational activities.
Volunteers cooperated with the Fond du Lac Reservation's
leaders to provide programs involving home improvements;
the teaching of remedial reading and math as well as
31,,Training Jobs Are Targets of Minnesota Rural CEP,"
Rural Opportunities, October 1968, 7.

other adult education classes; youth clubs; sports and
recreation; field trips; activities for the elderly; day
care; and community works projects. The VISTAs' labors
on the Nett Lake Reservation included setting up a
preschool, recreational activities, counselling, and
teaching home economics. As for the Indian community of
Wicket (another anthropological pseudonym), four VISTA
workers (two of them persons of color) helped the tribe
to develop a Girl Scout program, initiated youth-oriented
activities, and, at a 1967 powwow, ran the money-making
games booths on behalf of the tribal council.32
The Chippewas' Wisconsin neighbors, the Menominees,
also seized the chance to improve their lives.
Admittedly, the tribewhich had the dubious distinction
of living in the poorest county in the statereceived
less than nine percent of the money it asked for. (This
stemmed from the high number of grant applications to the
0E0 and the agency's attempts to fund, at least
partially, every request.) Nevertheless, the Amerindians
took the $138,295 they did get to develop and run a
320E0, The First Step, vol. 2, 7, 11; Roufs, "Social
Structure and Community Development in a Chippewa
Village," 233-234; Rynkiewich, "Chippewa Powwows," 55.

Community Action Program. Among other things, the CAP
provided educational programs (including a Head Start
component), paid for six VISTA volunteers, created a
preschool day nursery, established a Neighborhood Youth
Corps, and helped build a labor union for mill and
highway project workers. Helen Schierbeck, a Lumbee
recipient of an 0E0 fellowship, reported that she helped
the Native Americans to set up their CAP. She also
visited with other Indian nations in the state and helped
the Menominees to secure a five thousand dollar grant to
develop a clean water system.33
The Native Americans in Wisconsin also participated
in the Wood County Community Action Organization's
thirteen-week tutorial classes for to Indian children.
Taught by forty student volunteers from Wisconsin State
University at Stevens Point, the CAO offered courses in
reading, spelling, math, Spanish, and other subjects. It
even transported both students and teachers to the
school, provided sewing classes for the parents, and made
Nicholas C. Peroff, Menominee Drums: Tribal
Termination and Restoration, 1954-1974 (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1982), 136-137; Bennett and
others, "Federal Indian Policy," 217-218.

available a small library of donated books. Participants
saw their grades significantly improve. One mother, for
example, reported her son went from a C average to
securing all As and Bs.34
Another Midwestern Indian people, the Potawatomis of
Hannahville, Michigan, worked with the Menominee-Delta-
Schoolcraft Community Action Agency to improve their
lives. In 1966, they succeeded in providing sixteen
homes with electricity. A true ,,community,, action, the
project involved the Indians and their leader Joseph
Sagataw, the 0E0, other CAAs, the Marquette Catholic
Diocese, the Alger-Delta Cooperative Electrical
Association, local merchants, and the BIA. The Diocese's
Bishop Thomas L. Noa donated the six thousand dollars
needed for the wiring. Another CAA procured the
materials required to wire the homes and got a
construction company to install the wiring free of
charge. Sagataw convinced his people to pay the five
dollar membership fee. At the same time, BIA field
representative Bill Bolin got the five mile right-of-way
34,,Volunteer Pupils, Tutors Make Wisconsin Program
Successful," Rural Opportunities, July 1968, 2.

for the power lines, while merchants donated electrical
appliances for the Indians. The project meant that
electrical lights replaced kerosene lamps, that
refrigerators could be used to insure better meals and
less housework, and that the Native Americans had access
to television and radio. Ray LaPorte, director of the
Menominee-Delta-Schoolcraft CAA, asserted that the
electrification showed the Indians "'that progress is
possible7" and that "'they can improve their way of
As a result of their initial success, the
Potawatomis undertook more projects. One of these, a
home improvement program financed by the 0E0 and BIA, saw
the construction of new roofs, foundations, siding, and
rooms. (For example, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wandehsega
built a three-room addition onto their homemuch needed,
considering that they had ten children.) The Indians
also built new homes and drilled water wells to provide a
convenient and safe water supply. In addition, two 35
35The quotation and some information on the
Potawatomis are derived from "Indian Families Discover
Hope Makes Difference," Rural Opportunities, February
1968, 5. See also "CAP Lights Up Christmas for
Hannahville," Rural Opportunities, February 1967, 7.

hundred children participated in a Head Start program in
which two Potawatomisa Mrs. Miguranali and Charlotte
Menenuphserved as aides. The community also endeavored
to establish a crafts cooperative.36
Also, two VISTAsRexann Maxwell and Bernadine
Brancoworked with the Potawatomis. The women set up a
four-night-a-week tutoring program for young people,
taught classes in homemaking and family life for adults,
conducted a "story-hour" for children, assisted in
initiating a 4-H club, andwith the help of the Mid-
Peninsula Libraryestablished a 250-book library. With
the cooperation of a local community college, the
volunteers hoped as well to find sufficient material to
be able to teach the Potawatomis about their history and
Further east, the Passamaquoddy of Maine also
endeavored to change their lives through the new
government office. Initially, a subagency of the
Washington County Community Action Agency, the Maine
36,1 CAP Lights Up Christmas for Hannahville," 7.
37"Indian Families Discover Hope Makes Difference,"

Natives eventually convinced the OEO to fund them
independently because standard, regulations proved
inapplicable and because of friction between the Indian
nation and Washington county. Unfortunately, the
difficulties did not end there. Because bickering
between the Passamaquoddy's CAP board and the tribal
councils over money and power paralyzed the CAP, many
Native Americans wanted the tribal councils to serve as
the CAP board of directors. The OEO, though, refused to
sanction this. However, once the joint tribal council
voted unanimously to reject a $100,000 federal grant and
once the OEO received numerous letters criticizing its
stance, the office agreed to the Passamaquoddy's demands
and the Native Americans got their $100,000. According
to Susan McCulloch Stevens, as a result of these events,
the OEO sanctioned the functioning of tribal councils as
Community Action Agencies on reservations throughout the
38Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 363;
Susan McCulloch Stevens, "Passamaquoddy Economic
Development in Cultural and Historical Perspective," in
American Indian Economic Development, ed. Sam Stanley
(The Hague: Morton Publishers, 1978), 333, 388-389.

Having addressed such problems, the Passamaquoddy
developed, under the leadership of John Stevens, a highly
successful Community Action Program. Components included
a basket cooperative, a Neighborhood Youth Corps, and
home improvement as well as new home building. The
projects also involved improving and providing water and
sewage services, Head Start, and legal services. The
latterknown as Indian Legal Services Unit of Pine Tree
Legal Assistance, Inc.helped insure the Indians' access
to federal programs, assisted in a land dispute, provided
council for numerous individual cases, and played a major
role in setting up the Eastern Seaboard Coalition of
Indians. In addition, the legal services program also
upheld Indian rights, clarified Native Americans' legal
status, employed Indians in its offices, and filed suits
against the state and federal government. In the words
of Susan M. Stevens (John Stevens's wife), the ILSUPTLA
"represent[ed] federal War on Poverty programs at their
best."39 Overall, the Indians' CAP received one of the
highest ratings of any CAP in the country. Also, the OEO
programs insured the Passamaquoddy "a measure of control
39Stevens, "Passamaquoddy Economic Development," 385.

over their own destiny for the first time in 200 years"
and made working on the reservation on behalf of the
nation "a real possibility for the first time in
centuries;" in fact, the CAP provided jobs for one-fourth
of the Passamaquoddy people on the Point Pleasant and
Indian Township reservations.40 The Indians'
accomplishments inspired them to lobby the Maine
legislature to secure the passage of needed legislation,
and motivated them to force the state's Catholic Church
to create an Indian Services Division.
Pacific Coast Indians
Thousands of miles to the west, the one thousand
American Indians on the Fort Yuma Reservation in
California brought OEO programs into their community,
too. One project involved Mself-help" housing, whereby
families could acquire new cinder-brick homes if they
aided in the buildings' construction and made a minimal
monthly payment. Another plan called for creating a
water and sanitation system to provide running water and
indoor bathrooms for those able to pay a monthly water
Quotations taken from Stevens, "Passamaquoddy
Economic Development," 322, 349; also see pages 352, 361,

bill. The Neighborhood Youth Corps gave part-time jobs
to youths needing money to pay for their education. Fort
Yuma's CAP also included vocational training, improving
public health, bettering education and reservation
planning, and building a recreational facility. In 1968,
the Quechan Indians at Fort Yuma secured a $168,576 grant
so that the reservation could continue its programs.41
Other Pacific Coast Indians availed themselves of
the OEO as well. Because of a $53,940 grant, Native
American and Hispanic migrant workers in Washington's
Whatcom and Skagit counties benefitted from a foster home
day care program that proved day care, health care, and
educational services. The Muckleshoot Tribal Council in
Auburn (King County), Washington, used its $24,146 grant
to launch a Head Start program. The six hundred Native
Americans on the Quinault Reservation at Taholah,
Washington, spent their $79,742 in OEO money to set up an
educational counseling program designed to identify the
academic needs of children grades one through twelve.
41Robert L. Bee, "Tribal Leadership in the War on
Poverty: A Case Study," Social Science Quarterly 50
(1969/1970): 679-680; "Dr. Thomas A. Billings. . .," A
News Summary of the War on Poverty, 22 April 1968, 1-2.

