1 minute read

Native Policy

Anthropology's Changes, Perspectives On Colonialism And Postindependence Latin America, Indian Policies Of The Twentieth-century Nation-states

Before Europeans from a variety of countries began arriving on the shores of the two continents of the western hemisphere in the late fifteenth century, there were no "Indians." At that point in time, millions of human beings, members of hundreds of distinctive societies speaking mutually unintelligible languages, inhabited the lands between Alaska and Patagonia. The category of person called "Indian" resulted from the imposition of colonial rule by Spain, Portugal, France, England, and Holland upon the diverse societies the Europeans encountered on these two continents. Following European colonialism, the creation of independent republics in what came to be known, by another misnomer, as "the Americas" was also marked by dynamic relations between states controlled by elites of European descent and the peoples called Indians. First colonial regimes and then independent nation-states in Latin America and in North America have been concerned with the classification and regulation of who is Indian and what constitutes "Indianness." We can call the operationalization of these systems of classification "Indian policy."

Such a perspective, of course, is necessarily also a historical phenomenon itself. Historians and anthropologists have alternately ignored or obsessed over the indigenous peoples of the Americas that by convention are still called "Indians," and have gone from understanding Indianness as an identity entirely tangential to the histories of nation-states, to the contemporary approach described above, in which Indianness and state policy are intertwined. Thus, at the same time that we review contemporary anthropological approaches to understanding Indian policy, we must simultaneously reflect upon those perspectives as substantially different from pre-1970 anthropological understandings of Indianness. This entry will discuss how Indian policy has developed in colonial and post-colonial nation-states of Latin America, and compare the evolution of Indian policy in Latin America as a whole with its evolution in the United States, acknowledging that this comparison increasingly parallels the pan-hemispheric struggles of indigenous peoples who themselves are engaging in such comparisons. Finally, describing indigenous struggles within and against the nation-states of the Americas in the twentieth century prefigures where those controversies are headed in the twenty-first.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Mysticism to Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide