"Let's get in and fight!" American Indian political activism in an urban public school system, 1973.
It was a pretty big textbook on American history, but I think there were only about two sentences on Indians in the whole book. And one was at the very beginning, when the Pilgrims came over and they met the Indians, and then the other one was in the 1800s when the settlers were trying to settle and the Indians were being hostile to them, always fighting with the setters. (1)
A deficient curriculum was, unfortunately, only one of the problems that Hughes faced. The dropout rate for Native Americans in the Phoenix Union High School System as a whole was almost 25 percent, the highest dropout rate of any ethnic group in the district. (2) What would Hughes and Phoenix's urban Indian community do about these problems? Would they just accept their situation and do nothing? Would they merely let themselves "disappear," by either dropping out of school or assimilating into the mainstream? For Phoenix Indians, 1973 would turn out to be a pivotal year for answering these kinds of questions.
Looking at how Phoenix Indians responded to these challenges can help add to our understanding of American Indian political activism the 1960S and 1970s, a topic that has rightly received increasing attention in recent years. (3) The particular Phoenix case offers us a chance to, first of all, examine a story beyond the most well-known and well-studied aspects of 1960s and 1970s Indian activism: the occupation of Alcatraz Island, the Trail of Broken Treaties, and the standoff at Wounded Knee. Secondly, the evidence available for this Phoenix story may also offer some new insights into how Native communities pursued their political goals in these decades. Through the Interviews and the written materials that Indians and non-Indians of Phoenix have shared with us, we can obtain a fairly detailed appreciation for the methods Indian activists used in this specific community, in this specific year, regarding the specific issue of education. This in-depth, up-close examination is one that we can compare to the existing literature on Indian activists' methods in general, looking for reinforcements of those generalizations as well as possible modifications of them.
Though this essay will analyze a single year and a single issue in the history of the Phoenix urban Indian community, its focus certainly does not mean that 1973 was the only year in which Phoenix Indians were active, nor does it mean that education was the only issue with which Phoenix Indians were grappling. The history of urban Indians in the Phoenix area begins well before 1973; in fact, Indians have interacted with and lived in the city of Phoenix ever since Euroamericans founded it in 1867. To be even more accurate, Indians--contemporary O'odham call them the "Hohokom"--created urban communities in the area many generations before Europeans arrived. In terms of the twentieth century, though, the development of an identifiable urban Indian population in Phoenix mirrored the pattern of Indian urbanization in other U.S. cities. The migration was relatively slow in the first decades of the century, but it began to accelerate during and after World War II. By 1970, approximately 8,000 Indians made their homes in the city. Most of them moved (and still move) to Phoenix for the same general reasons Indians moved to other cities in the twentieth century: economics. They saw that their chances of finding a job were better in Phoenix than on their reservations. Phoenix was also similar to other cities in that it presented its Indian newcomers with substantial adjustment challenges. Like other urban Native Americans, Native Americans in Phoenix had to contend with new jobs, new neighborhoods, new governments (local and state governments as opposed to the federal government they dealt with on their reservations), new hospitals, and--the focus of this essay--new schools. (4)
Phoenix Indians addressed these challenges throughout their history in the city, but in the late 1960s, they seemed to start engaging them in a more organized, systematic, and energetic way than they had previously. One person who attested to this increase in the level of political activity was Diane Daychild (O'odham), a woman who became involved in many of the activities herself. "Around that time," she said, "everything was sort of bubbling." (5)
This "bubbling" at a local level in Phoenix arose, of course, at the same time that Indian political activism was intensifying on a national level. Through events like the occupation of Alcatraz Island, the "Trail of Broken Treaties," and the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee, Indians made considerable gains not only in reminding non-Indians that they still existed in the twentieth century, but also in showing them that they were determined to fight against past and present injustices. These national events certainly had an effect on Indian activists in Phoenix, though the precise extent of that influence is somewhat difficult to gauge. (6) Indeed, Phoenix Indians have offered some mixed views on the impact and overall effectiveness of the organization that spearheaded many national political actions: the American Indian Movement (AIM). Like Native Americans in general--reservation and urban--Phoenix Indians differed in their responses to AIM. Reflecting back on the period some thirty years later, Diane Daychild shared her general assessment of how she and her fellow Phoenix Indians responded to AIM. "It probably depended on who the person was; she explained;
there were some who were raised to believe that you needed to behave and to be what the non-Indian told you, otherwise you're not a good person. Then there were those who [had] ... maintained their language, culture, and history, and ... said, "Well, I guess I can see what the problem is, and I agree with [AIM], but I don't agree with how they're approaching [the problem]." And there were others who were more militant, the younger people, who were "gung ho" no matter what. [She laughed.] It just depended, you know. (7)
Several Phoenix Indians appreciated AIM's success in raising the general public's awareness of important Indian issues, but also expressed concern about the seemingly aggressive tactics that the group sometimes used. Gus Greymountain (Navajo) explained his particular views in a 1973 interview with a reporter for the Phoenix Indian newspaper, The Concerned Indian. "Mr. Greymountain agrees a great deal on the ideas of the American Indian Movement, but he does not always agree with the methods they use to accomplish the changes," the newspaper noted; "however, he does not condemn the whole movement." (8) Even Michael Hughes, the sort of young and energetic person that characterized many of AIM'S members, was both impressed with AIM'S accomplishments and yet unclear about its proficiency in seeing things through to a tangible resolution. "I think it [AIM] had a lot of effect in terms of stimulating people to be excited about organizing efforts in the Indian community and to wanting to be active in community activities," he said. "But again, there was this fundamental question of 'Where does this all go? Where are we all going to end up politically and economically and socially?'" (9) While Hughes and Greymountain both shared their impressions of AIM's methods, another leader in the Phoenix Indian community, John Lewis (O'odham/ Mohave), commented on AIM's ultimate influence on his city. "AIM came through here," he acknowledged, "but they essentially told us to just keep doing what we were doing, that they wouldn't meddle unless [we] wanted them to." (10)
Phoenix Indians did "keep on doing what they were doing" when AIM "came through" their city in the early 1970s, and one of their main vehicles for doing so was an organization called "Southwestern Indian Development" (SID). Formed in 1968 by five young Navajos, SID charged itself with "[fostering] the growth and development of responsible leadership for the future development of Indian communities." (11) Although it initially concentrated on addressing reservation issues, it soon expanded to include the Phoenix Indian community. Michael Hughes, Diane Daychild, Gus Greymountain, and John Lewis all soon counted themselves as members. SID quickly became quite active in a number of areas, including housing, employment, health care, municipal government relations, family counseling, and education. (12)
In 1973, teenager Michael Hughes, an Indian of Hopi and O'odham background, found himself emerging as a leader in the effort to improve educational opportunities for his fellow Native American teenagers in Phoenix. Hughes proved himself to be academically talented at a young age, to the extent that, midway through his fourth grade year, he was suddenly allowed to skip ahead and join the fifth-graders. He explained:
That was a real turning point for me, because that was just a bad experience, a very bad experience.... Up until then, I was just sort of this happy-go-lucky, well-adjusted kid, but then I moved into this class, and: number one, I was the smallest guy in the class, because I was a year younger than everybody; number two, I didn't fit in anywhere because, you know, by that time, all your [peer] groups are settled; number three, I was this egg-head, who was real different, this strange guy who's supposed to be super smart, and people didn't know how to approach me; and, number four, my skin was brown, and [almost] everybody else's skin was white. (13)
By the time he began eleventh grade at East High School, he seemed to still be dealing with some of those same challenges. "I was just like in a daze, until this Indian organizing stuff came along," he said; "and that gave me a focus, that gave me something to do. And I think if it wasn't for that, I might have ended up in jail or something. It gave me an outlet for my energy." (4)
While still a student at East High School, then, Hughes started working with John Lewis, Gus Greymountain, and Diane Daychild in Southwestern Indian Development. He worked on a variety of issues with which SID was involved, but he began to get especially active in the area of education. Soon, Hughes had impressed Daychild enough--with his intelligence, his energy, his political skills, or perhaps all three--that she helped usher along Hughes's ascension to a leadership role in SID's efforts at improving educational opportunities for urban Indian youths. Without even first informing him of her plan, Daychild nominated Hughes for a position on the Phoenix Union High School System's Citizens' Advisory Council.
