Daniel M. Cobb
D'Arcy McNickle Center
for American Indian History
The Newberry Library
I am indebted to the Friends of the Princeton University Library for making it possible for me to
conduct research in support of several ongoing projects. My primary objective was to garner
material that is central to turning my dissertation into a book. At the same time, however, I
gathered information that will inform a public lecture and two articles.
My manuscript, "Community, Poverty, Power: The Politics of Tribal Self-Determination, 1960-
1968," explores how and why tribal self-determination moved from the periphery to the center of
national American Indian politics. The study demonstrates how the struggle against legal
termination and cultural assimilation converged with the global politics of decolonization and
domestic contests over race and mass society. Throughout this tumultuous period, Indian
activists and their allies translated the major foreign and domestic issues of the era-from civil
rights and black nationalism to the Vietnam War and modernization-into a language very much
their own. At the heart of this process rested the War on Poverty. Drawn from manuscript
sources and oral interviews, a major portion of my work explains how the politics of poverty
metamorphosed into the politics of tribal self-determination.
An Indian past that is at once bound to and distinct from the larger trajectory of American history
emerges from my study. Consequently, "Community, Poverty, Power" not only reinterprets a
critical period in American Indian history, but also expands the limited ground upon which
historians assess Lyndon Johnson's antipoverty campaign. What is more, by contributing to the
ongoing redefinition of politics and activism and weaving together domestic and international
histories, it speaks to the latest interpretive developments in the fields of social, political, and
interdisciplinary history. Blending several scales of analysis allows historians to seek out the
interconnectedness of local people and privileged elites and affords insights into the nature of
culture and power, agency and structure, intimate experience and public action.
Collections in the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library and Rare Books and Special Collections
Department in Firestone Library are peculiarly well-positioned to support this kind of synthetic
research. At the Mudd Library, I was able to consider the papers of Hank Adams, an American
Indian activist central to the fishing rights movement and the founding of the National Indian
Youth Council (NIYC), while also delving deeply into the ideas and actions of non-Indian
advocates via the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) Archives. The papers of
Senator George McGovern, a pivotal figure during the 1960s, will offer further insights into the
complexities of Indian politics inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, their storage off-site and the
limitations of a box-level finding aid made it impossible for me to take advantage of them during
The RBSC in the Firestone Library added further texture to the story I am seeking to tell,
particularly through the Charles Minton Papers. Minton served as executive director of the
Southwest Association on American Indian Affairs and helped to found a series of Indian youth
councils that ultimately led to the creation of the NIYC. Additionally, Minton became deeply
involved in launching Community Action Programs in Indian communities and served as a
confidante to Robert Roessel, a leading innovator in American Indian education and persuasive
counsel to Office of Economic Opportunity Director R. Sargent Shriver.
Finally, the papers of Alfonso Ortiz promise to lend insight into Indian youth activism and
Community Action. To my chagrin, I discovered that these were not only off-site and
unprocessed but also in very poor condition. Though hard to fathom, it was revealed that
Ortiz-once a professor of anthropology at Princeton University-had kept both his and Charlie
Minton's papers for safekeeping in. . . a chicken coup.
The timing of the fellowship, in addition to the Ortiz Papers revelation and richness of the
materials generally, made my experience at Princeton doubly memorable. Having successfully
defended my dissertation at the University of Oklahoma in June, I traveled to Princeton in July.
It was there, as I was concluding my research, that I was offered the position of assistant director
of the D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History at The Newberry Library in
Indeed, the call came as I was discussing the contours of a manuscript for The Princeton
University Library Chronicle. This essay, which should be ready for submission in the winter or
early spring, will explore the transnational context of Indian politics during the 1950s and 1960s
as evidenced research conducted in the AAIA Archives. In the meantime, I will be integrating
material from the same collection into a paper entitled "When Sol Met Earl: Indians, Jews, and
American Social Science in the 1960s." I have been invited to deliver it at a spring symposium
organized by the University of Oklahoma's Judaic Studies Program and will then turn to
developing it into an article.
In all of these ways, the Friends of the Princeton University Library has furthered my
development as a scholar and shaped the contours of my research projects. I am thankful not
only for the generous financial support, but also for the helpful assistance of staff from both the
Mudd and Firestone libraries.