The Indians' CAA also provided remedial education for
children as well as adults, vocational guidance and
training, counselling, health programs, and a
Neighborhood Youth Corps. At Neah Bay on Puget Sound,
the Makahs derived significant benefits from a
Neighborhood Youth Corps and Head Start classes,
according to the tribe's 0E0 director Sandra Johnson.
She went on to say that the programs' success had
encouraged her nation to seek funding for projects
involving adult education and "business consultation.1,42
The residents of Washington's Yakima Indian
Reservation attacked a school dropout rate of seventy to
seventy four percent by establishing a summer remedial
education program, the Yakima Education Camp. After six
weeks of study funded by the 0E0, participants had made
gains in English, mathematics, and reading equivalent of
fifteen months of regular schooling. In addition, the *
42,,A Multi-Component Program. .," A News Summary of
the War on Poverty, 1 May 1967, 4; "A Foster Home Day
Care. .," A News Summary of the War on Poverty, 2
October 1967, 6; "The Office of Economic Opportunity Has
Announced. .,"15 January 1968, 4; Steiner, The New
Indians, 209.

Yakima Reservation's CAP provided remedial education
courses for adults.43
In northwestern Washington state, the Lummi secured
a forty thousand dollar 0E0 grant in 1966. According to
Vine Deloria Jr., the money made possible the first full-
time salaried job in the reservation's history. After
navigating a bureaucratic maze, the Indians combined the
grant with money from other agencies to fund the
construction of new houses, a research pond, fish and
oyster hatcheries, a sea pond, and other projects.44
Further north, Alaskan NativesEskimos, Aleuts, and
Indianssecured an 0E0 Research and Pilot Project grant
to form the Alaska Village Electrical Cooperative, Inc.
(AVEC). AVEC, under the presidency of Eskimo William
Hensley, labored to supply electricity to thousands of
remote villagers over a three year period using six
million dollars in government funding. The Cooperative's
membership consisted entirely of residents in areas
*3OEO, The Tide of Progress, 35.
44Vine Deloria Jr., "The Lummi Indian Community: The
Fishermen of the Pacific Northwest," in American Indian
Economic Development, ed. Sam Stanley (The Hague: Morton
Publishers, 1978), 125-135.

slated to receive electricity. The 0E0 provided "seed"
money for central administration, technical assistance,
developing the program, and providing organization and
education for the villagers, while the Rural
Electrification loan program paid for the electrical
systems' construction. Twenty Native Alaskan members of
AVEC, in March 1968, began their training as generator
operators since the plan envisioned the villages
operating their own generators. By December 1968, Hooper
Bay became the first of the villages to become
electrified, the power being turned on by the same switch
and at the same moment Lyndon Johnson lighted the
national Christmas tree in Washington. As a result of
efforts by AVEC and the community (the latter did most of
the wiring), all of the hamlet's houses, two churches, a
mission house, a store, and an elementary school had
electricity. The project allowed for the keeping of
fish, walrus, seal, and vegetables year-round instead of
just in certain seasons, thereby improving the Native
Alaskans' diet. In addition, AVEC and the 0E0 hoped that
electrification would pave the way for economic

development activities such as native crafts, lumber
production, sawmills, tanning, fur sewing, and fishing.4S
Also, Native Alaskans hosted several VISTAs. Often,
the volunteers, to better identify with the people they
wished to assist, fished and partook of the local
cuisinefish, eel, reindeer, caribou, and game birds.
(Such activity, though, at least in part, may have
reflected a paucity of other types of food.)* 46 Having
achieved a better understanding of how Alaskan Eskimos,
Aleuts, and Indians lived, the Volunteers in Service to
America worked with the indigenous peoples to establish
libraries, health services, and educational projects
including Head Start. The 0E0 reported in 1968 that
VISTAs had initiated seventy percent of all preschool
programs in Alaskan Native villages. That same year, two
45,1 Alaska Villages to Get Electric Power," Rural
Opportunities, March 1968, 7; "Sixty-Seven Remote Alaskan
Villages. .," A News Summary of the War on Poverty, 26
February 1968, 1; "President Lights Alaskan Village
Tree," Rural Opportunities, January 1969, 2.
46Such activities probably also helped the native
population to feel comfortable with the VISTAs.
Sometimes, the Indians proved to be leery of the
volunteers, at least initially. One woman serving in a
North Carolina Cherokee community reported that it
required almost six months before the Native Americans
came to trust her. See 0E0, The Quiet Revolution, 23.

thousand children attended Head Start classes, and the
aboriginal population benefitted from thirty-five
separate programs. These included recreational
activities for people of all agesan idea that stemmed
from the fact that, for many years, greeting the mail
plane had served as the primary source of
Southern Indians
In the warmer climate of Mississippi, the Choctaws
reaped rewards from the availability of OEO funds. The
Indiansninety percent of whom lived below the poverty
linereceived fifteen thousand dollars to create a
poverty-reduction plan. The money also funded a CAP
headed by former tribal chairperson Phillip Martin.
Martin proved a capable leader; he secured the money and
resources necessary to provide one-half of the tribe with
brick houses, complete with indoor plumbing. The
Choctaws could also take advantage of a legal aid program
47"VISTA Volunteers are resonsible. .," A News
Summary of the War on Poverty, 4 November 1968, 4; VISTA
Serves, 34-35.

run by an attorney operating out of Philadelphia,
Mississippi and underwritten by $30,986 from the 0E0.48
In LBJ's home state of Texas, the Tiguas benefitted
from their involvement with El Paso's Community Action
Program, Project Bravo. Project director Fred Smith
labored to secure state and federal recognition for the
tribe. Project Bravo also helped forty-six year old
Guillermo (Willie) Granillowho supported his two
sisters and their four children through picking cotton
to gain admittance to Thomas General Hospital where he
underwent corrective surgery for a congenital hernia.
The CAP secured a job for Granillo as a porter at a
veterans' hospital as well, but he turned it down because
he felt uncomfortable working so far away from his
family. Another member of the tribe, Dora Sedillo (a
mother in her early twenties) served as a volunteer in
Project Bravo's barrio program in Ysleta, home to many
impoverished Tiguas and Hispanics. Described as smart
and enthusiastic, she took adult education courses and
48,113 New Programs Funded Under Section 205," Law in
Action, July 1967, 12; Robert H. White, Tribal Assets:
The Rebirth of Native America (New York: Henry Holt and
Company, 1990), 76-77.

became the first Texas Tigua to finish a GED program and
to receive her high school equivalency certificate. The
young mother then continued her education by enrolling in
night classes as a sociology student at Texas Western
University (later the University of Texas at El Paso).
El Paso's CAP also provided many of the Tiguas with
access to education, job training, and medical care. In
addition, as of mid-1968, Project Bravo started working
with the Indians as well as with El Paso county to
convert land that recently came under tribal control into
a park that the Tiguas would build and where they could
sell their handicrafts. Road construction (to facilitate
access to the area) and maintenance of the park and its
facilities promised to provide additional employment for
the Indians.49
In neighboring Oklahoma, Native Americans actively
made the most of the new government-sponsored
opportunities. The Osages' tribal council in Powhuska
set up a Neighborhood Youth Corps that successfully
encouraged about forty percent of its participants who
49Betty MacNabb, "The Forgotten Tiguas," Communities
in Action, June-July 1968, 15-16.

had left school to return. Attorney Marvin Liddell, a
former boxing champion and one-half Chickasaw, provided
legal assistance to the people of Delaware and Adair
countieswhere Indians constituted about forty percent
of the population and over sixty percent of the residents
lived in poverty. To improve the chances that those
needing legal aid could get it, Liddell regularly
traveled throughout the counties, stopping at general
stores, post offices, and schools. He also assisted
people with nonlegal problems by putting them in touch
with appropriate governmental agencies. Ruth Duncan,
part Cherokee, served as Liddell's interpreter,
secretary, and driver.50
The Cherokees of Delaware county could also benefit
from a driver training program sponsored by the Delaware
County Community Action Foundation and paid for with
$19,800 in OEO funds. Because of a language barrier,
many Cherokees operated motor vehicles without licenses
and without adequate knowledge of basic driving rules.
Thus, the Delaware county CAA arranged for bilingual
S0Legal Services in Action: The Poor Seek Justice
(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1967), 12; OEO,
A Nation Aroused, 35.