The Citizens' Advisory Council (CAC) had been set up by the district ostensibly to improve communications between the school board, administration, and community members. In its initial format, the CAC comprised two parent representatives from each of the eleven high schools in the district. This did not produce a very diverse group, however. "What happened was, when they got their eleven representatives, they were all sort of your standard PTA types: white Anglo Saxon upper middle class kinds of families," Hughes explained; "so, again, it was like twenty-two white people giving advice." (15) Before too long, non-Anglo district members had managed to convince the district to expand the CAC to include representatives from minority communities. So, with the encouragement of Diane Daychild, Michael Hughes agreed to serve as one of the council's American Indian representatives.
Hughes started to attend the CAC meetings, generally held once a month on Saturday mornings at the district administration offices, and he quickly began acquiring an education on the system of education. "Some of it was interesting, and some of it was really bureaucratic" he reflected. (16) Many of the meetings required him to listen to, as he put it, "Anglo, middle-income nonsense." (17) But just being present at the CAC sessions had some benefits for the Phoenix Native community. The relatively small number of Indians, as compared to other ethnic groups, in the PUHSS made it that much easier for administrators to forget that there were any Indians in their schools at all. Of the 28,678 students enrolled in the district in the 1972-1973 school year, over 70 percent were listed as "Anglo." The next largest ethnic groups, according to the district's own records, were Mexican Americans (4,719 students) and African Americans (2,714 students). Only 439 students in the PUHSS, or 1.5 percent of the total, were listed as American Indian. By going to the CAC meetings, then, Daychild said that she and Hughes were "the reminder, or like a thorn in their side ... to help them remember that there were other minority students aside from the Hispanic population." (18) To increase their effectiveness as "thorns" in the side of the school district, Hughes spearheaded an effort to set up an organization of and for young Native people in the city. By May he and his young colleagues had created the "Phoenix Indian Youth Committee" (PIYC), a group that would derive financial and technical assistance from SID. (19)
Later that month, Hughes's ability to confront "enemies" like the PUHSS superintendent would be enhanced as a result of a general reorganization of the Phoenix Indian community. On 23 June 1973, at the Civic Plaza in downtown Phoenix, over four hundred people came together for what was billed as the first Phoenix Indian conference. Conference organizers asserted that, "the Indian community has been 'invisible' too long" and called for a "united approach to deal with inter-organization communication problems. (20) Many voiced the need for unity and coordination. By 1973 Indians in Phoenix had formed a number of different organizations and committees to deal with various community concerns from healthcare to social services, from job training to family counseling. Although these organizations helped address fundamental needs, some believed that communication among them needed to be improved, that overlapping of services needed to be reduced, and that some sort of overall leadership would be beneficial. (21)
Gus Greymountain also spoke of the general need for Indian people to minimize the number of arguments amongst themselves. Following the June conference, he told a reporter for The Concerned Indian, that there had been enough "finger pointing" and "name calling" among Indians on the national scene and, he seemed to suggest, in Phoenix itself. "One of the reasons they have not been able to progress is they have been too busy fighting with one another," he said; "they must now, sit down and plan things out intelligently." (22) Martha Sadongei (O'odham/Kiowa), who was--like Michael Hughes--a high school student at this time, echoed Greymountain's observations. She recalled, "for as much as the community was trying to come together, it seemed there were a lot of loose wires, and the wires almost got frayed because there were too many leaders. Everybody [thought they] had the right idea. 'I know that this is the way, someone would say, and then someone else would say, 'No, this is the way it should be done.'" (23)
As a response to some of these concerns about leadership, the attendees of the June Phoenix Indian Conference agreed to create an unincorporated "umbrella" organization for the many Indian organizations in Phoenix. They called it the "Metropolitan Phoenix Indian Coalition" (MPIC) Greymountain saw the formation of the Coalition as a step in the right direction, and he told the Concerned Indian that he saw it as "the beginning of the Indians here in Phoenix pulling together." (24) Michael Hughes shared Greymountain's basic excitement about what the community had accomplished at the June conference, but he also wanted more to be accomplished, and quickly. In a report he sent that summer to the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation (RFKM, a Washington DC-based foundation that had awarded him a fellowship to help fund his community-organizing efforts), he wrote, "Things are going too slow for me, as usual, but they're going" he told the RFKM; he placed hope in his peers: "I think the youth [at the conference] gave more of an influence toward the fighting spirit, moving the otherwise generally conservative, 'wait and see what happens' attitude of most older Indian people." (25) In any case, Hughes and his fellow youth activists quickly positioned their newly formed Phoenix Indian Youth Committee, underneath the MPIC "umbrella." (26)
Bolstered by the renewed call for unity voiced at the conference, and by the new MPIC's effort to streamline the community's organizations, the PIYC began addressing educational problems with added vigor. The group first focused on simply gathering information on the status of Indian students in the PUHSS, an important but time-consuming task. At this time, however, the community made a special effort to conduct the time-consuming work of gathering information--by talking to Indian students and parents, meeting with school officials, and looking at the district's own data--and presenting that information, in the form of both written and oral reports.
As one part of this information-gathering endeavor, Michael Hughes and his friend, David Pepion--a Blackfeet Indian and fellow high school student--began going door-to-door to visit the houses of PUHSS Indian students and their parents. Using a PUHSS printout that listed the addresses of all the Indian students in the district, Hughes and Pepion walked Phoenix's neighborhoods, listened to the concerns of Native families, and encouraged them to get more involved and active in educational issues. Hughes remembered those visits with fondness in 2001. He recalled,
I don't know how far we got, but it seemed like we talked to actually a lot of people. I remember this one couple. We went to their house, and the kid wasn't there but the parents were there, and they said, "What are you talking about?" And we said, "Oh, we want to see how the kids are doing in school, because we're concerned that kids are dropping out. We want to see if they're doing well in school." And so this couple said, "Oh, that's wonderful!" And they invited us into their house and the lady brought out some cake and gave us some tea or something to drink and they were just real nice people. (27)
Hughes and Pepion hoped the people with whom they spoke would not only open up their kitchens, but would also come to some of the many community meetings, including the meetings of a new organization created that same fall: the Indian Education Committee (IEC). Whereas the Phoenix Indian Youth Council, by definition, limited its membership, the IEC sought to bring together both students and parents. Like the PIYC, however, the IEC would group itself underneath the larger Metropolitan Phoenix Indian Coalition. (28)
When not attending a community meeting or pounding the pavement with David Pepion, Hughes scrutinized the PUHSS's own statistics on its Native American students. The numbers seemed to support much of the oral evidence that Hughes and Pepion had been hearing in their door-to-door visits. Indian students had the highest dropout rate of any ethnic group in the district: 24.6 percent, nearly one in four, were not completing their high school education. (29) And, while the district had in place a parity policy, an official call to match the ethnic student populations with a corresponding percentage of faculty from that ethnic group, only 2 out of some 1,800 faculty in the district were Native American. Native people comprised 1.4 percent of those enrolled in the PUHSS, but only 0.1 percent of the faculty. (30)
A third prominent aspect of the Indian community's information-gathering efforts involved meeting with district administrators. In September 1973, Michael Hughes and Frank Sadongei (Martha Sadongei's brother) managed to obtain meetings with an impressive number oft, urns personnel. They conferred with the Director of Curriculum, the Director of Human Relations, the Director of Title I Projects, the Director of Social Studies Curriculum, the Director of English Curriculum, the Director of Counseling and Guidance, and several principals, assistant principals, and counselors at various high schools. The two teenagers encountered varying responses. Hughes noted that the Director of English Curriculum was "not open to the idea of an Indian literature class," for instance, but, he described the District Director of Guidance and Counseling as being "very receptive to the idea of an Indian Awareness workshop for counseling personnel." (31) In any case, Hughes and Sadongei greatly improved their education on the Phoenix educational system, and at the same time did much to facilitate the education of the educators on American Indian concerns.
