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Beyond the 'Mere Property Career:' Changing Attitudes Toward the American Indian in the United States and the Prospects for a New Commons

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dc.contributor.author Moses, Daniel Noah en_US
dc.date.accessioned 2009-07-31T14:37:27Z
dc.date.available 2009-07-31T14:37:27Z
dc.date.issued 2000 en_US
dc.date.submitted 2001-07-02 en_US
dc.date.submitted 2001-07-02 en_US
dc.identifier.uri https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1526
dc.description.abstract "The white Americans who pushed across the continent in the nineteenth-century brought with them a particular understanding of 'civilization' as a mode of social organization based upon the accumulation of private property. They believed that land, labor, and money were commodities to be bought and sold in an autonomous market and that the wide diffusion of private property ensured the self-reliance required of active citizens and was therefore crucial to the success of the American experiment. Native American societies--organized around communal property--represented the ultimate forces of reaction. Confronting Native Americans forced whites to sharpen their arguments about how property should be defined and distributed. By studying this confrontation, especially as it has been manifested in Federal Indian policy, we can unravel the changing assumptions about property in the United States and the possibilities for a society with a healthy new commons. "Throughout the nineteenth-century, Federal Indian policy was based upon the assumption that communal ownership in indigenous societies discouraged and hindered social progress and that this system had to be dismantled so that Native Americans could share in the success of the American experiment. At the same time, however, whites often expressed a nostalgia for the communal society exemplified for them by the Native American. Anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan incorporated within himself this central tension. The first scholar to delve deeply into how common property provided the foundation of Native American society, his work provided a wildly popular explanation for why these societies were doomed to extinction. But experience in the thick of American business and politics deepened his antagonism to what he called the 'mere property career,' and he looked forward to a future 'revival, in higher form, of the liberty, equality, and fraternity' that he had found in Native American societies. Such sentiments, however, did not lead him to change his opinion about the importance of converting Native Americans into believers in the sanctity of private property. Expressing the optimism of the age, he believed that the distant future could take care of itself. "But in the twentieth-century the success of the original American experiment has become less certain. With the rise of large corporations, private property has become both more concentrated and more dispersed, more accountable to the larger public and yet so difficult to pin down. Interestingly enough, even as white Americans have attempted to come to grips with the new configurations of property in their midst, Federal Indian policy has completely shifted. It now actively encourages the communal property arrangements that it once dismantled. As another millennium hovers on the horizon, Native American nations are part of the effort to create a new commons while their image has become an inspiration for Americans of all backgrounds who have united in this effort." en_US
dc.language English en_US
dc.subject IASC en_US
dc.subject common pool resources en_US
dc.subject indigenous institutions en_US
dc.subject Native Americans en_US
dc.subject land tenure and use en_US
dc.subject property rights en_US
dc.title Beyond the 'Mere Property Career:' Changing Attitudes Toward the American Indian in the United States and the Prospects for a New Commons en_US
dc.type Conference Paper en_US
dc.coverage.region North America en_US
dc.coverage.country United States
dc.subject.sector Land Tenure & Use en_US
dc.identifier.citationconference Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property en_US
dc.identifier.citationconfdates May 31-June 4 en_US
dc.identifier.citationconfloc Bloomington, Indiana, USA en_US
dc.submitter.email hess@indiana.edu en_US

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