Self-Determination and Self-Governance

In the late 1970’s and 1980’s, American Indian lawyers shifted their fight to the courtrooms, claiming treaty violations and the undervaluing of tribal lands. The Nixon administration pushed through the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act of 1975, and the next twenty years saw tribal development through many growing pains, but with the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.

This Act authorized Indian tribes/nations to administer their own programs and the Indian Health Service to grant moneys for operation of health services. This Act is a major force for Indian decision-making and self-governance today. Some Indians, however, believed that “self- determination” was another disguise for “termination”, in that the federal government was attempting to terminate it’s responsibility for providing health care and other services promised by treaty, legislation, and judicial review (Nabokov, 1991, pg.385).