Before, during, and after these evidence-collecting expeditions, the Phoenix Indian community came together to identify a number of key goals for improving the education of their children. In general, these objectives reflected the community's strong desire that the system do more to make its schools places where Indian students could despite being the smallest ethnic group in the district--feel more at home and less alien. Curriculum constituted an important area of concern. Phoenix Indians wanted history and literature teachers to incorporate more attention to Indian history and Indian literature into their classes. In addition, they wanted the district to create separate classes for Indian history and culture. (32) The Native community also asked the district to step up its efforts to hire Indian teachers and counselors, who they felt would be better able to relate to Indian students. Years later, Hughes reflected on that need:
When I think back to those days, it seemed like everybody that I remember working in the school district--whether they were teachers or counselors or administrators--there were no minorities in any of those positions. And so it was like this big divide where they didn't really have an understanding of minority kids, much less Indian kids. And the Indian kids had a really difficult time relating to the teachers and understanding the teachers ... so we wanted some people in the counseling offices that were going to do some outreach to the Indian students. (33)
The community sought the creation of more Indian clubs as another way of helping Indian students feel less alienated in the district's huge high schools. (34) Although substantial numbers of Native students attended several of the schools in 1973, only one school--North High School--had an Indian club. (35) Community members also tried to educate district educators, to whom Indians remained "invisible." Training workshops for PUHSS faculty, they felt, might improve the situation.
Finally, the Phoenix Indian community wanted to teach administrators about the availability of both new and old sources of federal funding for Indian education. The old source of funding stemmed from the 1934 Johnson O'Malley Act, which stipulated that public schools that enrolled Indian students should receive federal assistance. Up to 1973, the Phoenix Union High School System did not take full advantage of these Johnson O'Malley (often referred to as "JOM") funds. The Director of Title I (federal) projects with whom Hughes and Sadongei met in September 1973, for example, told them that he believed that the PUHSS was not even using any JOM funds. (36) Years later, Michael Hughes concluded that the district had in fact been misusing JOM money for years. "I did some research on that, around 1976-1977" he said, "and I found that of the million or so dollars they [the state of Arizona Department of Education] were receiving every year for JOM, most of that money was going into county reapportionment and teacher retirement funds and almost none of it was being used to support Indian children." (37) The Phoenix Union High School System was not alone in its failure to use JOM funds properly. Historian Margaret Connell Szasz states, "In theory, the ... JOM program ... [was] geared to meet the needs of Indian students; in practice, a large portion of this funding was used for basic operating expenses;" she adds, "many school districts channeled JOM ... funds into their annual budgets for the entire school system and used the funds so widely that they were not even sure where they went.... in some cases non-Indian students benefited more from them than the Indian students themselves." (38)
The early 1970s also marked a period of substantial new federal funding for Indian education. Lawmakers in Washington at last began to listen more closely to what Indian people had been telling them for years about the failures of the federal government to honor its nineteenth-century pledges to provide for the education of Indian children. In 1972 Congress approved the Indian Education Act, which promised to increase the level of funding and Indian control over Indian education. It was an important piece of legislation for Natives all over the United States, and it marked a more definite awareness among policymakers of the existence of Indians living in cities. Connell Szasz pointed out,
Indians in urban areas traditionally had been ignored by the Indian Bureau.... Under Title IV [as the Indian Education Act was also called], urban, state-recognized, and terminated Indians would begin to have a voice in their children's education.... [It] added a broad range of Indians who had been "historically left out in the cold." (39)
By seizing these opportunities for federal assistance, and by simultaneously working towards the other goals, the Phoenix Indian community argued that the dropout rates for their students would begin to decline. Not all of these goals were necessarily brand new ones for Phoenix Indians in 1973, but they had now articulated them with better clarity and better supporting data, thanks in no small part to the diligent information-gathering work of Hughes, Pepion, Sadongei, and others. (40) With these goals identified (or re-identified), the questions now before the community were: first, who in the community would work on these goals, and, second, how would they pursue them. As for the first question, community members concluded that the PUHSS itself could not be counted on. "Although [PUHSS] officials would shake our hands and sit and listen, it became clear that these 'educators' had no intention of helping Indians," Hughes wrote in a 1974 project proposal. (41) The effort would have to come from Indians themselves: from parents, and, Hughes felt strongly, from the students themselves. He was not under the illusion that motivating his peers into action would always be easy, however. In reflecting on one meeting, for example, he reported, "As usual, [the] youth need a little kick in the rear to get moving." (42)
Yet Hughes stayed optimistic about getting young people involved. "The Indian student now sees himself as a problem," he acknowledged in a report to his sponsors in the RFKM, but the problem, he felt, lay not with the youths; "the problem is the system which has failed to provide the Indian student with an adequate and meaningful education." (43) Hughes noted that many Native students were burdened by a sense of "hopelessness and powerlessness." But he maintained that such feelings could be overcome.
The paradox of this is that the very power to change the situation lies in the hands of the Indian students. There is much reason to believe that Indian students as an organized and unified group could successfully change the situation by voicing their needs, and applying the pressure in the right areas to effect meaningful responses from the school system. (44)
This optimistic prediction would actually come true, in part because of some new tactics that Hughes and other Phoenix Indian activists would employ.
Hughes and his colleagues had come to favor a tactic of more direct confrontation. They did so because they felt that the rums was responding to their concerns too slowly and on much too small a scale. "They were being sort of polite," remembered Daychild, "but they were not really taking anything to heart." (45) Hughes agreed. "We eventually saw that [the Citizens' Advisory Council members] were not really agents of change.... They saw themselves more as protectors of the status quo.... Then, we saw them not as allies but more as, not as enemies, but as sort of an obstacle. We had to get around them." (46) In his notes from those years, Hughes reiterated this by writing, "It became clear to us that it would be necessary to apply force to the school system before it would change." (47)
In a September 21 meeting of the Phoenix Indian Youth Committee, and in an October 2 meeting of the Indian Education Committee, attendees affirmed the plans for more direct action. They agreed that although the PUHSS had granted them some time to speak at some of the recent CAC meetings, it had ultimately not responded to their satisfaction. These community activists thus resolved to confront the Phoenix Union High School System more dramatically at the upcoming Citizens' Advisory Council meeting in early October. Hughes outlined some of his own hopes in a letter dated October 5. He wrote:
[T]he real importance of the strategy lies not in Saturday's [October 6, the day of the CAC meeting] action solely, but in the long-range influence of this confrontation. This is a test-run for our people. They are unsure and jittery when we speak of "making demands," building power, [and] confrontations.... Tomorrow will demonstrate to them the necessity and effectiveness of this type of approach. (48)
Hughes did not conceal his excitement in the letter, and he went on to predict that the CAC confrontation would garner media attention, get more Indians more energetically involved in educational issues, and serve as a learning experience in terms of taking political action. "We can afford to learn from mistakes we make Saturday, which would be fatal to our organization when the stakes are higher," he wrote. (40)
Hughes deemed the Saturday "test run" in confrontational politics a success. He and the dozen or so other Indians who attended aired their concerns to those in attendance at the CAC meeting, which included not only the CAC representatives, but also Superintendent Gerald DeGrow and many of the district principals. (50) They also succeeded in attracting press coverage, as both local newspapers and local television stations covered the meeting. In addition to simply getting the district to listen to these concerns, Hughes observed with pleasure that he was not the only Native person to voice them. "During the meeting, several Indians stood up and supported our stand," he wrote in a letter soon afterwards; "some that did were Indians I had never seen before. It is important that they made their decision to stand up and speak out." (51)