Cherokees to translate the driver's manual and to teach
driver education courses to three hundred Native
Americans. The CAA had initially intended the program to
last five months. It proved so successful, however, that
the courses continued and the Indian instructors
translated the driver's test into the Cherokee tongue.
As a result of the project, the number of Cherokees cited
for driving violations decreased, and the Indians became
more mobile. This, in turn, facilitated the finding and
keeping of jobs. Jim Pendergraft, the director of the
driver education program, stated that the Indians who
took the course gained confidence and that
[m]any, for the first time in their lives, feel
as if they are members of the community and not
simply isolated in the hills.51
The CAA's efforts had the cooperation and support of car
dealers, who provided training vehicles; of the local
school board, which provided classrooms and additional
automobiles; and of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, which
provided educational material and helped with any special
51The quotation and information on this driver
education program appeared in "Cherokee Driving Dilemma
Solved," Rural Opportunities, September 1968, 5.

Many Oklahoma Indian children participated in the
Sequoya Foster Grandparent program. Funded by $300,000
from the OEO and serving eleven counties, the program
matched elderly volunteers with disadvantaged boys and
girlsmany of them Native Americans who had spent most
of their lives in institutions and who commonly suffered
from such problems as speech impediments and social
withdrawal. The foster grandparents, however, "turned
out to be the best medicine needed."52 The elders
provided tutoring or worked to instill the children with
confidence or just made them feel loved. At the same
time, the young people reciprocated by providing the
elders with love and a sense of purpose. Sixty-nine-
year-old foster grandmother Minnie Talley said that some
Native American children proved to be shy initially, but
she added that "'when they do accept you, you can have no
better friends.'1,53
Often, OEO funding for Oklahoma's Amerindian
antipoverty efforts went to Oklahomans for Indian
"Oklahoma Foster Grandparents a Success," Rural
Opportunities, June 1968, 6.
"Oklahoma Foster Grandparents a Success," 6.

Opportunity (010)a coalition of Indians and non-Indians
founded on 7 August 1965. With a $240,733 0E0 grant, the
010 undertook a wide variety of tasks. The group's
projects included community improvement, job training,
remedial education, setting up youth programs, and buying
books on Native American history and culture for
dissemination to public schools. Under the presidency of
Comanche Indian LaDonna Harris, the 010 provided
counseling on such topics as careers, schooling, and
social adjustment.54 In addition, young people received
guidance on securing and keeping a job; the elderly
received coaxing to participate in community activities;
and Indians who had migrated to urban areas received
assistance in adjusting to their new environment. In the
words of Look reporter Charles Mangel, "The aid list goes
on and on."55
In addition, Harris assisted the Kickapoos near
Norman, Oklahoma, to develop Head Start classes, training
54LaDonna Harris's husband, Fred Harris, served
during the 1960s as a Democratic Senator from Oklahoma.
55Angie Debo, A History of the Indians of the United
States (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970),
345; Mangel, "Warpaint for the Senator's Wife," 29.

programs for adults, and a Neighborhood Youth Corps as
well as other youth programs geared toward high school
dropouts. With justifiable pride, she asserted that the
Indians' Head Start programs stood out as "some of the
best in the country."56 Throughout her work, Harriswho
later served as the chairperson of the Women's Advisory
Council on Poverty and as a member of the National
Council on Indian Opportunityencouraged Native
Americans to stop thinking of themselves as inferior. At
the same time, she challenged the image whites commonly
had of Native Americans as dishonest, unwilling to work,
alcoholic, and incapable of being productive citizens.
She saw these mindsets as the greatest obstacles in the
path out of poverty.57
Plains and Intermountain Indians
Many Amerindians lived in the intermountain West and
Great Plains states, and they, by no means, remained
56Alfonso Ortiz and others, "The War on Poverty," in
Indian Self-Rule: First-Hand Accounts of Indian-White
Relations from Roosevelt to Reagan, ed. Kenneth R. Philip
(Salt Lake City: Howe Brothers, 1986), 223.
57Mangel, "Warpaint for the Senator's Wife," 27;
"Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. .," A News Summary
of the War on Poverty, 20 May 1968, 2.

aloof from the new opportunities. In Idaho, the Nez
Perce spent $84,235 to fund enrichment programs for both
young people and adults, a nursery school, and a
kindergarten. The youth program provided after-school
and Saturday recreational activities, while the adult
enrichment project consisted of evening classes in family
living, handicrafts, physical fitness, and Indian
language and culture. The Walker River Paiutes of Nevada
used their $11,954 0E0 grant to improve housing and
sanitation with the assistance of the Public Housing
Administration, the Public Health Service, and the Bureau
of Indian Affairs.58
The Utes also involved themselves in 0E0 programs.
Residents of Utah's Fort Duchesne used a $30,224 grant to
operate a Head Start preschool that had 150 students by
late 1968. In addition, scholar Joseph G. Jorgensen
estimated that the OEO and Community Action Programs
provided twenty-three percent of all jobs held by
Northern Utes. The Southern Utes' CAP, according to
Southern Ute CAP Director Frances Richards, had set up
580E0, The First Step, vol. 1, 59; The Office of
Economic Opportunity Has Announced. .," A News Summary
of the War on Poverty, 2 December 1968, 4.

summer Head Start classes in 1966 that benefitted sixty
children and endeavored to involve parents as heavily as
possible in OEO-backed programs. Also, a native of
Ignacio (on the Southern Ute Reservation in Colorado)
secured a loan from the OEO and another government agency
that allowed him to open a shoe repair store. Through a
special arrangement, Knotts Berry Farm in California
promised to sell any boots or saddles he made. Plans
called as well for getting money from the Small Business
Administration so that the Ignacian could hire three
In Arizona, the Chemehusvi, Mohave, Hopi, and Navajo
Indians on the Colorado River Reservation had a CAP
consisting of community development, a Head Start
preschool, and a Neighborhood Youth Corps. Another
group, the Pascua Yaqui Indian Association (successor of
the Committee for Economic Opportunity, Inc., of Tucson),
59Joseph G. Jorgensen, "Indians and the Metropolis,"
in The American Indian in Urban Society, ed. Jack 0.
Waddell and 0. Michael Watson (Boston: Little, Brown,
and Company, 1971), 106-108; Lois S. McVey, "Joint ICAP-
NYC OEO Conference" TD, 27 September 1966, box 33/17/5:4,
file folder 905.3, National Archives-Rocky Mountain
Region, Denver Federal Records Center, Denver; "Cobbler
Corners Capitalism," Rural Opportunities, August 1967, 3.

received $124,554 from the 0E0. This money went
primarily to fund a "self-help housing system" and the
building of a new town. Consisting of 252 families, the
Yaquis' association had already finished twenty adobe
homes by September 1968, and the Amerindians anticipated
the completion of another seventy-five by year's end.60
In another part of the state, the Papago tribal
council established its own 0E0, as well as a Community
Action Program on its reservation (a reservation shared
with the National Observatory at Kitt Peak Summit). Tom
Segundo, a former Papago tribal chairperson, left his
studies at the University of Chicago to return and serve
as the CAP'S director. Consistent with Segundo's
frequent village visits to deal with his people at the
grass-root level, the community first conducted an
educational survey, with the assistance of Arizona State
University, to assess the reservation's needs. The
Papagos then utilized federal dollars to create English
language programs, adult education classes (including
60Bertha P. Dutton, Indians of the American Southwest
(Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,
1975), 172; "The Pascua Yaqui Indian Association. .," A
News Summary of the War on Poverty, 3 September 1968, 6.

instruction on parenting), two preschools (with
approximately twenty-five students in each), Head Start
courses (which began in 1965 with 312 students and fifty-
two employees), a Neighborhood Youth Corps, a cultural
and community development program, and vocational
training courses. In addition, two Community Parent-
Child Centers proved extremely popular because they
provided "precisely what was wanted by the Papago women"
access to sewing machines needed to make clothing.61
Also, two VISTA volunteers tutored; as of mid-1966, the
VISTAs had aided three individuals in obtaining their
high school equivalency diplomas, while a fourth student
had entered college. These Amerindians also benefitted
from a legal services program set up by two lawyers using
$47,128 in 0E0 money.62
61Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 130.
62Dutton, Indians of the American Southwest, 224,
231; Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 115-
117, 128-143; Henry F. Manuel, Juliann Ramon, and Bernard
L. Fontana, "Dressing for the Window: Papago Indians and
Economic Development," in American Indian Economic
Development, ed. Sam Stanley (The Hague: Mouton
Publishers, 1978), 543, 546; "On Indian Reservations,"
Communities in Action, 1965, 5; "21 Programs Funded Under
Section 205," Law in Action, June 1967, 11.

