Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2013


Great Plains Research 23.1 (Spring 2013).


Copyright © 2013 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


I don't know how many times I've heard someone say, "Capitalism doesn't work in Indian Country ... it's just not compatible with their way of life." While I've often attempted to counter such misconceptions with my own anecdotal knowledge and experience, Robert J. Miller's excellent Reservation "Capitalism" thoroughly eviscerates that persistent myth.

The opening chapters offer a comprehensive critique of the antiquated notion of Indians as "forest-dwelling socialists," detailing how private property rights, wealth accumulation, and entrepreneurial acumen were commonplace throughout Indian Country prior to European contact. Miller proceeds to recount how reservation economies were devastated by European interactions and how the yoke of the Great White Father's paternalism continues the suppression. He then introduces his core thesis that capitalism and economic activity are consistent with tribal values and culture, although both exogenous and endogenous factors unnecessarily suppress reservation economies. Finally, Miller provides a roadmap for overcoming those deleterious factors and moving Indian Country forward towards self-sustaining reservation economies.