Not only did more people speak out, but they did so with a passion and energy that Hughes said he had not seen before the meeting. "Before the meeting, the feelings of the Indians were non-committal, so-so.... After the meeting ended, many of the Indian people engaged themselves in heated arguments with the Council members"; Hughes attributed this "radicalizing" of the Indian community (as he termed it) to seeing firsthand some of the unresponsive attitudes of some CAC members and district leaders." (52) He wrote, "before, when we had accused the system of being arrogant, racist, and repressive, very few people could hold the same feelings.... The actions of the Council members themselves proved this point more clearly and strongly than we could. Many of our people are now saying, 'What next? Let's get in and fight!'" (53)
While Phoenix Indians had made some important progress at the October 6 meeting, however, it is important to also remember the challenges they had faced in getting to that point and the challenges that they would continue to face for the remainder of 1973. To get a glimpse of what some of these challenges were, we can use Hughes's personal records from that year. As noted above, one difficulty that Hughes mentioned was that some members of his community were hesitant to become politically active. In fact, some of their hesitation may have stemmed from another problem that Hughes faced: failure. After all, 1973 was not a story of an unbroken string of successes for the Phoenix Indian community. In May, for instance, Hughes tried to set up an Indian Club at one of the high schools, but the effort failed. (54) Phoenix Indians, like any group of human beings, also did not always succeed in staying unified. On occasion, they disagreed with each other on goals and tactics. The month of May can again serve as an example. Hughes noted that, in one particular meeting, his ideas were met only with either indifference or hostility. "No one responded" to his proposals, he wrote in a report, "except one woman who ... attack[ed] my plans." (55)
Indeed, meetings of any kind with any people are always going to vary in terms of their productiveness. The sessions that the Phoenix Indian community held in those months were no different. Only a few days after reaching the "high" of the October 6 confrontation with the PUHSS Citizens' Advisory Council, for instance, an October 9 meeting of the Indian Education Committee seemed to bring Hughes back down to earth. He described the October 9 meeting as "very unsuccessful" With his characteristic candor, he wrote that there was "not enough direction, no plans, too much B.S." (56)
Another problem that seemed to always be lurking in the background, concerned funding. The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation Fellowship that Hughes earned in early 1973 solved this problem to a certain extent. Part of its importance can be seen in Hughes's earnest request that the foundation extend the fellowship into late 1973. He explained in a letter to the foundation," the funds are necessary mainly for working.... For instance: I have to get insurance so that I can begin to drive a car, which will probably take the next two months' pay." (57) Hughes's former mode of transportation, an aged van, had been recently rendered unusable. "Our van burned up," he explained tersely in one report; "also, [we] will want to use the money for organization members' expenses, etc," and concluded, "as is usual for someone in this kind of work, 'if I was in it for the money, I'd have been out of it a long time ago.'" (58) Other essential concerns, such as paying bills and buying groceries, were also persistent financial challenges for Hughes and his assistants. (59)
For political activists in general, past and present, the monetary strains of the work along with the sheer labor involved can be profoundly tiring, even to young and energetic people, Michael Hughes was no exception to this rule. He described twelve- to sixteen-hour days as not uncommon. There are many times in his notes where he talks about late-night meetings that left him exhausted. And, one must bear in mind that Hughes was still a full-time high school student while all of this was going on. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that he spoke with particular fondness about a summer youth leadership retreat that he got to attend up in Prescott, Arizona, a small town northwest of Phoenix. Because the town is at an elevation 3,000 feet higher than Phoenix, it stays much cooler in the summer and is ringed by forests of Ponderosa pines. Hughes relished this "chance to get into the woods, away from the hassle of the city. [It was] refreshing," he said. (60)
Hughes's records also remind us that political activists of any ethnicity cannot put their personal needs and concerns completely on hold. Indeed, this must be especially poignant for young people. Although Hughes was normally silent on such matters in his notes, he did occasionally offer insights into the emotional strain that the work could put him under. In a 1974 letter, for example, he talked with a pronounced sense of relief about how a particular Detroit, Michigan, youth leadership meeting had given him a chance to open up to a group of people who could really relate to what he was going through. "For months," he confessed, "I [had] felt like the loneliest person in the world." (61)
Hughes did not devote as much attention in his records to some other potential challenges that would have affected his community to some degree. He did not say too much, for instance, on the question of whether tribal differences hindered the political goals of Phoenix Indians. Perhaps the fact that he did not feel it was worth mentioning is by itself revealing. The people who wanted to improve Indian education in this Arizona city were certainly of diverse tribal backgrounds. In addition to Hughes, with his mixed O'odham and Hopi heritage, there were Navajos like Gus Greymountain, Dakotas like Syd Beane, Blackfeet like David Pepion, O'odhams like Diane Daychild, and other people of multiple tribal backgrounds, such as John Lewis (Mohave/O'odham) and Martha and Frank Sadongei (Kiowa/O'odham). But there is little in the available written and oral evidence to suggest that this inhibited their political work in any significant way.
In fact, one could say that the tribal heterogeneity, when it did come into play, could show itself to be an asset. Daychild, for example, remembered the useful energy that two Plains women--one a Blackfeet and the other a Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation--brought to the community's political work. They "were the crazy ones," she said with a chuckle.
They were funny. They would get people riled up. They would say all sorts of crazy stuff about white people, and it had to do with just what they were exposed to when they were younger. That's the same thing with me, or whoever. We react, or act upon, whatever our experience is or was.... So because of that, they [as northern Plains Indians] were more outspoken than a lot of the people in the Southwest. [She laughed.] ... So ... you need to know historically about the tribes, because it carries it over into how they carry themselves. (62)
In other words, Daychild seemed to feel that the relative "gregariousness" and "aggressiveness" of the Plains Indians, as she might characterize them, coupled with the relative "contemplativeness" and "calmness" of the southwestern Indians, helped produce an especially effective balance of attitudes in the Phoenix Native community. Such an observation might also suggest that some scholars have slightly overstated the homogenizing effects of cities on Indian identifies. Urbanization did certainly foster greater intertribal connections, but it did not necessarily mean that urban Indians completely shirked their tribal identities for a "pan-Indian" ethnicity. If that had been the case, Daychild should not have noted arty difference between her political style and that of her Lakota friend. (63)
In addition to these more immediate and perhaps more generic kinds of challenges--motivating people, failures, unproductive meetings, funding shortages, fatigue, and emotional stress--there was also a deeper and more distinctive kind of factor with which Phoenix Indians had to contend. That factor was history itself. Native people tended to approach Euroamerican educational institutions in general with profound skepticism, based on their past experiences with it. For example, virtually all the Indian parents of school children in Phoenix in 1973 had been affected in some way either directly or indirectly--by the notorious federal boarding schools. Hughes's grandparents, for instance, were both products of federal boarding schools in the 1920s and 1930s. Hughes's mother was fortunate enough not to have attended such a school, but her parents nevertheless raised her in manner that was strongly influenced by their boarding school experiences. They were rather harsh disciplinarians, Hughes noted. And, since the boarding schools had pushed vocational education on them and discouraged academic education, they tended to do the same with Hughes's mother.
They didn't really value higher education all that much.... I remember my mother telling me that she would try to read books at home, and my grandfather would tell her it was a big waste of time, that she needed to get out in the yard and pull weeds and stuff like that.... They never understood what she was doing, and didn't know whether to support her or not. (64)
The significance of this factor--a history of dealing with colonialism--combined with the other factors mentioned above, only makes the Phoenix Indian community's success at the October 6 CAC meeting, and their subsequent successes, that much more impressive. Indeed, Phoenix Indians did not stop with the small victory they had won in October. Rather, they began to plan for another confrontation with the CAC, this time with more people and more assertiveness. (65) If the October 6 meeting had been a "test run," as Hughes had described it, the December 1 CAC meeting would be the real thing.
