The National Archives, Nixon Foundation, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian to Co-Present Program on American Indian Self-Determination from the Nixon Presidency to the Present Time

Nixon-era government officials, contemporary scholars, and leaders from the American Indian community will discuss how the 37th President initiated the era of self-determination.

    The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
    Rasmuson Theater
    4th Street & Independence Ave., S.W.
    Washington, DC 20024

    Thursday, November 15, 2012
    10:30 a.m. – Richard Nixon and the American Indian: The Movement to Self-Determination.

    Robert T.  Anderson – Professor of Law and Director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington, and Oneida Indian Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

    Reid Peyton Chambers – Served as the Associate Solicitor of Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior under President Nixon. He has continued to advocate for Indian rights at Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry, where he is a name partner.

    Kevin Gover (Pawnee) – Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Previously, he was the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Clinton administration.

    Lee W. Huebner – Served as Deputy Director of the White House research and writing staff under President Nixon and drafted the July 8, 1970, Special Message to Congress on Indian Affairs. He is currently the Airlie Professor of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University.

    Bobbie Kilberg – Served as a White House Fellow and Staff Assistant on President Nixon’s Domestic Council where she was responsible for the development of the President’s Indian Policy of Self-Determination and the return of Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo. She is currently the President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the largest technology council in the nation.

    Wallace H.  Johnson (moderator) – Served as Assistant Attorney General for Land and Natural Resources in the Nixon administration. During his tenure there, he created the Indian Rights Litigation Section. He currently serves as a trustee of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, which houses the Plains Indian Museum.

    Nixon administration veterans, American Indian leaders, and contemporary scholars will discuss how President Nixon reversed centuries of mistreatment of American Indians under U.S. law, and shaped a future of self-determination and economic sustainability.

    “The first Americans – the Indians – are the most deprived and most isolated minority group in the nation,” the 37th President said in a July 8, 1970, special message to Congress. “On virtually every scale of measurement – employment, income, education, health – the condition of the Indian people ranks at the bottom.”

    The President’s message represented a clear break from a history of broken treaties and misguided policies of previous administrations including forced isolation, forced assimilation, the appropriation of lands, the removal of tribal authority, and ultimately the termination of the trustee relationship between the Federal government and the American Indians.

    The policy of termination had been detrimental and disorienting to Native populations, who oscillated between fear that the Federal government would cut them off, and what the President called the opposite extreme of excessive dependence on agencies run by outsiders.

    “Only by rejecting both of these extremes can we achieve a policy which truly serves the best interest of the Indian people,” President Nixon said. “Self-determination among the Indian people can and must be encouraged without the threat of eventual termination.”

    His vision would be groundbreaking, leading to such far-reaching results as the restoration of sacred lands; local autonomy and administration over Federal funds; more American Indians in high-level positions at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Department of the Interior where they could help administer their own programs; and substantial increases in Federal assistance for health care, education, and economic development. More than 40 years later, most of these policies still remain in effect.

    Featured topics at the Nixon Legacy Forum will include:

    - The July 1970 Message to Congress on Indian Affairs and its implementation during the Nixon administration.

    - The Alaska Claims Settlement Act of 1971 that returned 40 million acres and gave $1 billion to aboriginal Alaskans.

    - The 1974 Indian Finance Act, which allocated money and resources for economic development and small businesses.

    - The 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act which effectively ended the U.S. government’s policy of assimilation and termination.

    - The trust relationship between the U.S. government and Native American tribes, which President Nixon’s message reaffirmed.

    - The return of the sacred Blue Lake and surrounding lands (New Mexico) to the Taos Pueblo Indians in December 1970.

    - Key issues influencing Indian activities and actions taken by the White House in response.

    - The United States as litigating partner with the American Indians that insured the success of President Nixon’s enlightened policies.

    - The impact of President Nixon’s policies on the present day.

    - The future of American Indian sovereignty and tribal self-determination.




    The National Archives serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. It ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. It supports democracy, promotes civic education, and facilitates historical understanding of our national experience. For more information visit the National Archives online at

    The Richard Nixon Foundation is a not-for-profit organization at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library dedicated to education, and illuminating the life and legacy of America’s 37th President. For more information visit the Foundation online at

    The National Museum of the American Indian is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present, and future—through partnership with Native people and others. The museum works to support the continuance of culture, traditional values, and transitions in contemporary Native life. For more information, visit the museum’s website at