A report by Human Sciences Research said that the
Papago CAP enjoyed significant support. Several parents,
for example, praised OEO-backed educational programs for
helping their children to learn English, while one woman
credited the parent-child centers with helping her learn
to sew. Many Papagos also supported the Neighborhood
Youth Corps. They reported that it gave young people the
opportunity to earn needed money and helped to keep
families together, since the NYC-generated employment
opportunities on the reservation meant that fewer people
had to leave home to work in the cotton fields.63
The Papagos derived other benefits from the federal
programs as well. According to Henry Manual, Juliann
Ramon, and Bernard Fontana, the influx of 0E0 funding and
programs strengthened the Indians to the point where the
BIA could no longer unilaterally impose its will on the
Native Americans. Instead, the tribal council gained a
greater leeway to accept or reject proposals, regardless
of the BIA's position. The fact that Papagos
increasingly took over services once administered by the
Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 115-
117, 128-143.

BIA reflected this shift in power as well. These authors
also pointed out that the activities of several federal
agencies produced, in a one-year period, an influx of
$3,745,780, of which $2,680,197 came into Papago hands.
(The remainder probably paid non-Papagos working on the
reservation). Manual and his colleagues postulated that
the OEO programs, in combination with income from mineral
leases and an expanding tribal bureaucracy, succeeded in
reducing, at least somewhat, the number of Indians on
public assistance. These factors also increased the
Indians7 level of education and willingness (and ability)
to enter the labor force at the same time that federal
spending had increased the opportunities for on-
reservation employment.64
The Papagos7 neighbors, the Pimas (Pimans?) of
Arizona's Gila River Reservation, crafted a plan designed
to foster economic, social, and political development
known as "Vhthawhupeaju," meaning "It must happen" or "It
will happen." This plan incorporated a CAP and consisted
of fifty-one projects that, after an initial eighteen
64Manuel, Ramon, and Fontana, "Dressing for the
Window," 534-535, 537-539, 542-543, 546, 550.

month period, came under full Indian control. The plan's
components included a Head Start preschool, a day care
center, adult education classes, counselling, an alcohol
prevention and treatment program, health aides, community
improvements, a Neighborhood Youth Corps, improving water
and sanitation systems, and making agricultural loans
readily available. The tribe also received assistance
from several VISTA volunteersincluding Wilease Field,
one of the first black VISTA volunteers to serve on an
Indian reservation. She helped organize preschool
classes and clubs for teenagers.65 In addition, the CAP
involved the construction of "mutual self-help houses,"
whereby the Pimas built new houses and renovated older
residences (a process that often included the addition of
indoor bathrooms). Between 1966 and 1967, the project
resulted in the building of eighty-five homes. The Gila
River residents also improved their reservation's
administration and government by reviewing the
community's constitution, creating a list of all tribal
6BWhen queried regarding her feelings about being one
of the first African-Americans to serve in a Native
American community, she responded, "'Just like the rest
of the Indiansonly a little darker.'" See VISTA
Serves, 33-34.

members, codifying the Indian nation's laws, developing a
legal code, and reviewing the reservation's
organizational structure. In addition, through the
establishment of cooperatives, leasing land to industry
through newly-created industrial parks, and other
activities, the Pimas created 350 new jobs and increased
their income by over one million dollars.66
The Apachesperhaps best-known for their long
struggle against the United States under the leadership
of such adept leaders as Cochise and Geronimohad, by
the 1960s, been confined for generations to the San
Carlos, Fort Apache, and White Mountain Reservations in
Arizona and New Mexico. With the help of OEO funding,
though, all three established Head Start programs.
Indians on these reservations also benefitted from adult
education and vocational training. In addition, the
Indian Desk helped to underwrite, for a time, the Apache
Drumbeat newspaper. By 1967, White Mountain Apache
Ronnie Lupe reported that progress had been made toward
eradicating poverty in Arizona. In addition, some
66Dutton, Indians of the American Southwest, 218-219;
OEO, Ladders of Opportunity, 29; OEO, The Tide of

historians have concluded thatpartially as a result of
participation in 0E0 programsincreasing numbers of
Apaches stayed in school through the university level and
that Native Americans came, by the late 1970s, to occupy
every civil service position at San Carlos and Fort
In the latter reservation, a group of Apache women,
with the help of VISTA volunteer Judy Barkan, formed an
association to market their beadwork and other
handicrafts. By marketing the pins, barrettes, bottle
caps, necklaces, ties, wallets, cradle boards, belts,
dolls, and other items themselves, the women did not have
to sell their work to local trading posts, which
subsequently marked up the price. Hence, the
associationand therefore the communityreceived a
greater share of the income from the Indians' work.68
67Dutton, Indians of the Southwest, 133; American
Indian and Alaskan Native Newspapers and Periodicals,
vol. 2, 43; "President's National Rural Commission
Hearings Mirror Rural Poverty," Rural Opportunities,
March 1967, 2; Donald E. Worcester, The Apaches: Eagles
of the Southwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,
1979), 348.
68"Helping the Apaches Help Themselves," Good
Housekeeping, January 1969, 176.

In addition, San Carlos boasted a Job Corps Center
run in part by Bud Fowler. In many cases, Job Corps had
difficulty recruiting Indians because of strong familial
and community ties. Locating the center on San Carlos,
however, allowed the Amerindians to become involved in
the program without having to break such bonds. The Job
Corps also reached out to the community's five thousand
members through Burnette Cassa, whose Apache heritage and
ability to speak the Apache language helped significantly
to break down the Native Americans' longand
understandablemistrust of outsiders. Cassa also kept
in close contact with Indians at the center, as well as
with the enrollees' parents. Initially, Native Americans
who entered the program individually tended to be
extremely shy and reluctant to intermingle with other
participants. Consequently, the San Carlos center
brought the Amerindians in as part of a group of three or
more, which facilitated their adjustment to a new
environment. Ultimately, the Apaches began to interact
with the non-Indians comrades.69
69,1 San Carlos Reaching Apaches Through Program on
Reservation," Job Corps Staff Newsletter, 15 April 1967,

In neighboring New Mexico, the Santo Domingo Pueblo
began a CAP in 1965. It included a vocational program
which trained and secured jobs for the chronically
unemployed and individuals over forty years old in such
fields as sanitation, housing improvement, carpentry,
construction, pest control, soil study and conservation,
road and street maintenance, janitorial services, and law
enforcement. The Santo Domingo residents also took
classes about seeds and insecticides, marketing
procedures, nutrition, preparing farm products, maternal
and infant health, and child care. The Indians hoped
later to include classes in sewing, weaving, embroidery,
leather craft, basketry, beadwork, pottery, reading,
writing, and business. Santo Domingo residents could
also take basic education classes through which parents
and children alike learned to read and write English.
Another Pueblo reservation set up a legal aid program
(with the agreement that the 0E0 would not file any suits
against the reservation) .7 7
7O0E0, The First Step, vol. 1, 58-59; 0E0, Legal
Services in Action, 11-12; 0E0, As the Seed Is Sown, 42;
0E0, The Quiet Revolution, 50; James S. Olson and Raymond
Wilson, Native Americans in the Twentieth Century
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 198.

After some initial difficulty getting OEO approval,
the Santa Clara Pueblo of New Mexico launched a CAP that
provided training for police and rangers, year-round Head
Start, and a Neighborhood Youth Corps. Participants in
the latter built a community center (used to house Head
Start classes); repaired fences in an area slated to
become a tourist attraction; improved trails and
campgrounds; renovated an old building; tore down an
unusable dwelling; and secured employment (temporary as
well as permanent) in various off-reservation museums,
schools, and companies. With overwhelming support from
the community, the Head Start program taught the children
to speak English as well as their native tongue, to
conquer their shyness and interact with others, and to be
better prepared for future schooling. The training
program for police and game wardens, which lasted for two
months in 1965, produced ten graduates who all became
deputy sheriffs on the reservation. One of these later
became a full-fledged sheriff; another became the Santa
Clara CAP'S community director; and two more ultimately
served as rangers responsible for managing the

reservation's cliff dwellings and canyon area, as well as
for the supervision of tourists and campers.71
The success of Santa Clara's CAP, especially the
Head Start classes, inspired several other northern
Pueblo communitiesTaos, Picuris, Nambe, Pojoaque, San
Ildefonso, San Juan, and Tesuqueto join with Santa
Clara to form the Northern Pueblo Community Action
Program (NPCAP) in 1966. The NPCAP's activities that
year included summer Head Start classes that served two
hundred children. The eight northern Pueblos also used
0E0 help to start an adobe brick factory and to train one
hundred Native Americans in silversmithing. Professor
Alfonso Ortiz described the brick factory as "thriving,"
"always behind in orders," and "another positive benefit
of the 0E0," while pointing out that the development of
silversmith skills allowed for the tribe to generate a
significant portion of its income by crafting silver
jewelry. Ortiz added that
71Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 247-
250, 257-259.

All of this happened because of the training
they [the Indians] got under the 0E0
A neighboring New Mexico tribe, the Zunis, received
0E0 money in 1968 to publish the Zuni Carrier. The
newspaper kept reservation residents updated on local
events as well as on the activities of their Community
Action Program, legal aid project, and local youth group.
The Amerindians also utilized 0E0 dollars to gather,
recqrd, and publish a book of their oral literature.73
On the Rye Meadow Reservation (a pseudonym probably
designating a Shoshoni or Paiute community in Nevada),
the Community Action Program included Head Start classes,
a Neighborhood Youth Corps, health and sanitation
improvements, construction of a well water system, job
training and placement, self-help housing,
electrification, refurbishment and remodeling of
community buildings, and adult literacy courses. The
720rtiz's quotation taken from Ortiz and others, "The
War on Poverty," 222; Jenny and others, A Comprehensive
Evaluation, 251-252; McVey, "Joint ICAP-NYC 0E0
Conference," 4.
73American Indian and Alaskan Native Newspapers and
Periodicals, vol. 2, 477; The Zunis: Self-Portrayals,
trans. Alvina Quam (Albuquerque: University of New
Mexico Press, 1972), v.

community also worked to develop the economy and improve
the tribe's public relations. The Inter-Tribal Council
(ITC)a nonprofit organization formed early in 1964 with
an executive director who received a salary paid by the
0E0strove to improve Rye Meadow's sanitation through
the addition of sixty-five new lavatories, the screening
of homes, the repair of hand pumps and wells, and a
general cleanup of the reservation. (The community's
Neighborhood Youth Corps aided in the cleanup.) In an
effort to improve sanitation, the ITC worked with the
Public Health Service to create a community-owned water
system that would provide running water to individuals
who paid a small fee. Also, the tribe installed a
telephone line which allowed reservation residents to
acquire telephones for the first time.74
In addition, the ITC helped set up a program to
promote job training and placementthe Work Training and
Experience programthat lasted from July 1965 to June
1969. Through the program, Indians learned skills
74Ruth Edna Meserve Houghton, "Adaptive Strategies in
an American Indian Community: The War on Poverty, 1965-
1971" (Ph.D. diss., University of Oregon, 1973), 87-89,
92-94, 96-97.

related to home management, agriculture (farming and
ranching), carpentry, plumbing, automobile mechanics,
butchering, and working with heavy machinery. The
courses intended for women included secretarial skills,
homemaking, and arts and crafts. The Amerindians could
take courses in English and mathematics as well, in order
to achieve their high school equivalency certificate.
Also, some participants repaired or wired homes for
electricity, repaired ditches, rebuilt an irrigation dam,
and constructed a community center.75
Further north, Indians participated actively in 0E0-
funded activities. Presumably to raise money, Montana's
Blackfeet worked with the Blackfeet Indian VISTA
Associate Program and the University of Colorado to
publish a cookbook of Native American dishes (such as
fried Indian bread and cowboy mustard). The book also
included a short history of the Plains Indians and
instructions on making a tepee as well as doing beadwork
75Houghton, "Adaptive Strategies in an American
Indian Community," 95; Ruth M. Houghton, "Reservation
Politics and 0E0 Community Development, 1965-1971," in
Native American Politics: Power Relations in the Western
Great Basin Today, ed. Ruth M. Houghton (Reno:
University of Nevada, 1973), 44. The latter article is
an abridged version of Houghton's dissertation.

on buckskin. Perhaps more important, the nation strove
for economic development through the building of a sixty-
seven acre industrial park and an airport.76
In Montana, the Rocky Boy Reservation's nine hundred
Chippewas and Crees also availed themselves of 0E0 aid.
A group of women, after taking a brief training course in
leather work conducted by two Native American women and
Elinor Clack (the home economist for the Hill County
Extension Service), formed a cooperativethe Chippewa-
Cree Crafts Guild. The guild's first contract called for
the production of 1,150 sets of beaded purses, bracelets,
pins, and earrings for the Saint Labre Mission. After
four months of work, the Indians had filled the order and
made six thousand dollars. By mid-1967, the guild had
provided quill work for a California customer, made
beaded ties for a New York company, provided handicrafts
for several tourist shops, started developing a mail-
order business, and crafted 475 dozen pairs of earrings
for the Guild Arts and Crafts of Farmington, New York and
Ashland, Montana. Along with the cooperative, eighteen
76,,Earl Old Person. .", A News Summary of the War
on Poverty, 16 September 1968, 6; "Footnotes," VISTA
Volunteer, December 1968, 22-23.

women received training and employment for making dolls
and quilts. The reservation also had a Neighborhood
Youth Corps whose members, along with other non-members,
took classes in job skills, money management, health
care, sanitation, nutrition, and personal hygiene.77
Another Montana tribe, the Crow, had the distinction
of hosting the oldest VISTA volunteer, eighty-six-year-
old Edgar Slater of Brentwood, Missouri. He used his
industrial and engineering skills to teach the Indians
about reading blueprints, construction, and manual arts.
As a result, at least two Crow Indians started building
their own homes by mid-1967, while three or four more
individuals had begun planning and designing for their
houses. After addressing the housing problem (which
Slater saw as the Crow's most significant difficulty),
the VISTA worker hoped to set up a sewing service which
he envisioned growing into a small industry. In
addition, the Missourian wanted to teach courses in
77Bryan Phifer, "Extension Services Low-Income Work,"
Rural Opportunities, May 1967, 6.

English, mathematics, and other subjects that would open
the doors to employment opportunities.78
In the Dakotas, eight reservations used $300,000 in
0E0 money to set up summer youth programs to benefit
thirteen thousand children and employ 470 adults. The
people of the Cheyenne River area set up a legal services
program. On the Sioux's Standing Rock Reservation (which
straddled the North and South Dakota border), the tribal
council used $254,697 from the OEO to provide for
community and manpower development, neighborhood centers,
and home improvement. The nation also hired a manpower
specialist to formalize the training for CAP employees
and other residents. The neighborhood centers provided
adult education, assistance in finding work, social
services, county welfare, county home extension, and
public health. Utilizing a $600,000 grant, the tribe set
up a ranch management program that included a model
cattle ranch run by thirty to fifty Sioux, Head Start
classes that reached even into remote areas, an old age
project designed to encourage elder leaders to become
involved in community development, and classes about
78VISTA Serves, 34.

tribal politics. These projects provided jobs for one
hundred Native Americans. Those who did not find
employment through the CAP could spend time reading some
of the ten tons of books donated to the reservation
through VISTA's efforts.79
On North Dakota's Turtle Mountain Chippewa
Reservation, the CAP came to be dominated by the
director, even though the tribal council enjoyed the
status as the program's "'legal governing body.'"
Nevertheless, the Community Action Program provided
employment for unskilled Indians, preschool classes,
recreational activities designed to reduce juvenile
delinguency, counseling, a remedial reading program, and
special education classes for brain-damaged children. As
part of the CAP, the Chippewas also initiated a job
training program and a home repair project designed to
weatherproof residences. The Turtle Mountain residents
(many of them mixed-bloods) wanted to establish a youth
79"Briefs," Rural Opportunities, May 1967, 8; Legal
Services in Action, 11-12; "The Continuation. .," A
News Summary of the War on Poverty, 2 January 1967, 4;
"The Continuation of Needed Programs. .," A News
Summary of the War on Poverty, 28 August 1967, 6;
Steiner, The New Indians, 209.

services center, a credit union, a study hall, and a
garden and small fruit production industry. The people
also hoped to provide training in home economics as well
as manual arts and to improve transportation.80
In South Dakota, the ten thousand Oglala Sioux on
the Pine Ridge Reservation put 0E0 dollars to a variety
of uses. For example, they established a Ranger Corps to
deal with such issues as communication with remote areas;
fire detection and control; management of fisheries,
game, and caves; selling hunting licenses to non-Indians
to raise money for conservation efforts; and shelterbelt
planning. These individuals also set up a powwow singing
group and dealt with the control of water pollution and
rattlesnakes; search and rescue needs; first aid and
safety; tourism; and recreation. The Rangers traveled
throughout the reservation by car, boat, or horseback to
provide the Sioux with transportation and needed
assistance. The 1966 0E0 report even credited them with
saving several lives during a severe blizzard. In
addition, one man, through his participation with the 8
8Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 280-
283; OEO, The Quiet Revolution, 50.

Rangers, entered a training program put on by a Black
Hills company that agreed to hire him and ten other Pine
Ridge residents.81
The Pine Ridge Sioux's CAP had other components as
well. These included adult education classes for men;
homemaking classes on the prudent use of clothing and
commodities, repairing furniture, managing money, buying
groceries, sewing, craft work, and family relations;
Medicare Alert; and recreational activities which served
an average of one hundred young people per day and which
set upwith the help of two VISTA volunteersa "Teen
Canteen." The reservation also secured 0E0 funds for
training Indians as community health aides. In this
capacity, the aides traveled throughout the reservation
to talk with residents about such issues as sanitation,
health problems, medicines, and diesease prevention and
cures. The Indian aides labored to improve reservation
health by providing medicine and overseeing the building
of garbage pits and "fly-proof privies." In addition,
the Sioux established nursery schools throughout the
81Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 182-
184; 0E0, The Quiet Revolution, 50.

reservation. These schools provided the children with
care for half a day, hot lunches, and a wide variety of
early stimulation designed to teach the three- to five-
year-olds to talk to adults, ask questions, and seek the
approval of elders. (Dr. Harold Abel, an Anglo child
development specialist who served as a consultant to the
nursery school program, admitted that the latter
teachings ran contrary to Sioux cultural values that
called for children to be silent in the presence of
adults. Abel felt, though, that this Indian tradition
hindered the development of verbal skills which played a
key role in succeeding in school and in securing a job.)
Neighborhood Youth Corps participants painted churches,
repainted a community center, cleared ball fields,
constructed an outdoor dance ground, and repaired a
community center. Two VISTA volunteers helped to start
the Neighborhood Youth Corps and nursery schools; a third
served in a reservation home for the elderly and earned
the friendship of many of the residents. Two VISTAs also
worked in remote BIA day schools, while another tried to
encourage the community to organize. On an individual
level, a non-Indian CAP worker used his contacts in the

State Road Department to get a rural thoroughfare
The Pine Ridge CAP had important salutary effects.
The Sioux police chief credited the Neighborhood Youth
Corps with contributing to a fifty percent reduction in
petty theft because the organization provided young
persons with activities and enough money to mitigate
stealing. Human Sciences Research reported that the
Native Americans used 0E0 programs to raise their
subsistence level; several reservation residents had
purchased gas stoves and improved their homes and diets.
Also, by 1966, one-fourth of the Sioux had gained skills
that would facilitate employment. Several Indians
working at a hospital, for example, had received training
as laboratory technicians.83
The Sioux's Community Action Program on the
neighboring Rosebud Reservation used a multi-million
dollar grant to sponsor Head Start programs, adult
education classes, cleanup efforts, wood-cutting for the
82Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 175-
182, 185-199.
83Jenny and others, A Comprehensive Evaluation, 196,

elderly and needy, legal aid, Follow Through, and a
housing project. The latter, funded by two million
dollars from the OEO and additional money from the BIA,
established a factory on the reservation to produce
prefabricated houses that the Indians would then put
together themselves to foster self-respect and create
jobs. In the process, the Indians learned how to run the
factory as well as acguired skills in such areas as
construction, carpentry, and plumbing. These abilities
permitted the Sioux to become apprentices as well as to
build homes for others both on and off the Rosebud
Reservation. Despite an initial reluctance from
Washington, the Sioux built 375 dwellingsenough to
house about one-half of the reservation's populationat
a cost of five thousand dollars each. The tribe assumed
initial ownership, but the occupants could secure title
after six years if they maintained the property.
Admittedly, the homes were small, ranging from four
hundred to 560 square feet, and lacked indoor plumbing.
Nevertheless, they were the least expensive pre-
fabricated housing available and provided shelter far
superior to the tarpaper shacks, tents, and abandoned

cars that had all too often served as the Indians7 homes.
The Community Action Agency also established a home-
improvement association to teach basic home-owning skills
like running a modern kitchen and making as well as
hanging curtains. In addition, to keep Rosebud residents
informed of the CAA's activities, the Indian nation used
0E0 dollars to publish the Voices for Unity newspaper
(also known at various times as Give Me a Name and Voices
of Unity). As an added bonus, the Rosebud CAP7s
componentsincluding the housing projectprovided full
or part-time employment for five hundred Sioux.
According to Reverend Richard G. Pates, the director of
the housing project,
Whatever they say about the 0E0 in the cities,
it works out here. You can see a great change
in these people. They are better dressed and
look healthier. And they have hope . .
[accompanied by a] marked resurgence of
The South Dakota Sioux's CAPS also significantly
impacted individuals. A Head Start program helped to
S4Pates quoted in M'Forgotten American7 Is Aiding
Himself," U.S. News and World Report, 2 October 1967, 66-
67; American Indian and Alaskan Native Newspapers, vol.
2, 441; "Indians and Their Benefactors," New Republic, 16
July 1966, 9; Legal Services in Action, 11-12; Sorkin,
American Indians and Federal Aid, 172-173.

provide a more "normal" life for a Native American child
with a physical deformity. In addition, two Indian CAP
workerspossibly Rangers from the Pine Ridge
Reservationsaved the life of Old Emma Bear Woman when
they found that she had collapsed in her home (located in
a remote area of the reservation) and immediately rushed
her to the United State Public Health Hospital sixty
miles away. There the elderly woman (she was almost
ninety) received treatment for malnutrition and exposure
to extreme heat. To make sure she had enough to eat, a
Legal Services attorney arranged for Emma to receive
monthly cash allotments from her savings which had been
held by a federal agency (presumably the BIA). The CAP
director insured that she would have assistance with
shopping and transportation. He also had volunteers
check in on Emma 1 periodically. In addition, reservation
residents worked to fix up Emma's house, while the tribal
council tried to find a room for her in the Sioux's home
for the elderly, which was located near a hospital.85
85Wilson, "0E0 Indian Programs," 24-25; 0E0, A Nation
Aroused, 32.

Without question, the Navajoswho numbered between
ninety-seven thousand and 120,000constituted the single
largest Native American nation in the United States.
Approximately one-quarter to one-third of all reservation
Indians made their home on a plot of land the approximate
size of West Virginia, and which encompassed parts of
Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Although perhaps better
off than some other tribes, the Navajos faced significant
problems. Despite an 1868 treaty that promised all
reservation residents a free education, seventy percent
of all Navajos could neither read nor write English as of
1966. Tribal chairperson Raymond Nakai stated that, as
of the mid-1960s, nineteen thousand people out of a work
force (presumably male adults) of thirty thousand lacked
Consequently, on 7 April 1965, the Navajo Advisory
Committee set up a Community Action Agencythe Office of
Navajo Economic Opportunity (ONEO). ONEO employee Louis
Tracy described the new agency's purpose as helping the
Indians to help themselves. To that end, the Navajos
used $920,000 from Washington in 1965 to pay for projects
86,,Where the Real Poverty Is,
104, 106.