On that December 1 morning, the chairman of the CAC, Henry Tom (a non-Indian), went to the meeting expecting that the main item on the agenda would be a presentation on the need to improve the district's driver's education program. As he made his way from the parking lot to the administration building that day, Tom did remember realizing that something was a little different than usual. For one thing, he said, there were a "lot of Indians milling around." Then, some of the Indians approached him. They said that they were there to support the Indian agenda. "And I thought, 'What Indian agenda?'" Tom recalled. He next noticed that there were trucks from two of the local television stations parked outside of the building. "What's going on?" he remembered wondering to himself. Tom entered the boardroom, took his place at the head of the conference table, waited for the other CAC members and Superintendent DeGrow to assemble, and called the meeting to order. He began the discussion on driver's education that had been planned for that day. (66)
"After the meeting was called to order," Hughes recalled, "I made a motion that we change the agenda to talk about the problems of the Indian students, and the chairman of the committee [Henry Tom], said, 'Well, we're not going to talk about that agenda item.'" With Tom's refusal to grant him time on the agenda, Hughes evidently decided to get more confrontational. "I said something like, 'I demand that we talk about it!'" Tom responded, according to Hughes, by telling him, "You're out of order"; and recounted what happened next: "At that point, then, all the Indian people stood up, and started walking up to the Citizens Advisory Council." (67) Henry Tom maintained that the Indians "surrounded" him and his fellow CAC members. "They started raising a ruckus, but [we didn't] know what they wanted," Tom recalled;
And I said, "You know, we can't have a meeting"--I'm not too sure I said it in that civil a tone, but I said, "We can't have a meeting if you guys are going to be jumping around and yelling and so on." And they said, "We want our agenda." And I said, "No." And I said, "If you don't sit down and let us have our meeting, then I'll cancel it." "No you won't," they said. And I said, "Yes I will." And I banged the gavel down and said, "This meeting is adjourned." I canceled it. (68)
Accounts vary slightly on just what happened next. Tom maintained that DeGrow, in a whisper, suggested continuing the meeting in his office. Tom and the other CAC members then proceeded purposefully, exiting the room and walking across an outdoor courtyard to the neighboring administration building where the superintendent's office was housed. Security officers guarded their passage. Hughes remembered the scene a bit differently. Once he and the other Indians began walking towards the table, he said, "all these CAC people started getting scared." He recalled DeGrow proclaiming--not in a whisper--" The CAC can come to my office!" Hughes added his own description of the manner of the CAC's exit from the administration building. "They all started running out of the room," he said. (69) As they made their hasty "retreat," Hughes recalled he and the other Indians yelling at them, saying things like, "You don't care about the Indian students!" and "You guys aren't doing anything!" (70) Tom, too, remembered being confronted vigorously as the CAC headed for DeGrow's office. "They were yelling and carrying signs ... and the TV cameras were rolling and so on." (71)
The district newsletter that was published a few days after the incident affirmed that there was "shouting" including "charges of racism" It also claimed that "the Indians tried to force their way into the superintendent's office," prompting someone to call the police. (72) The Arizona Republic also noted this, though it cited the superintendent as saying that there was only one Indian person involved, rather than several Indians, as the newsletter suggests. "DeGrow said one of the Indians tried to enter his inner office and he prevented it by standing in the door and refusing to allow him to pass" the newspaper reported. (73) The police responded to the call "and talked to a few people" DeGrow told the Arizona Republic journalist, but "by that time reason was re-establishing itself." (74) The district newsletter likewise asserted that, "there was no violence; there were no arrests; and there were no serious incidents." (75) The CAC members spoke "informally" for a while, and did agree to allow the Indian group time on the agenda for their next meeting in January. The matter of driver's education was evidently postponed as well. "And that was about the extent of it" Tom said. (76)
Tom wasted no time in letting Michael Hughes know of his displeasure with his actions. Later that same day, he drafted a letter and sent it to him. "The incident at the CAC meeting this morning was very unfortunate," Tom began. "I don't know what you hope to accomplish by these disruptive tactics." He went on to criticize Hughes for "hurting the cause of the Indian student," and asserted that, "the impressions you create manifest themselves in a misleading impression of all your people." It was important that CAC meetings follow proper procedures, Tom emphasized. "We welcome diverse comment and opinion," he wrote, "but no group can tolerate a total disregard for orderly conduct." He concluded with an admonition. "I must warn you that any further disruption from you or your group will result in action being taken to drop your name from membership on the C.A.C. Governing Board." (77)
In a report to the Robert Kennedy Memorial Foundation, Hughes vigorously pointed out what he saw as the inaccuracies in Tom's claims. "There are some fundamental errors in Tom's assessment of the situation, and some amusing fallacies in his judgment.... On line 1, [Tom] mentions that the situation was unfortunate. That's true--it would also have been unnecessary had the CAC supported us before." (78) Hughes also disputed Tom's insinuation that the "disruptive tactics" used at the meeting would be counterproductive to Indian educational goals within the district. "Before the incident, the PUHSS administration had been totally unresponsive.... After the incident, that same administration was calling universities all over the country trying to find 'qualified Indian personnel.' [And] that administration began to plan to apply for Title IV funds." (79) He concluded his response with characteristic candor and emotion. "Line 3 [of Tom's letter] mentions loss of the cat's support. All I can say is that their support is not and has not been worth an ounce of the B.S. that they constantly spew." (80)
The district newsletter, published only a few days after the December 1 meeting, sided clearly with Henry Tom and Gerald DeGrow. "Militant Indians Disrupt Citizens' Advisory Council Meeting," the headline for the newsletter read, followed by the subtitle, "system already planning for Indian education funds." (81) The article echoed Tom's memo to Hughes, citing confusion and criticism over the Indian group's confrontational tactics. The newsletter also repeated the district's arguments (which it had also made in October and November) that it had already been working diligently for the betterment of Native students prior to the December 1 "disruption." Just a week before the meeting, district personnel had "talked about the process of getting federal monies for Indian students," the newsletter claimed, "[b]ut the word did not get out in time to members of the Indian community, so it seems." The article also tried to challenge Hughes's assertion that the CAC was not listening to Indian concerns, maintaining that it "has discussed these matters with Indians twice before (October 6 and November 3)." (82) Hughes and the IEC bad indeed managed to bring up Indian issues at the October 6 and November 3 meetings, but in both cases they felt the CAC'S responses were inadequate. (83)
In any case, the Indian Education Committee was ready to take its case to the top of the Phoenix Union High School System hierarchy: the school board. The IEC set its sights on the district school board meeting scheduled for December 6, 1973, only a few days after the December 1 CAC confrontation. District officials were nervous enough about the IEC's attendance that they arranged to have security personnel--and even plainclothes police officers--keep watch over the meeting. (84) "[We] weren't sure whether we were going to have a riot on our hands or not," noted Tom. (85) Such worries and precautions proved unnecessary, for IEC leaders like Syd Beane (Dakota) had wisely chosen a less confrontational approach for this occasion. The Phoenix Gazette reported that, prior to the start of the meeting, Beane met with the Indian group outside of the boardroom to discuss their tactics. He called for moderation in dealing with the school board members. "We want the board to realize we aren't upset with them, but that we are attacking DeGrow," Beane told the twenty-five Natives who had gathered for the meeting; "we don't want them thinking we are militants or dissidents." (86) He encouraged the group to refrain from getting into "shouting matches," and urged them to let their designated spokesperson for that meeting do the talking.
