Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
January 8, 2000

The Century in Review
Adapted by Garnet1654 from information compiled by Barbara Bad Wound from Indian Country Today

This century has marked incredible changes in the lives of Native peoples. As we approach a new millennium, we look back on some of the significant moments of the last hundred years. This series looks at a decade each issue for the next nine issues to provide a timeline that eventually covers the entire century. More than likely we will miss key events and we encourage our readers to send us letters or e-mails detailing important moments from the last 100 years from their tribal


  • U.S. Indian population reaches low point: fewer than 250,000.
  • Modification of the Dawes Act: Leasing of allotments allowed before trust period ended.
  • All direct government funding of missionary schools ended.
  • Charlot, Flathead, Kalispel, principal leader who, with his followers, had been forced to move onto a reservation by U.S. Army troops, dies.


  • Reagan administration initiates a policy of cutbacks of funds for Indian social programs. Eventually, as much as 40 percent of funding is cut.
  • Choctaw ballerina Rosella Hightower is the first American and the first Native American to direct the Paris Opera Ballet.
  • Feb. 22 - The Vietnam Era Veterans Inter-Tribal Association was inaugurated in Oklahoma to help promote a positive image of Indian Vietnam veterans and to give Indian veterans a united voice in veteran affairs.
  • July - Tim Giago, Oglala Lakota Sioux, began publication of The Lakota Times, renamed Indian Country Today.
  • Hopi-Navajo Joint Use Area is partitioned between the Navajo and Hopi nations.
  • The Inuit Broadcasting Co., the only Native American broadcast network in North America, was established to produce at least five hours of Native-oriented programs per week. The success of IBC demonstrated there was a market and an audience for Native programs. Consequently the Canadian government licensed a permanent Inuit network.
  • A Linowes Commission report shows that corrupt management and auditing practices on the part of Interior and oil companies cost energy-resource tribes hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
  • The Powhatan-Renape Nation of the Delaware Valley, descendants of the Powhatan people of Virginia and other tribes, receive a grant of 350 acres from the state of New Jersey.
  • In the Black Hills, Sioux activists Russell and Bill Means establish Yellow Thunder Camp on an 880-acre parcel. The occupation lasts for four years and precipitates a landmark federal court decision that the Sioux have religious rights to the entire Black Hills area.


  • President Reagan vetoes $112 million congressional settlement of water rights suit brought by Papago (Tohono O'odham) Indians against Arizona; a settlement is later reached, with the federal government to pay the tribe $40 million.
  • The issues of severance taxes and sovereignty of Native nations and tribes are decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, in Merrion vs. Jicarilla Apache Tribe, which grants limited sovereignty to the Jicarilla, upholding the right to tax mining companies operating on its reservation.
  • Canada's Constitution Act (Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms) is passed despite the protests of Indian, Metis and Inuit groups. Nevertheless, it included a degree of recognition: "The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal people of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed."
  • Through the work of Earl Old Person and other Blackfeet leaders, the Blackfeet are awarded $29 million in compensation for unsound federal accounting practices over the previous decades.
  • The Council of Energy Resource Tribes wins two victories when Congress passes the Indian Mineral Development Act and the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act. The bills give Native Americans a say in development of energy resources on tribal lands.


  • Dennis Banks, the AIM leader, under indictment in South Dakota for the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation, takes refuge on the Onondaga Reservation in New York state. In 1984 he surrenders to officials in South Dakota and is sentenced to three years in prison.
  • Sinte Gleska College on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota was awarded full accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the first tribally controlled college on an Indian reservation to receive it at the baccalaureate level. The name is changed to Sinte Gleska University at a 1992 Founder's Day Celebration.
  • Jan. 25, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the La Courte Oreilles Band of Chippewas of Wisconsin retained hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering rights when they signed the treaties of 1837, 1842 and 1854. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of what became known as the Voight decision.
  • The Inuit Circumpolar Conference, founded in 1977, is granted status as a nongovernmental organization by the United Nations. The conference is composed of Inuit people of Alaska, Canada and Greenland.
  • Nov. 14 Mary and Carrie Dann, traditional Western Shoshone sisters, were among the 17 women presented awards by the Wonder Women Foundation in New York City. The women, honored for their defense of Western Shoshone rights to their homeland, have waged a battle since 1972 against the federal government through litigation and civil disobedience.
  • Replicas of the two Olympic Gold Medals won by Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox/Potawatomi) are presented to his heirs on Jan. 18, about 70 years after the International Olympic Committee had taken them from Thorpe.


  • The Native American Press Association is reorganized as the Native American Journalists Association.
  • Jim Thorpe Memorial Pow Wow and Games in Los Angeles honor the memory of the Indian athlete and 1912 Olympic gold medalist.
  • June 6 - The Senate resolved to make the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs a permanent committee, the only congressional committee to focus exclusively on Indian issues.
  • In a move reminiscent of the absolutism of the previous century, the U.S. ignores the wishes of the Wintu people of California. It bulldozes away buildings located at the Toyon-Wintu site in Wintu territory and removes the people living there.
  • The Zuni people finally regain title to their ancient sacred site, Kolhu/wala:wa, or Zuni Heaven, where Zunis who have died are believed to reside. It takes another six years to obtain the right to cross private land to reach the land.


