becoming elders themselves and perhaps better able to subordinaterntheir egos to the continuity of their societies and culturesrn—exactly as the warriors did in the past.” With that maturationrnhas come a more reflective militancy: a new insistencernon educational and cultural improvement, new and reasonablyrnput demands for independence and self-rule, and new recognitionrnthat, in the face of an alternatively indifferent and meddlesomerngovernment, Indians must take responsibility for theirrnown fate.rnThe message is spreading, and with it is coming a resurgencernin what can only be called self-esteem. One hopeful expressionrnis an apparent decline in alcohol and drug abuse in Indian communities,rnat least the ones I have visited in the last few months.rnAnother is in independent Indian actions to promote intertribalrnunity without government involvement. A notable instancernof this grassroots work began last year, when 30 runners set outrnfrom the Athapaskan Indian village of Chickaloon, Alaska, andrnheaded south, ending their journey in Mexico City five monthsrnlater. There they joined 30 South American Indians who ranrnnorthward from Punta del Fuego, Argentina, in late April. Intendedrnto be a quadrennial event to coincide with the OlympicrnGames, the run promoted “the unification of the peoples ofrnthe condor and the eagle”—that is, the indigenous peoples ofrnSouth and North America.rnThe runners traveled from Indian nation to Indian nation,rncarrying the message of native pride and self-improvement torngroups that normally have few outside visitors. Averaging tenrnhours a day on the road, covering as much as 80 miles in a singlernsession, the runners had several reasons for undertakingrntheir quest. “Most are on a spiritual search of some kind,” arnrunner named Horse told me last summer, when the grouprnpassed through a reservation south of Tucson. “Others are runningrnto discover their roots, or to see some country, or to makerna statement about civil rights. But as a group, I’d say we’re on arnhealing run meant to unify Indian nations throughout thernAmericas. It’s not a protest movement by any means, but onernof cultural regeneration.”rnThat regeneration came at a cost to the runners, not only inrnsheer miles and buckets of sweat, but also in the simple economicsrnof taking so many people from place to place. The runnersrnhad ample opportunities to lighten their financial burdenrnand even profit from their unusual exercise: sports-equipmentrnand outdoor-supplies manufacturers, Hollywood celebrities,rnpoliticians all came courting. But the runners were determinedrnto keep their journey an event beholden to no one. “If wernsought publicity, we’d get a lot of it, I think,” Horse told me.rn”What we’re doing is important, and people want to knowrnabout it. But we don’t want to be co-opted by some corporationrnlooking for us to say good things about their products—orrnsome political movement riding on our coattails.”rnIf Indian activists can in fact stay away from corporations andrnpoliticians, they will be doing better than most Americans.rnThis is no guarantee, of course, that they can ever attain truernsovereignty, the nationhood that so many of them desire. Almostrncertainly the federal government, mired in bureaucraticrnin-fighting and near-criminal negligence, will be of little help.rnCharged in 1973, after all, to correct what a congressional inquiryrnconcluded was “the sorry state of Indian affairs,” the governmentrnhas seemed content to consider those affairs prettyrnmuch an afterthought. The federal entities responsible for addressingrnthose issues have essentially been left to their own devices,rnwithout adequate oversight; it came as no surprise tornmany observers when it was revealed last year that the Bureaurnof Indian Affairs could not account for $2.4 billion in funds earmarkedrnfor tribal uses through the sale or lease of timber, minerals,rnwater, oil, and land. The money, the agency said, was notrnnecessarily missing—it just could not be found.rnThere are no easy solutions to what has been given the uneasyrnhandle “the Indian problem,” solutions that may helprngrant Indians the independence they desire and deserve, andrnthat may help end federal dependency. I would propose onernimmediately, however: and that is to remove Indians from thernpurview of the Department of Interior, where they are rankedrnalong with plants, animals, minerals, and other objects found inrnthe historic American landscape. Interior is perhaps no worsernthan other departments of the federal government, full of individualrnmen and women of good will but headed by careerist administratorsrnwhose principal activities are feathering their ownrnnests; still, to reclassify Indians with other human beings wouldrnbe a start. (In Thomas Jefferson’s day, Indian affairs were therncharge of the War Department, which at least gave a clear viewrnof where Indians stood.)rnThrowing more dollars at cosmetic solutions is the last thingrnthat is needed. It has been the stated policy of the governmentrnfor many years to encourage economic self-sufficiency amongrnthe Indian nations. Yet, as former commissioner of Indian AffairsrnWilliam Hallett remarked of a massive program of federalrnspending throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, “What dollars didrnnot buy was substantive economic development. And if thisrntrend continues, tribes may become overwhelmingly dependentrnupon direct and indirect federal subsidies. That would berna tragedy for both the Indian people and the nation.” Thatrntragedy has come to pass.rnIt is time to unmake it. A truly radical, utterly controversialrnstep might be for the government to make a massive one-timernpayment in reparation for war crimes, treaty violations, thernwhole host of official ills that has been visited through historyrnon the Indian peoples. Something of this sort happened inrn1977, when the government paid $81.5 million to the descendantsrnof the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes of New England,rndispossessed for generations but now, not surprisingly,rnself-sufficient. Multiplied by hundreds of enrolled Indianrntribes and communities, a settlement of this kind would quicklyrnadd up to a staggering sum. It could bring an end to otherrnfederal spending, however, and in any event it would be a betterrneconomic deal than any conquered people in history has received.rnA couple of months ago, while visiting a remote canyon inrnthe Dine Bikeyah of the Navajo Nation, I fell into conversationrnwith a fine young man, an artist and entrepreneur, who askedrnme whether I knew much about the Internet. I do much of myrnwork in cyberspace, I told him, to which he replied, “Yeah, Irnwant to put up a home page on the Web to advertise my silverrnjewelry. Lots of people have told me that my business could reallyrngrow.” If his home only had electricity, I thought, he wouldrnbe well on his way to independence. If the federal governmentrnis to maintain its tenuous hold over the Indian nations, then itrnhad better see to it that funds are invested in real development:rnin roads, bridges, decent housing, decent schools. Given an adequaterneconomic infrastructure, Indians can, I am confident,rnflourish on their own. It will be costly for the larger society tornmake this possible—^but less costly, in the end, than maintainingrnthe present dependence of sovereign states that are notrnsovereign at all. ‘ crn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn