indigenous peoples 2281

petitioning for political rights, and demanding
control of resources; many are doing so with
remarkable success given their limited votes,
money, or military capacity. To illustrate the
resurgence in indigenous identities, commu
nities, and cultures, after a brief discussion of
terminology and the sociological significance of
studying indigenous peoples, we focus here on
contemporary demographic, economic, and
political trends among Native Americans.
We use the term indigenous to refer to
those peoples who either live or have lived
within the past several centuries in nonstate
societies, though virtually all indigenous com
munities are located within state societies. We
note that the diversity of types of nonstate socie
ties is far greater than the diversity of states.
Attempts to organize this diversity have gener
ated a plethora of terms: clans, bands, macro
bands, tribelets, tribes, chiefdoms, segmentary
lineages, etc. (see Chase Dunn & Hall 1997).
The term tribe is one of the most common
designations for indigenous peoples, but it is
also one of the most controversial because of its
connotation of primitiveness and savagery.
Despite its baggage, the term tribe has poli
tical utility for those peoples who inhabited
North America before Europeans arrived, since
the tribenation distinction often has been used
politically to support or to deny autonomy or
sovereignty for indigenous groups and because
some indigenous communities informally and
officially refer to themselves as tribes, though
many have replaced tribe with nation.
Even Native American can be problematic,
since legally, anyone born in the United States
is a native [born] American. We use indi
genous peoples or communities throughout
this discussion, and for peoples indigenous to
North America, we alternate among Native
Americans, American Indians, native, or Indian.
When referring to a specific indigenous com
munity, we use the name of the group, but we
note that official names are political and histor
ical constructions that do not necessarily reflect
some prior, pristine indigeneity. For instance,
there are the historical accidents of naming and
the vagaries of spelling that stemmed from colo
nial powers lack of clear understanding of indi
genous languages. Sometimes a name derived
from a derogatory term, while other changes
mark indigenous peoples efforts to reclaim their
name in their own language, such as Dine for
Navajo, Ho Chunk for Winnebago, or Tohono
Oodham for Papago.
Changes and disputes over indigenous peo
ples names stem also from historical changes in
group boundaries in response to internal pro
cesses or encounters with outsiders. In early
contact periods with Europeans, North Amer
ican native peoples often shared a broad sense of
identity but were not ruled by any single social
or political organization (Cornell 1988). The
need for unified resistance to European, then
American, encroachments led to the formation
of socio political structures that encompassed
new groupings of individuals and communities.
Out of these alliances new names and identities
The modern organization of many historical
indigenous cultures and communities has
arisen, ironically, from efforts to destroy them,
either by outright genocide, the devastations of
disease, by assimilation into European societies,
or by merger or amalgamation with other indi
genous groups. At times these amalgamated
communities were examples of ethnogenesis,
i.e., the creation of new ethnic groups whose
contemporary names may or may not reflect
their historical origins. In fact, a great deal of
ethnographic and ethnohistorical research shows
that the symbolic, demographic, and social
boundaries of nonstate groups are extremely
permeable (Brooks 2002). This suggests that
the presumption of fixed, clear, rigid boundaries
or borders is an artifact of contact with European
states the expectations of outsiders about the
timeless nature of indigeneity and the needs of
European and later postcolonial negotiators to
identify leaders of native societies for pur
poses of treaty making and land acquisition.
Indigenous peoples are of special interests to
sociology and to sociologists for several reasons.
First, in the United States, the Americas, and
in many other countries, indigenous peoples
comprised the earliest human settlements and
interactions with indigenous peoples by immi
grant or colonial populations were important in
shaping contemporary legal, cultural, political,
economic, and social organization. In many
countries indigenous peoples are central to
national images of past and present and com
ponents of ethnically diverse national popula
tions. Thus, despite their relatively small