The IEC members evidently heeded Beane's words. They patiently waited for over an hour as the board discussed the mundane matters that all school boards must address. Should they allow new blacktopping of the basketball courts at Camelback High? Should they approve the purchase of new desks for Central High? Which contractor should be given the go-ahead to carry out the roof repairs at South Mountain? At last, the agenda items were completed, and the time came for "citizens wishing to be heard." The board first recognized a parent who wanted to voice "some dissatisfaction" with the new sprinkler system that had been installed at Trevor G. Browne High School. Once that weighty issue was adequately analyzed, the IEC finally had its chance to speak. Their spokesperson, Aleene Hughes (Michael's mother), simply reiterated the main concerns that her son and others had been conveying to the school district throughout that fall. Although the board members took no direct action at the meeting, the board president, Carolyn Warner, "promised [that] the board would go over the ... requests with the administration and have some answers at the December 20 meeting." (87)
The IEC had accomplished its modest objectives for the December 6 meeting, and had done so by adopting the more moderate tone for which Beane had asked. But one must keep in mind that it was unlikely that Beane desired moderation simply for moderation's sake. A shrewd ulterior political motive was also probably at work, hinted at in Beane's pre-meeting words, and articulated more clearly by Hughes. In his December report to the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, Hughes noted his general satisfaction with the school board's response, but added a parenthetical comment: "Not that we like them--we just want to create some polarization between the Board and the administration so that we can effectively attack the administration." (88)
At the December 6 meeting, the IEC appealed to the school board for more time at their next meeting, to be held two weeks later, on December 20. The board granted them this request, in fact making their presentation the first item on the meeting's agenda. Superintendent DeGrow and other district officials again prepared for hostile confrontations and possible violence. "I think what [DeGrow] expected, Michael Hughes said, "was that we would just act rowdy to the school board and that we would discredit ourselves." (89) But as they had done for the December 6 meeting, Hughes and the Indian Education Committee decided on a more moderate and less confrontational approach. Eschewing a more overtly political presentation, they decided to let a few mothers do most of the talking. "They said things like, 'We're just like any other parents. We want our kids to succeed in school and we want them to do well and graduate and go on to work, or to go on to college,'" Hughes remembered; one mother "talked about the difficulties her children were having and just not having money to buy the books and having a hard time." They made their points well, Hughes said: "They were these really kind of heart-wrenching stories these mothers were telling." (90)
Henry Tom had a chance to speak to the board as well. He reiterated the CAC's feeling that it had been sufficiently responsive to the concerns raised by the Indian community that fall. "We have given what we feel is a fair amount of time to discuss the issues.... We have issues that concern all 11 high schools, and the other students, and their parents. Our function is to review as many as we can, [but], we cannot, in an ordinary amount of time, continue only [on] the Indian issues. We've given it all the time on the agenda, and that's all there is to it." (91)
After the mothers and Henry Tom made their presentations, the Indian Education Committee waited to hear the reaction of the board. The reaction of Carolyn Warner, the president of the school board, turned out to be quite direct. After listening to the IEC members, she simply asked, "Well, what do you guys want?" Michael Hughes described the IEC's answer: "We said, 'We just want the school district to apply for these Title IV Indian Education Act program dollars, so that you guys can have some money to hire some Indian counselors and help these Indian kids.'" Upon hearing that, Warner turned to Superintendent DeGrow and said, "Well, why haven't we done that?" In 2001, Hughes smiled at the memory. "It was just stunning to hear that, here was this federal money available and they hadn't done anything," he said. (92)
After the discussion of the IEC's presentation ended, the Board of Education of the Phoenix Union High School System voted unanimously in favor of the following five recommendations, as recorded in the official minutes:
That-- 1. The Administration be authorized to expend up to $2,000 in consultant fees to prepare Title IV application for American Indian education and to work in the area of in-service education with members of the staff. The consultant will be an American Indian. 2. The American Indians be included as part of any parity policy. 3. The Board direct the Administration to actively seek qualified American Indian counselors and other certified personnel for any open positions, and request the American Indian community's assistance in locating such qualified personnel. 4. American Indians be actively sought to work on our various citizens advisory committees, including Title IV. 5. The District enact programs, involve and capitalize upon the inherent high-level responsibility found in many of our American Indian students. (93)
The Indian Education Committee now had the Phoenix Union High School System's pledge that it would take action to meet most of the concerns they had been voicing throughout the past year.
It was a pledge that, for the most part, they actually honored. Shortly after the December 20, 1973, school board meeting, for example, the district allowed Indians to set up an advisory committee to the superintendent and the school board. By 1978 the district had also increased the number of Indians on its staff from the 1973 level--when there were only two Native American staff members--to eighteen. In addition, the district had also created a new staff position: Director of Indian Education, a position that still exists today. (94)
The actions of the Phoenix Indian community--confronted with insufficient textbooks, high dropout rates, and other educational problems--show that they were not content to just accept their fate in 1973. On the contrary, as American Indians have always done (though non-Indians too often forget it), they tried to do something to improve their situation. And, in this case, they largely succeeded. They did so without the direct involvement of the American Indian Movement, reminding us that the story of Indian activism in 1973 is not exclusively about this organization and its standoff at Wounded Knee. To be sure, Phoenix Indians derived some inspiration from AIM'S actions, but this is different from saying that AIM orchestrated these events in this city. Indians in Phoenix also succeeded with significant youth leadership, reminding us that the story of Indian activism in 1973 is not just a story about adults.
Phoenix Indians succeeded in spite of a variety of challenges that stood in their way. Some of the challenges were peculiar to their status as an urban Indian community. At a fundamental level, they had to show the PUHSS that they were not "invisible" despite their small numbers relative to Anglos, Mexican Americans, and African Americans. In addition to proving to the administration that they existed, they had to make it more aware of the new and old sources of federal revenue available for urban Indian education. The Indians of Phoenix also had to deal with a very tribally diverse community. Some scholars have suggested that Indians had to adopt a "pan-Indian" identity when they moved to cities, but the evidence available so far for this Phoenix story suggests a modification of that contention. Tribal differences persisted and may have in fact been an asset more than a liability.
Some of the other challenges that confronted Phoenix Indians were perhaps more universal, the kinds of challenges that most any group of any ethnicity faces when trying to make political change happen. Phoenix Indian political activists had to motivate people who were not automatically willing to get involved; they had to wrestle with internal disagreements about which methods would be most effective; they had to make do with limited financial resources; they had to tolerate meetings that did not always seem sufficiently useful or succinct; and they had to contend with physical fatigue and personal stress.
Despite all of these obstacles--those that were specific to urban Indians and those that were not--the Indians of Phoenix managed to mount a sustained, well-planned, and well-organized political campaign. The Indian Education Committee gathered important information about the status of Native children in Phoenix schools--even when it had to do so through the rather labor-intensive methods of going door-to-door to get it--and used it to develop some focused and realistic goals. They selected intelligent strategies and tactics to pursue those objectives. They honed some of those tactics through actual practice, as with the "test run" at the October 6 CAC meeting. They had the flexibility to shift tactics when the situation warranted it. And, finally, they persevered when they encountered temporary setbacks.
Implicit throughout this story is that the overriding goal of these political activists was to improve their children's chances of staying "Indian" in the city. It is further evidence that, despite what many non-Indians tend to think, moving to the city did not mean that Indians were doomed to lose their "Indianness." On the contrary, Indians used--and they continue to use--their considerable political talents to achieve the important and yet challenging goal of maintaining their cultural identities in urban settings. In Michael Hughes's case, a few years after the victories of 1973, he accepted an invitation to sit on a new statewide committee that had been set up to evaluate textbooks for their presentations of Indian history and culture. (95) He dutifully set about making sure that, unlike him, future Indian students in the PUHSS would be able to use textbooks that presented Indians as more than just the greeters of the Pilgrims or the enemies of the settlers.
(1.) Michael Hughes, interview by Steve Amerman, June 26, 2001 (hereafter Hughes interview, June 26, 2001), tapes and transcripts in Labriola National American Indian Data Center, Hayden Library, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (hereafter Labriola).
(2.) Phoenix Union High School System Annual Reports, 1970-71 and 1975-76, housed in Phoenix Union High School District (in the latter part of the 1970s, the "Phoenix Union High School System" officially changed its name to "Phoenix Union High School District") Administration Building, 4502 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona; Arizona Republic, Dec. 21, 1973; Michael Hughes, "Investigative Research Project: MPIC Youth Committee," July 9, 1974, in Box 1, Folder 27, Michael Hughes's files (hereafter "Hughes files"); Hughes interview, June 26, 2001.
Although the original documents in the "Hughes files" are in Hughes's possession (in his Phoenix, Arizona, home), Hughes permitted the author to make copies of the particular files mentioned in this article. The box and folder numbers refer to the author's own cataloging method. Hughes may eventually donate his papers to an archive.
(3.) See, for example, Troy R. Johnson, Joane Nagel, and Duane Champagne, eds., American Indian Activism: Alcatraz to the Longest Walk (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997); Troy R. Johnson, The Occupation of Alcatraz Island; Indian Self-Determination and the Rise of Indian Activism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996); Joane Nagel, American Indian Ethnic Renewal: Red Power and the Resurgence of Identity and Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996); Paul Chant Smith and Robert Allen Warrior, Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee (New York: The New Press, 1996); Stephen Cornell, The Return of the Native: American Indian Political Resurgence (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).
(4.) Though scholars--especially historians--have been slow to pay attention to the history of Indian migrations to urban areas in the twentieth century, some have begun to address this gap in recent years. See, for example, Ned Blackhawk, "I Can Carry On From Here: The Relocation of American Indians to Los Angeles;' Wicazo Sa Review 11 (Fall 1995): 16-30; Donald L. Fixico, The Urban Indian Experience in America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000); Susan Applegate Krouse, "Traditional Iroquois Socials: Maintaining Identity in the City," American Indian Quarterly 25:3 (Summer 2001): 400-408; James B. LaGrand, Indian Metropolis: Native Americans in Chicago, 1945-1965 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002); Susan Lobo and Kurt Peters, eds., American Indians and the Urban Experience (Walnut Creek CA: Alta Mira Press, 2001); Kenneth Philp, "Stride Towards Freedom: The Relocation of Indians to Cities, 1952-1960," Western Historical Quarterly 16 (April 1985); Nicolas G. Rosenthal, "Repositioning Indianness: Native American Organizations in Portland, Oregon, 1959-1975," Pacific Historical Review 71:3 (2002): 415-38; Frances Sanderson and Heather Howard-Bobiwash, eds., The Meeting Place: Aboriginal Life in Toronto (Toronto: Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, 1997); Nancy Shoemaker, "Urban Indians and Ethnic Choices: American Indian Organizations in Minneapolis, 1920-1950; Western Historical Quarterly 19 (November 1988): 431-47; Russell Thornton, Gary D, Sandefur, and Harold G. Grasmick, The Urbanization of American Indians: A Critical Bibliography (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982); Jack O. Waddell and Michael Watson, eds., The American Indian in Urban Society (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971); Joan Weibel-Orlando, Indian Country, L.A.: Maintaining Ethnic Community in Complex Society (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991).
For studies of the Phoenix Indian community in particular see, for example, Joyotpaul Chaudhuri, Urban Indians of Arizona: Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1974); Paivi Hoikkala, "Feminists or Reformers? American Indian Women and Political Activism in Phoenix, 1965-1980," American Indian Culture and Research Journal 22:4 (1998): 163-85; Edward Liebow, "A Sense of Place: Urban Indians and the History of Pan-Tribal Institutions in Phoenix, Arizona" (PhD diss., Arizona State University, 1986); Edward Liebow, "Urban Indian Institutions in Phoenix: Transformation from Headquarters City to Community," Journal of Ethnic Studies 18 (Winter 1991): 1-27; Robert Trennert, "Phoenix and the Indians: 1867-1930," in Phoenix in the Twentieth Century: Essays in Community History, ed. G. Wesley Johnson Jr. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993).
(5.) Diane Daychild, interview by Steve Amerman, June 7, 2001, tapes and transcript in Labriola (hereafter Daychild interview, June 7, 2001). Several scholars have agreed with Daychild's assessment of political changes among Indians in the 1960s and 1970s. See, for example, Nagel, American Indian Ethnic Renewal; Smith and Warrior, Like a Hurricane; Cornell, Return of the Native, esp. p. 8.
(6.) Hughes, for instance, visited Alcatraz Island during the demonstration. Hughes interview, June 26, 2001.
(7.) Arizona Republic, September 18, 1972; Daychild interview, June 7, 2001.
(8.) The Concerned Indian (Phoenix, Arizona), September 1973, Box 1, Folder 31, Hughes files. (The Concerned Indian was a newspaper created by and for the American Indian community of Phoenix. Its team of reporters published several issues of the paper in the early 1970s.) The reporter who interviewed Gus Greymountain was Betty Walsh. Greymountain's comments were echoed by Joy Hanley (also a Navajo) and Judith Black Feather (Ottawa), who were interviewed by the historian Paivi Hoikkala in her dissertation. Paivi Helena Hoikkala, "Native American Women and Community Work in Phoenix, 1965-1980" (PhD diss., Arizona State University, 1995), 194.
(9.) Michael Hughes, interview by Steve Amerman, June 8, 2001, tapes and transcripts in Labriola (hereafter Hughes interview, June 8, 2001).
(10.) John Lewis, interview by Steve Amerman, May 30, 2001, tapes and transcripts in Labriola (hereafter Lewis interview). See also Michael Hughes, "Report on Native American Training Associates Session for RFK Memorial Youth Fellows in Sacramento, California, March 16-17, 1974," Box 1, Folder 30, Hughes files.
(11.) Southwestern Indian Development brochure, [no date], Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files; Daychild interview, June 7, 2001
(12.) Lewis interview.
(13.) Hughes interview, June 26, 2001.
(14.) Hughes interview, June 26, 2001.
(15.) As a new member of the CAC, I do not believe that Hughes replaced any of the representatives who were already on the council (the representatives from the eleven high schools). Rather, he was just added to the council that was already in place. And, apparently, the new American Indian representative to the CAC did not have to be parent, since Hughes at this time was certainly not a parent. Hughes interview, June, 8 2001.
(16.) Hughes interview, June 8, 2001.
(17.) Hughes's June 1973 report to the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation (hereafter RFKM), Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files. Hughes sent monthly reports to this foundation, which helped provide him with financial support for several months from 1973 to 1974. Because of their frequency, their detail, and Hughes's writing skills, these reports are especially valuable historical sources.
(18.) Within the PUHSS, only Asian Americans, with 184 students, had a smaller population than American Indians. PUHSS Annual Report, 1975-76, housed in the PUHSD Administration Building, 4502 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona. The Daychild quote is from the Daychild interview, June 7, 2001.
(19.) Michael Hughes, "Investigative Research Project: MPIC Youth Committee," July 9, 1974, Box 1, Folder 27, Hughes files. In fact, the PIYC built upon the already-existing SID Youth Board. Michael Hughes, Proposal to RFKM Foundation, February 1973, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(20.) The Concerned Indian, September 1973; Michael Hughes, "Investigative Research Project: MPIC Youth Committee," July 9, 1974, Box 1, Folder 27, Hughes files.
(21.) The motivation for streamlining the community organizations came partly from the ideas of Saul Alinsky, a Chicagoan who was a noted community organizer in the 1960s. Both Michael Hughes and Syd Beane, another leader in the Phoenix Indian community, had attended training workshops led by Alinsky and/ or Alinsky's associates. See Hughes's June 1973 report to the RFKM, folder 26, Hughes files; Syd Beane, phone interview by author, June 22, 2001, notes in author's files (hereafter Beane interview).
(22.) The Concerned Indian, September 1973.
(23.) Martha Sadongei, interview by Steve Amerman. July 20, 2001, tapes and transcript in Labriola (hereafter Sadongei interview).
(24.) The Concerned Indian, September 1973.
(25.) Hughes's June 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files. The RFKM had been created in the aftermath of Robert Kennedy's assassination in 1968, in honor of the senator's long-term commitment to empowering communities that were disadvantaged by race or class, or both. In 1973 the RFKM officially launched its Youth Fellows Program, where it could provide financial assistance to twelve young community activists in a nationwide competition. Hughes was one of the twelve. Washington Post press release [April 1973], copy in Box 1, Folder 28, Hughes files.
(26.) The Concerned Indian, September 1973.
(27.) Hughes interview, June 8, 2001.
(28.) Hughes's September 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(29.) Michael Hughes, "Investigative Research Project: MPIC Youth Committee," July 9, 1974, in Box 1, Folder 27, Hughes files. The 24-6 percent figure is corroborated in the Arizona Republic, December 21, 1973.
(30.) Superintendent DeGrow at the time maintained that there were four Indian faculty members (not two as Hughes claimed) in the district. But he did acknowledge that this was still too low, noting that, to abide by the parity policy, there should have been eighteen Native faculty members. Arizona Republic, November 4, 1973. The 1971-1972 PUHSS annual report noted that there were 409 Indian students in the district, or 1.4 percent of the total student population. PUHSS Annual Report, 1971-1972, housed in the Phoenix Union High School District Administration Building, 4502 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona (hereafter PUHSS Annual Reports). Such dire statistics were further confirmed later in 1973 by the district's own director of research. Lloyd Colvin, Director of Research for the PUHSS, made an "extensive statistical report" of Indian students in the district in the fall of 1973, and some of his findings were noted in the December 21, 1973, PUHSS newsletter. "On the average," Colvin said, "Indian students perform less well than other students when they come into our system, and are in greater need of help." PUHSS newsletter, December 21, 1973, Box 1, Folder 31, Hughes files.
(31.) Hughes's September 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(32.) The Concerned Indian, September 1973.
(33.) Hughes interview, June 8, 2001.
(34.) The Concerned Indian, September 2973.
(35.) Sadongei interview.
(36.) Hughes's September 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(37.) Hughes interview, June 8, 2001.
(38.) Margaret Connell Szasz, Education and the American Indian: The Road to Self-Determination since 1928, 3rd ed. (1974; Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999), 185.
(39.) Szasz, Education and the American Indian, 198-99. The "historically left out in the cold" quote is from Herschel Sahmaunt, a Kiowa who was then president of the National Indian Education Association.
