The National Congress of American Indians (or NCAI for short) is a Native American advocacy group made up of leaders and advocates from Native American nations across the US. Their stated goals are the following:
- To secure and preserve American Indian and Alaska Native sovereign rights under treaties and agreements with the United States, as well as under federal statutes, case law, and administration decisions and rulings.
- To protect American Indian and Alaska Native traditional, cultural, and religious rights.
- To seek appropriate, equitable, and beneficial services and programs for American Indian and Alaska Native governments and people.
- To promote the common welfare and enhance the quality of life of American Indian and Alaska Native people.
- To educate the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people, and rights.
The Congress was founded in 1944 in response to the United States’ brutal implementation of termination and assimilation policies. That year 80 individuals from 50 tribes gathered to discuss some way to maintain and advance tribal rights and governance. The following year representatives from almost every tribe came to their conference.
There was a division in the 1960’s between the older and younger generations of Native Americans. The younger generation thought that the older was “selling out,” and believed that the only way to make change was by force. From this movement the American Indian Movement and the National Indian Youth Council were formed
Today, NCAI is primarily focused on tribal sovereignty which they believe is at the heart of almost every issue that faces Native American Nations.
Although being a completely sovereign nation cannot solve all the problems facing Native Americans, without this first step there is little that these nations can do if they are not respected and considered to be sovereign nations. Recently they have made great strides on this front, in 2009 the Embassy for Tribal Nations was opened in Washington DC. They have also made progress on the removal of racist depictions of Native peoples in the form of Mascots.
Although NCAI had little to do with the passing of NAGPRA (their website does not even mention it in the organization’s history) they support its implementation. However, they believe that it and similar laws, such as the Indian Arts and Crafts act need to be more strictly enforced. They also advocate for the renewal of Native Languages. They cite that “seventy of the remaining 139 spoken tribal languages could become extinct,” this year. They advocate for more immersion and revitalization programs to bring these languages back from the brink.
NCAI seems to be about as adept at what they do as other advocacy groups of similar scope, what is noteworthy is that they were the first to do so for Native Americans and continue to do so today, over seventy years later. There will always be pros and cons to advocacy groups like this, but I for one believe that they will always be one of the best non-violent ways to address today’s issues.
2015 State of the Indian Nation
An article by a Native American who is unsatisfied with the results: