History, Department of


Date of this Version



Ben Taleb, B. “Reservation Politics: Historical Trauma, Economic Development, and Intratribal Conflict by Raymond I. Orr.” American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 3, (Summer 2019): 368-371.


Social research on American Indian internal politics has oft en been labeled sensitive and uncomfortable, and it tends to deter scholarly work. To Raymond I. Orr, from the University of Oklahoma, intratribal politics forms the core of decision- making processes inside and outside American Indian communities or Indian Country and should not be concealed from open debate. In Reservation Politics, he calls on social scientists and scholars to appraise the origins of intratribal politics and what informs their contemporary and future decisions. He explains that these decisions or motivational behaviors are not random; instead, they are informed by key variables, most notably, the tribes’ “worldview” (7). Such worldview emerges from the tribes’ historical experience (ethnohistory) and the meanings derived from it. At its center, Orr points out, are internal factions with three diff erent worldviews or logics: (1) communal aff ect, which values community harmony and social cohesion above individual material preferences; (2) self- interest, which elevates individual material interests and profi ts higher than those of community harmony; and (3) melancholia, which places past traumatic events at the core of contemporary and future politics of the tribe. Orr places these three logics into contact with each other and “identif[ies] the link between historical processes and intratribal politics” (57).

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