(40.) For an example of a pre-1973 articulation of these goals, see Gus Greymountain et al., "Urban Indian Project" (Tempe Az: National Indian Training and Research Center, ).
(41.) Michael Hughes, "Investigative Research Project: MPIC Youth Committee," Box 1, Folder 27, Hughes files.
(42.) Hughes's June 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(43.) Michael Hughes, Proposal to RFKM, February 1973, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(45.) Daychild interview, June 7, 2001.
(46.) Hughes interview, June 8, 2001.
(47.) Michael Hughes, "Investigative Research Project: MPIC Youth Committee," Box 1, Folder 27, Hughes files.
(48.) Michael Hughes to [National Indian Youth Council, Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards], October 5, 1973 and October 8, 1973, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(49.) Michael Hughes to [National Indian Youth Council, Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards], October 5, 1973 and October 8, 1973, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files. An additional example of Hughes's enthusiasm at this time can be found in his account of a October 1, 1973 meeting with the LEAP (Leadership and Education for the Advancement of Phoenix) Youth Development Advisory Board. He noted a particularly impassioned conversation that he had with two members of the Youth Council. "I probed for a spark of radicalism," he wrote, "and found that it burns brightly in both." Hughes's October 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(50.) PUHSS newsletter, October 12, 1973, Box 1, Folder 31, Hughes files.
(51.) Arizona Republic, [October 1973], in Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files; Michael Hughes to [National Indian Youth Council Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards], October 5, 1973 and October 8, 1973, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(52.) Arizona Republic, [October 1973], in Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files; Michael Hughes to [National Indian Youth Council, Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards], October 5, 1973 and October 8, 1973, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files. CAC members acknowledged receipt of the IEC's report, but maintained that it was "lengthy" and so they would need more time to be able to study it, according to the PUHSS newsletter, PUHSS newsletter, October 12, 1973, Box 1, Folder 31, Hughes files.
(53.) Michael Hughes to [National Indian Youth Council, Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards], October 5, 1973 and October 8, 1973, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(54.) Hughes's June 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(55.) Hughes, "Youth Fellowship Progress Report," May 1973, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(56.) Hughes's October 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(57.) Hughes's May 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(58.) Hughes's May 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(59.) Hughes's October 1973 report to the RFKM; Hughes's June 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files; Washington Post press release [April 1973], copy in Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files; Richard Trudell, Director Fellows Program for Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, to Michael Hughes, March 1, 1973, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files; Washington Post, April 4, 1973, copy in Box 1, Folder 28, Hughes files.
(60.) Hughes's June 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files; Hughes's October 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(61.) Michael Hughes to Edwin Gonzales, March 16, 1974, Box 1, Folder 31, Hughes files.
(62.) Daychild interview, June 7, 2001. Joedd Miller, a white Presbyterian minister who has worked closely with the Phoenix Indian community since the late 1960s, corroborated Daychild's description of this particular Blackfeet woman, whose name was Mavis Mitchell. "She'd stand up and talk back to the devil himself," he said. "She's got a lot of grit." Joedd Miller, interview by Steve Amerman, June 26, 2001, tapes and transcript in Labriola.
(63.) One example of how some scholars have overstated the link between urbanization and "pan-Indianism" is provided in one of the best and most well-known books on the history of the American West: Richard White, "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A New History of the American West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991). "Urban Indians," White wrote, "tended over time to become ethnic Indians--that is, people who identified themselves more as Indians than as members of a specific tribe" (583-84). To be fair to White, he may have modified his thoughts in the twelve years since his book went to press. Joane Nagel and Stephen Cornell are two other examples of scholars who have placed a large emphasis on the connection between pan-Indianism and urbanization. But they both do at least stop short of saying that urbanism and tribalism are somehow inherently "antithetical," as Cornell puts it. Nagel, American Indian Ethnic Renewal, 120, 137-40; Cornell, Return of the Native, 128-48.
(64.) Hughes interview, June 26, 2001. For a fuller discussion of the various ways in which boarding school experiences affected the attitudes of Phoenix Indians towards Euroamerican educational institutions, see Stephen Kent Amerman, "Making an Indian Place in Urban Schools: Native Americans and Education in Phoenix, 1941-1984" (PhD diss., Arizona State University, 2002), see especially chapter 4, "Bringing the Past With Them: The Educational Legacies of Phoenix Indian Parents."
(65.) After the October meeting, the IEC did again present their concerns at the November 3 CAC meeting, but they felt the district gave them the same unsatisfactory answers and made the same "excuses" as Hughes put it, that they had previously. Accordingly, they looked at the December meeting as the time when they needed to make a louder statement. PUHSS newsletter, November 9, 1973, Box 1, Folder 31, Hughes files; Arizona Republic, November 4, 1973; Daychild interview, June 7, 2001; Hughes's December 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(66.) Henry Tom, Interviewed by Steve Amerman, July 19, 2001, tapes and transcripts in Labriola (hereafter Tom interview). In a 2001 interview, Hughes estimated that around thirty to forty Indians attended the meeting. Hughes interview, June 8, 2001; Arizona Republic, December 2, 1973.
(67.) Hughes interview, June 8, 2001.
(68.) Tom Interview.
(69.) Syd Beane also remembered the CAC's retreat to Superintendent DeGrow's office as a "run." Beane interview. The Arizona Republic reporter, on the other band, did not describe the procession to DeGrow's office as a run. Arizona Republic, December 2, 1973.
(70.) Hughes Interview, June 8, 2001.
(71.) Tom interview.
(72.) PUHSS newsletter, December 7, 1973, in Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(73.) Arizona Republic, December 2, 1973.
(74.) Arizona Republic, December 2, 1973.
(75.) PUHSS newsletter, 7 December 1973, in Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(76.) Tom interview.
(77.) Henry Tom to Michael Hughes, December 1, 1973, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files. On December 15, the CAC approved Tom's recommendation that they issue a formal reprimand to Hughes. Arizona Republic, December 16, 1973.
(78.) Michael Hughes to [?], December 1973, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(79.) Michael Hughes to [?], December 1973, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(80.) Michael Hughes to [?], December 1973, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(81.) PUHSS newsletter, December 7, 1973, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(82.) PUHSS newsletter, December 7, 1973, Box 1, Folder 26, Hughes files.
(83.) Hughes's September 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(84.) Phoenix Gazette, December 7, 1973.
(85.) Tom interview.
(86.) Phoenix Gazette, December 7, 1973. Syd Beane may have been drawing on his training from the Saul Alinsky political action workshops he attended in the late 1960s and early 1970s. See note 21 above.
(87.) PUHSS school board minutes, December 6, 1973; Phoenix Gazette, December 7, 1973.
(88.) Phoenix Gazette, December 7, 1973. Hughes's December 1973 report to the RFKM, Box 1, Folder 29, Hughes files.
(89.) Hughes interview, June 8, 2001.
(90.) Hughes interview, June 8, 2001. Hughes did not immediately recall who the mothers were who spoke that day. The PUHSS minutes of the meeting do list Hughes's mother, Aleene, as being present at the meeting that day. In his interview, Hughes thought that Mavis Mitchell, a Blackfeet woman (see also note 55), may also have been one of the mothers who spoke. PUHSS school board minutes, December 20, 1973; Hughes interview, June 26, 2001.
(91.) Tom interview.
(92.) Hughes interview, June 8, 2001. The quotes attributed to Carolyn Warner are as Hughes remembered them. He pointed out that they were approximations of what she said, rather than direct quotes. The author was unable to reach Carolyn Warner for her own recollection of the meeting. Warner's particular words were not recorded in the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Gazette, or the official school board minutes.
(93.) PUHSS school board meeting minutes, December 20, 1973.
(94.) Arizona Republic, November 4, 1973; Donald A. Golden, "Affirmative Action Plan for Employment and Promotion Procedures of the Phoenix Union High School System," filed with PUHSS school board minutes. July 18, 1974, housed in the Phoenix Union High School District Administration Building, 4502 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona; Hughes interview, June 8, 2001; Lewis interview; Hughes interview, June 26, 2001.
(95.) Hughes interview, June 26, 2001; Indian Arizona News (Phoenix), August 1979, in Labriola.
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|Author:||Amerman, Stephen Kent|
|Publication:||The American Indian Quarterly|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2003|
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