such as a manpower program that provided jobs for six
thousand Indians as well as a leadership training program
for tribal council members, district leaders, and others.
By 1966, the ONEOunder the executive directorship of
former electrical engineer and Navajo Peter MacDonald
operated a preschool program, a community development
center, and a reservation-wide Neighborhood Youth Corps
summer program which allowed thirty-five hundred young
people to partake in recreational and physical fitness
activities. The agency also sponsored an arts and crafts
project in which the Navajos did their own weaving, sold
their works, and used the money to build an arts and
crafts building and to fund the reservation's
silversmiths. By 1968, the ONEO's Community Action
Program had a budget of $5.7 million and included such
additional elements as home improvement training, a
Navajo Cultural Center, an alcoholism prevention and
treatment program, Head Start, placement of migrant and
agricultural workers, and Operation Medicare Alert.
Thanks to a $150,000 grant, the ONEO could make
appropriations to families with emergency needs that
resulted from a December 1967 blizzard described as "the

worst in the region's history" and which killed fifteen
people totaleight of them Navajos.87 The ONEO
estimated that by the start of 1968 it served 23,382
people directly and 78,188 people indirectly.
MacDonald's organization provided jobs for 161 Navajos,
while the Neighborhood Youth Corps had found after-school
employment for 1,255 young people by 1966. By the end of
the following year, the activities of the ONEO and the
0E0 on the Navajo Reservation had generated 2,720 jobs,
of which Indians held all but forty-six. Native
87,,Cry for Help from the Proud Navajo," Life, 5
January 1968, 19; quote taken from "Deadly Windfall,"
Time, 5 January 1968, 23. The blizzard saw temperatures
as cold as negative twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit and
snowdrifts as high as twelve feet. Many more Indians
probably would have died if the military and the Civil
Air Patrol had not undertaken airdrops (guided by
Amerindian policemen) of needed food and supplies to
stranded Navajos and their livestock. Also, thirty Job
Corpsmen and nine staff members from the Winslow, Arizona
Job Corps Center worked to relieve some of the storm-
induced suffering through clearing snow, preparing food
packages, unloading food and hay from trucks and boxcars
and loading it onto helicoptors making airdrops. See
United States Department of the Interior, Office of
Survey and Review, Winslow Job Corps Civilian
Conservation Center: Audit Report, May 1968, 1, box
33/17/1:6, no file folder, National Archives-Rocky
Mountain Region, Denver Federal Center, Denver.

Americans also served as thirty-four of ONEO's forty-six
In addition, the ONEO also opened a Small Business
Development Center in September 1965. The first on any
reservation, the Navajo SBDC provided loans to establish
new businesses or to enlarge existing ones. The center,
under the direction of H. George Schmitt and Navajo Rex
Hontz, offered low-interest rates, long-term repayment
without collateral requirements, and assistance with
operating a business. Although the SBDC did assess
whether an applicant seemed a "good risk," the agency
only made loans to those in need and who could not secure
88Benjamin A. Bennett, Keith Pearson, and Abe
Plummer, "Community Development Training on the Navajo
Reservation," in Robert A. Roessel, Indian Communities in
Action (Temper Arizona State University, 1967), 180-203;
"Appalachia, Indian Reservations, Urban Areas Aided by
Latest Wave of CAP Grants," Communities in Action, March
1965, 4; Maurice Frink, "Leo Haven's Views on Navajo
Development," Navajo Times, 23 December 1965, 11B; Peter
Iverson, The Navajo Nation, Contributions in Ethnic
Studies Series (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press,
1981), 90-91; Alfred Friendly, "Poor Are Finding Cracks
in Door," in The Better War (Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1966), 30-31; "The
Continuation of Needed Programs. .," A News Summary of
the War on Poverty, 28 August 1967, 6; "Emergency
Assistance. .," A News Summary of the War on Poverty, 8
January 1968, 1; "A Demonstration Grant . .," A News
Summary of the War on Poverty, 29 July 1968, 4; OEO, A
Nation Aroused, 59.

assistance from other sources. The center also
cooperated with the ONEO to set up local development
In addition, with 0E0 help, the ONEO established a
Legal Services program known as Dinebiina Nahiilna Be
Agaditahe (DNA). Initially headed by Harvard-educated,
non-Indian Ted Mitchell, DNA established a circuit-riding
system whereby "teams11which consisted of a lawyer, a
Native American counselor, and an investigatortraveled
throughout countless miles of reservation territory to
make "advice and representation" in federal, state, and
tribal courts available to reservation residents. DNA
employed eighteen lawyers by September 1968 and had
acquired nearly eight thousand clients in the fourteen
months between 3 April 1967 and 31 July 1968. (Although
bereft of 0E0 funding, this program, as of the early
1990s, continues to operate.)90 9
89"Business Booming for Small Business Loans," Navajo
Times, 24 November 1965, 5; "Small Business Center
Opened," Navajo Times, 7 October 1965, 5.
9Iverson, The Navajo Nation, 93-94,* Legal Services
in Action, 11-12; OEO, The Quiet Revolution, 45.
Ironically, DNA, in later years, became involved in
securing the imprisonment of former ONEO Executive
Director Peter MacDonald on charges of bribery and

In general, the ONEO received high marks. Historian
Peter Iverson described the ONEO as highly effective
because of its solid funding base, involvement of the
local population, and administration by Navajos. Leo
Haven, ONEO Project Coordinator, said that the ONEO
encouraged people "'to develop their own programs, based
on their knowledge of themselves.'" One 1967 report
maintained that the reservation's CAP could engender a
renewed sense of community that would allow people to
"integrate cherished traditional values and modern
innovations." The report went on to say that the
programs had the potential to foster Indian self-reliance
and dignity.* 91
The Navajo nation saw other benefits from the
combination of a community-oriented population and
federal largess as well. For example, one local CAP
worked to develop more water systems, build a community
store, electrify homes, and set up a preschool. With the
kickbacks. Bill Donovan, "MacDonald sentenced to 5
years," Navajo Times, 3 December 1992, 1.
91Haven quoted in Frink, "Leo Haven's Views," 11B;
Iverson, The Navajo Nation, 91; Bennett, Pearson, and
Plummer, "Community Development Training on the Navajo
Reservation," 189.

encouragement of VISTA workers, the chapter leaders at
Mary Farms, New Mexico launched Head Start classes run
entirely by Navajos. The Neighborhood Youth Corps in
another community painted, landscaped, and undertook
other improvements around the Chapter House. A member of
this NYC sold one of his paintings and contributed the
proceeds toward buying materials for renovating the
Chapter House. In addition, the Navajo tribal council
used $834,000 in NYC money for a summer employment
program; the funding allowed 1,215 young men and 785
young women to spend eight weeks as community aides,
child-development aides, home economic aides, park
services aides, and clerical aides in Arizona, Colorado,
New Mexico, and Utah. Through a home improvement
program, two thousand Navajosone-half of whom had never
held a job beforerepaired thirteen hundred houses in
six months. Because of the training they received during
the program, five hundred Native Americans managed to
find employment outside of the CAP. David Aberle, an
anthropologist studying one Navajo community in the mid-
to-late 1960s, commented that the employment level proved
far higher than he had expected and that an area housing

project "afforded some elderly people a warm place in
winter. "92
The presence of VISTA volunteers also stood out as
an important part of the Navajos' efforts for a better
life. By the end of 1966, over fifty VISTAs had been
sent to the Navajo reservation, as per a request from the
tribal council advisory committee, and they served in a
variety of ways. For example, three volunteers traveled
throughout the reservation on horseback to teach
preschool classes, as well as adult education courses in
such subjects as homemaking and health care. Sue Langs
of Monroe, Michigan, and Suzanne Gearhart served the
residents of Tselina, New Mexico by working as teachers,
bus drivers, and cooks for thirty-five children who
attended the preschool they established. Once a group of
six Navajos assumed responsibility for the school, Langs
initiated adult education classes that taught the
92David F. Aberle, "Education, Work, Gender, and
Residence: Black Mesa Navajos in the 1960s," Journal of
Anthropological Research 45 (Winter 1989): 414-415, 419,
427; Bennett, Pearson, and Plummer, "Community
Development Training on the Navajo Reservation," 198;
Friendly, "Poor Are Finding Cracks in Door," 31; "The
Navajo Tribal Council. .," A News Summary of the War on
Poverty, 27 June 1966, 3; OEO, The Tide of Progress, 35.

residents of three communities how to cook government-
supplied foodstuffssuch as rice, corn meal, flour,
peanut butter, dry milk, and beans. In return, the
Navajos taught the Michigan native traditional corn
grinding techniques. Also, VISTAs commonly learned the
Navajo tongue from their students.93
The list of VISTA contributions continues. African-
American volunteer John Gissendanner labored to spur
local industry at Chinle by helping to set up a chicken
farm and a vegetable growing project; with the ONEO's
aid, he also started two preschools and taught English
and history classes as part of an adult education
program. In addition, the chapter house at Chinle not
only paid off a thirteen hundred dollar debt but made
four hundred dollars in six months because Gissendanner
and a fellow VISTA volunteer encouraged the Navajos to
host dances and to charge for the use of the house's
washing machines. Karen Murkett, who lived in an Indian
hogan of timber and mud plaster, worked as a bus driver
and preschool teacher. Lorna Doran of New York and
"Friendly, "Poor Are Finding Cracks in Door," 31;
0E0, The First Step, vol. 1, 74; 0E0, The Quiet
Revolution, 22; VISTA Serves, 31-32.

