Document Type

Research Note


The economic and educational structural characteristics of Indian reservations generally have been well documented. American Indians are among the poorest and least educated of America's ethnics. The 1884 Presidential Commission on Indian Reservation Economies (PCIEIE) reported that in 1883 the unemployment rate for Indians living on reservations was 22 percent. Furthermore, the Commission cited Census information as indicating that in 1880 around 408,000 Indians (or approximately 27 percent of the total Indian population) were living below the poverty line. Educationally, Indians appear to be faring better than in years past. However, PCIRB reported that in 1880 about one-third of the Indian population 25 years and over had not completed high school. Nevertheless, over half of the total population had a high school education or more (about 6 percent of all American Indians held a college degree). According to PCIRE, the median years of school completed in 1980 for Indian people was 12.2. Although these structural characteristics are well known, the relation that cultural traditionalism has with these characteristics is not as well understood. Much speculation has been offered regarding the relation between cultural traditionalism and the economic and educational structure of American Indian reservations. In the past, it was frequently argued that the retention of cultural traditions posed a barrier to the development of Indian reservations (and implied assimilation of Indian people) (Dozier, Simpson, and Yinger, 1957; Linton, 1940; Manners, 1982; Provinse, 1954; Sooisd Science Research Council, 1854; and Vogt, 1957). Whereas, more recently it has been posited that the notion of assimilation was at best misguided and at worst disastrous to Indian people and that development must occur within the context of cultural traditions (Biggart, 1972; Falk and Aitken, 1884; and Levitan and Hetriok, 1971). Few studies have been undertaken to assess the nature of the relations between cultural traditions and economic and educational structures. This paper is an attempt to investigate the relationship between economic and educational characteristics and American Indian cultural traditionalism on 127 reservations.



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