Book Review of “The National Council of Indian Opportunity”

Britten, Thomas A. The National Council on Indian Opportunity: Quiet Champion of Self-Determination. University of New Mexico Press, 2014.

National Council book cover

Reviewed by Faye Hadley
Online Adjunct Professor, Research Methods in Indian Law, University of Tulsa College of Law

While a bureaucratic history is hardly the stuff of the “page-turner” genre, Thomas A. Britten presents an important piece of history with clear, concise prose and a well-researched presentation of the facts as he understands them.

The facts of this relatively obscure Federal Council (established by Lyndon B. Johnson’s Executive Order 11399, Establishing the National Council on Indian Opportunity, March 6, 1968) are that it lived a short life and could easily be missed as one travels through the pantheon of Federal Indian Policy. However, this is where Professor Britten’s book demonstrates its usefulness. It reminds us or educates us for the first time of the often overlooked role that the NCIO played in several pivotal “wins” in Indian Country: in the return of the Sacred Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo (along with relatively positive outcomes for the Yakamas, Lummis, and Mescalero Apaches); in the negotiations of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act; and in the US Government loans totaling 14 million dollars that were primarily used for housing on reservations.

The author speculates about what might have been had the NCIO not suffered an abrupt dissolution in June 1974. The true value of this book is that it captures a time that was changing from assimilationist policies through termination policies to the newly-welcomed era of self-determination. That the NCIO played a significant role in these changes has now been documented and for that we should all thank Professor Britten. Thank you.