William Y. Adams grew up in an Indian Service family in an Indian
Service town in the 1930s. Window Rock, Arizona was the newly
founded administrative capital for the vast Navajo reservation, and
all 298 of its residents were Indian Bureau employees or their
families. With the exception of a few low-level service personnel,
none were Navajo, nor did they have any detailed familiarity with
the world of hogans and corrals. They were technocrats, skilled in
agriculture, range management, forestry, mining, education, public
health, and law enforcement, among other things. Despite their
varied backgrounds and skills, however, they shared a common
determination to "do right by the Indians" after decades of
government neglect and mismanagement. That concept, however,
originated not in Window Rock but in Washington, the administrative
headquarters of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In the years
following World War II, Adams lived and worked among Navajos and
Hopis in a number of different capacities. As an archaeological
explorer, an ethnologist, an interviewer for the Arizona Bureau of
Ethnic Research, a livestock drive foreman, and - perhaps most
importantly - a trader, he became aware of the myth of the Indian:
a belief in "the Indian" as a kind of unitary, symbolic figure, who
stood as the surrogate for hundreds of tribes, cultures, and
languages spread across the American continent. In Indian Policies
in the Americas, Adams addresses the idea that "the Indian," as
conceived by colonial powers and later by different postcolonial
interest groups, was as much ideology as empirical reality. Adams
surveys the policies of the various colonial and postcolonial
powers, then reflects upon the great ideological, moral, and
intellectual issues that underlay those policies.
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