Vine Deloria, Jr., the most important Indian chronicler of indigenous political, legal, and religious experience in the U.S. in the last thirty years, noted recently that Indian life, particularly the experience of reservation-based tribal peoples, "has only the slightest resemblance to the conditions of three decades ago, and the current situation has elements of hope and portents of disaster." This observation is even more realistic as we sit at the dawn of the new millennium. The 560 indigenous polities in the U.S.—374 Indian nations, tribes, bands, communities, and Pueblos in the lower 48 states; 226 are Alaska Native villages and corporations—cumulatively total a little more than two million individuals.

These distinctive and original peoples are, on the one hand, entering their most dynamic political, social, and economic period in over half a century because of changes in federal Indian policy, the revival or modification of traditions, customs, and languages, and as a result of lucrative gaming operations which are providing some tribes with previously unimagined riches and political clout.

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Copyright © 1998. This article first appeared in International Policy Review (Spring 1998-99), 111-121.

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