  • National Tribal Chairman's Association votes to reject proposals on the Commission on Indian Reservation Economies, fearing new federal attempts to terminate tribal sovereignty and gain control of tribal resources.
  • Wilma Mankiller became the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, and the first woman in modern times to lead a major tribe. She served from 1985 to 1995. In 1987, Mankiller was the first Native American honored as Ms. magazine's Woman of the Year. In 1994, she was entered into the Woman's Hall of Fame in New York City.
  • Coolican Report declares that little progress is being made to settle Canadian Native land claims.
  • In a victory for all tribes, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Navajo Tribe has a right to impose business and property taxes without the permission of the Secretary of Interior.
  • The right of sovereign Native nations and tribes to sue to enforce ancient land rights is decided by the United States Supreme Court in County of Oneida, New York vs. Oneida Indian Nation of New York.
  • The issues of sovereignty and non-IRA taxation power of sovereign Native nations and tribes are decided by the United States Supreme Court in Kerr-McGee Corp. vs. Navajo Tribe of Indians. The ruling gives the authority to tax and grants limited sovereignty.


  • Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History agrees to return Indian skeletal remains to tribal leaders for reburial.
  • Abenaki priest Donald E. Pelotte is the first Native American to be ordained bishop in the Roman Catholic church.
  • November - Northern Cheyenne Benjamin Nighthorse Campbell won in Colorado's Third Congressional district, the eighth largest district in the country. A member of the 1964 Olympic Judo team and an expert jeweler, Campbell won a Senate seat in 1992.
  • The federal government reinstates the Klamath Tribe of southern Oregon, which suffered termination in the 1950s.
  • Native veterans of the United States military service are honored with a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va.


  • Jan. 5 - National Native News, the first and only radio news service covering Native American issues, began serving Native communities in Alaska providing 30 stations with news. It expanded to include radio stations in the lower 48 states.
  • Feb. 25 - In California et al., vs Cabazon Band of Mission Indians et al., the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of the Cabazon Reservation in Riverside County to hold high-stakes bingo games despite the state's contention that California gambling laws apply on Indian reservations. This ruling opens the way for casino-style gambling on Indian reservations.
  • Dec. 16 - President Ronald Reagan signed a bill establishing the Trail of Tears as a National Historic Trail, commemorating the nine-state march of the Cherokee Indians during their forced removal from their homelands in the southeast to Oklahoma.


  • Congress passes the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which allows federally recognized tribes to negotiate with states regarding casino operations. It officially legalizes certain types of gambling on reservations and establishes the National Indian Gaming Commission.
  • In a blow to tribal traditions across the country, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Lyng vs. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association that the Forest Service may desecrate sacred land in California by building roads across it, even if that prevents further practice of ancient rituals and beliefs.
  • For the first time in modern history American Indian leaders meet with the president of the United States.
  • Feb. 3 - President Reagan signed into law the "1991 Amendments" to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, culminating work of 15 congressional hearings, seven Alaska Federation of Natives conventions and five Native leadership retreats to correct problems that emerged from implementing the 1971 settlement of Aboriginal land claims.
  • March 24 - Exxon's 987-foot oil tanker Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of North Slope crude oil into Prince William Sound in the nation's worst oil spill. One thousand square miles were affected with a lasting, negative impact on Native lands and lifestyle including hunting and fishing, gathering and commercial fishing.
  • April 20 - Congress repealed the termination resolution of 1953, an action awaited by tribal governments for more than 30 years.
  • Aug. 11 - President Reagan signed a law making restitution to Aleut residents of the Pribilof and Aleutian islands for loss of personal and community property and village lands during U.S. military occupation of the islands during World War II.
  • Nov. 28 - President George Bush signed the National American Indian Museum Act which established the National Museum of the American Indian as part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and requires the Smithsonian Institution to return Native human remains to requesting tribes.
  • Northern and Southern Arapaho join to fight for preservation and accessibility of a traditional medicine wheel located in the Bighorn National Forest.
  • In State of Alaska vs. Native Village of Venetie, a federal appeals court decrees that the rules regarding tribal status that apply in other states also apply to the villages of Alaska Natives.
  • Tribes across the country win a victory when the U.S. Supreme Court affirms in Mississippi Indian Band vs. Holyfield that tribes, not states, have jurisdiction in determining who can adopt Indian children, even those born off the reservation.


  • Centennial of the Wounded Knee Massacre is commemorated at the Pine Ridge Reservation. On Dec. 29 people gathered in sub-zero temperatures to commemorate the Lakota people murdered at Wounded Knee, S.D., by the 7th Cavalry. Many descendants of the massacre victims attended the ceremony.
  • Oct. 30 - President Bush signed the Native American Language Act into law. It reversed past policy that suppressed and exterminated Native American languages and cultures.
  • The U.S. Census finds the Native American population to be 1,959, 234. For the first time in 500 years, the Native American population is beginning to approach its numbers before the arrival of Europeans.
  • Slightly fewer than 40 percent of Native Americans still live on reservations.
  • To date, the federal government has recognized 321 tribes outside Alaska and 210 Alaska Native governments.
  • In Duro vs. Reina, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that tribes cannot have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians on reservation lands.
  • Canada's proposed Meech Lake Accord (amendments to the 1982 Constitution Act) is sent to defeat in Canada by Native legislator Elijah Harper; the accord provided no recognition of Native rights.
  • Nov. 16 - President Bush signed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act which requires federal agencies and private museums receiving federal funding to inventory their collections of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony. Ancestral remains and objects must be returned to requesting tribes proving ownership.

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