Creating and in some cases re-creating viable tribal political communities within the construct of modern nation-state has proven to be a troublesome task for indigenous populations worldwide. The task for indigenous governments in the United States has been further complication by federalism's divisions of power between the states and the national government. Native American tribes often find themselves waging a two-front battle in which they must resist state encroachments over their lands and their inherent government authority; while at the same time they must lobby the federal government for protection of those same lands and powers.
History is replete with attempts by the federal government to forcibly remove tribes from their ancestral and treaty-recognized homelands, to facilitate assimilation using acts of cultural genocide, and to sever the federal trust relationship with tribes. These often well-intentioned, but highly destructive policies have take their toll on tribes' political status, economic resources, and cultural integrity. This is particularly true for many Eastern tribes, especially those in the mid-Atlantic region, that generally were not accorded federal recognition in the form of treaties and thus did not benefit from the accompanying "protection" of the federal trust relationship. In addition, many Eastern tribes never had reservations set aside for them, a major source of geographic security that many Western tribes have enjoyed.
Copyright © 1995 University of Nebraska Press. This article first appeared in The American Indian Quarterly (Summer 1995), 361-388.
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Wilkins, David E. “‘Constructing’ Nations Within States: The Quest for Federal Recognition by the Catawba and Lumbee Tribes.” The American Indian Quarterly 19, no. 3 (Summer 1995), 361-388.