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date: 24 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This survey of economic history emphasizes American Indians’ varied and varying responses to profit-oriented economic practices introduced by non-Indians. It depicts aboriginal Indian economies as diverse and dynamic though modeled on kin relations and reciprocity. European colonial settlements and Euro-Americans’ ultimate hegemony, fueled by commercial market relations and capitalist development, eventually undermined every indigenous population’s self-sufficiency. Most Indians consequently fell into poverty, but not for lack of strategic and sometimes rewarding engagement with the new market economy. Indians’ many adaptive strategies have included participation in commercial trade, wage labor, and manufacturing, often in order to supplement traditional subsistence practices and further Indian ideals. The chapter stresses that United States policies and law first facilitated the massive transfer of Indian land and resources to non-Indians, but that more recent policy changes and court rulings have enabled some Indians to recoup wealth by operating tribe-owned enterprises.

Keywords: economy, land, poverty, commercial trade, enterprise, resources wealth, profit, capitalism

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