Phyllis Stockey of Illinois, who worked at the
reservation's hospital at Fort Defiance, Arizona, started
a four hundred book library, as well as secured a record
player and two hundred records for the institution. Bob
Chernikoff assisted the Navajos in the drafting of a CAP
grant proposal intended to fund the legal services
program, as well as with voter registration. He also
tutored youths in academic subjects, served as a sports
coach, taught arts and crafts, helped one Navajo juvenile
to improve his speaking ability, and aided another young
man in securing a basketball scholarship. Maurice and
Edith Frink, a Colorado couple in their seventies, served
as volunteers as well. Among other tasks, Edith taught
school while Mauricea journalist, instructor at the
University of Colorado, and executive director of the
Colorado Historical Societyserved as a reporter for the
Navajo Times.94
In part of the New Mexico section of the Navajo
Reservation, Martha Fontanez of California set up a
94Maurice Frink, "VISTA Occupational Therapy Program
Off to a Good Start," Navajo Times, 18 November 1965, 8;
0E0, A Nation Aroused, 28-29; VISTA Serves, 31-33; "VISTA
Workers for Window Rock," Navajo Times, 30 September
1965, 10A.

community center in an unused cafe where Indian migrants
(who harvested broom corn) could gather and talk. To
help finance the center, she secured two thousand dollars
in donations from clothing companies. The Native
Americans, in turn, sold the garments to pay for the
center's activitieswhich included supplying books and
art supplies for the children and food for their
families. By having trained Navajos to serve as the
center's staff and director, Fontanez had the distinction
of achieving the "greatest goal of a VISTA volunteer"
"to work himself [or herself] out of a job."95
Perhaps the Navajos' most significant
accomplishments of the period came in the field of
education. The Indian nation used $454,150 to help
establish the Navajo Community College, the first Indian-
controlled college on a reservation. The institution,
which opened in January 1969, emphasized community
involvement and the teaching of Native American as well
as white history. Indians of any age could take courses
for free, while others could attend classes by making
9BVISTA Serves, 32-33.

tuition payments. By the mid-1970s, it had three hundred
students and 120 staff members.96
The creation of the Rough Rock Demonstration School,
which opened in 1966 on the north side of Bleak Mountain,
Arizona, was of at least equal importance to the college.
Funded by the OEO, the BIA, the Donner Foundation, and
other private organizations, Rough Rock received much-
deserved credit as being the first school in the United
States genuinely to be under Native American
management.97 The elected board, which consisted of four
Navajo men and one Navajo woman, encouraged parents to
96Sar A. Levitan and William B. Johnson, Indian
Giving: Federal Programs for Native Americans
(Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975),
46; "A Demonstration Grant," 4; Prucha, The Great Father,
97Christine Bolt, American Indian Policy and American
Reform: Case Studies of the Campaign to Assimilate the
American Indians (London: Allen and Unwin, 1987), 246;
Paul Conklin and Thomas Reno, "Giving Education Back to
the Indians," in Robert A. Roessel, Indian Communities in
Action (Tempe: Arizona State University, 1967), 209,
211. The OEO's first effort to fund an Indian-controlled
school came in 1965 at a former BIA school for American
Indians at Lukachukai, Arizona. Unfortunately, the
administration proved too cumbersome, and the OEO
withdrew its support in the spring of 1966. See Conklin
and Reno, "Giving Education Back to the Indians," 208;
Sar A. Levitan and Barbara Hetrick, Big Brother's Indian
ProgramsWith Reservations (New York: McGraw Hill,
1971), 54.

attend board meetings and classes. Sixty-two Native
Americanssixty Navajos, one Taos Indian, and one Hopi
constituted the bulk of the institution's eighty-two
employees. They received assistance from about a dozen
VISTA workers. Reflecting the Indian parents' desires,
Rough Rock provided courses on topics including
automobile mechanics, cooking, nutrition, literacy,
English (learned by the staff and students alike), and
money. Through the institution's Cultural Identification
Center, Navajos and Anglos taught students (as well as
staff members) for as much as one hour a day about Navajo
history, culture, and language in an attempt to insure
the continuation of the Indian nation's culture. The
center also brought in older Navajos so that legends,
chants, histories, and autobiographies could be recorded
and translated into English. Henry W. Hough, Director of
Research for the National Congress of American Indians,
said that by 1967 the center had revitalized the native
pride of eighteen hundred young people and had made over
three hundred tapes of the Indian nation's oral history.
Amerindians skilled in traditional crafts came in at the
CIC's behest to demonstrate their talent to the children

as well as to pass it along to other adults. One author
stated that Rough Rock showed a respect that bordered on
reverence for the Navajo heritage. Clearly, a
significant break had been made from former schooling
techniques where even a hint of Indian-ness constituted a
punishable offence.98
Under the executive directorship of Dr. Robert A.
Roessel Jr., an Anglo, Rough Rock utilized a "both and"
rather than an "either or" approach. In other words,
Roessel believed that Indians had to study both their own
culture, as well as that of whites, to develop "a
positive sense of identity while learning to live
successfully in the modern world." School board member
John Dick added that he wanted Amerindian children to
feel proud of their heritage but that they needed a good
98Bolt, American Indian Policy and American Reform,
246; Conklin and Reno, "Giving Education Back to the
Indians," 209, 211-213, 215; Estelle Fuchs, "Innovation
at Rough Rock," Saturday Review, 2 September 1967, 83-84,
99; Henry W. Hough, Development of Indian Resources, 256;
Wilcomb E. Washburn, Red Man's Land/White Man's Law: A
Study of the Past and Present Status of the American
Indian (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971), 223.

education so that they could "have a choice in terms of
how to live their lives."99
Rough Rock also sponsored multiple programs designed
to benefit the Navajo community as a whole. These
included adult education classes; a laundromat; training
for medicine men; a chicken farm; a factory that
manufactured furniture and toys; and an arts and crafts
program designed to insure continued proficiency in
traditional Navajo artwork, to foster job skills, and
thus, to increase employment. The school hired eight
parents to take care of such tasks as mending clothes,
telling stories, and helping children with bathing.
Roessel created two additional jobs by using the five
thousand dollar laundry allocation, which had been
intended to pay for a private company's services, to buy
washing machines and hire two local women to operate
them. As a result, many individuals who had once had
trouble earning a living became employed and enjoyed a
steady income. As T.L. McCarty put it, Rough Rock tried
to unify the community socially and economically, as well
"Both quotations have been taken from Fuchs,
"Innovation at Rough Rock," 83.

as to help Indians to thrive both inside and outside the
reservation's environs.100
In the late 1960s, a group of educators lead by
University of Chicago Professor Donald Erickson examined
the school. Admittedly, the examiners felt the
institution needed a greater level of Navajo control.
They nevertheless concluded that Rough Rock
represented a needed change from the mass,
impersonal boarding school, a basic
breakthrough in the instruction of Navajo
history, culture, and language, and a much
closer affiliation with the community than a
typical Navajo school enjoyed.101
Perhaps the educational experiment's success, at least in
part, prompted Lyndon Johnson's 1968 promise that thirty
new kindergartens slated to open on the Navajo
Reservation would be staffed by teachers knowledgeable
about the Indian nation's language and culture. In
addition, the school built up the Navajos' trust of
education, which had been seen as a destroyer of families
100Conklin and Reno, "Giving Education Back to the
Indians," 211, 214, 221; T.L. McCarty, "The Rough Rock
Demonstration School: A Case History with Implications
for Educational Evolution," Human Organization 46 (Summer
1987): 103-104.
101Iverson, The Navajo Nation, 116-117.

because of the experience with BIA boarding schools.
Probably most important, Rough Rock inspired other
Indian-controlled schoolssuch as those on Montana's
Rocky Boy Reservation, in the Blackwater District on
Arizona's Gila River Reservation, in Iowa's Tama Indian
community, and in New Mexico's Ranch Navajo District.102
Many of those working with the 0E0 on the Navajo
Reservation expressed concerns similar to LaDonna Harris
regarding Indians' sense of self. In applying for a CAP
grant, the Navajos cited feelings of inadequacy and lack
of self-worth as sone of the Indian nation's most
significant difficulties. They identified their
"greatest need" as
creating a feeling that the [Indian] people
. . are important and that they do have an
important role in determining their own future
and destiny.103
102Fuchs, "Innovation at Rough Rock," 99; D'Arcy
McNickle, Native American Tribalism: Indian Survivals
and Renewals (New York; Oxford University Press, 1973),
121-122; U.S. President, Public Papers of the Presidents
of the United States (Washington, D.C.; Government
Printing Office, 1970), Lyndon B. Johnson, Book 1, 1
January 1968 to 30 June 1968, 65.
103Young, "The American Indian," 25.