National Congress of American Indians
(NCAI) is a Native American
organization based in the United States. It was founded in 1944
and its headquarters are in Washington, D.C.
The organization, which has 250 member tribes, monitors U.S.
federal policy as it applies to Native Americans, and informs the
public and Congress about these issues.
As stated on its official website, its goals are as follows:
- Protection of programs and services to benefit Indian families,
specifically targeting Indian Youth and elders
- Promotion and support of Indian education, including Head Start, elementary, post-secondary
and Adult Education
- Enhancement of Indian health care, including prevention of
juvenile substance abuse, HIV-AIDS prevention and other major
- Support of environmental protection and natural resources
- Protection of Indian cultural resources and religious freedom
- Promotion of the Rights of Indian economic opportunity both on
and off reservations, including securing programs to provide
incentives for economic development and the attraction of private
capital to Indian Country
- Protection of the Rights of all Indian people to decent, safe
and affordable housing
The National Congress of American Indians was first established in
1944 "as a national pan-Indian organization that campaigned
fervently and, on the whole, successfully against the termination
policy." The first convention in 1944 included Indian delegates
from twenty seven states and representatives of more than fifty
tribes and associations. In about a year's time members the NCAI
accounted for nearly all U.S. tribes. Prominent tribal leaders were
always part of the NCAI; they acknowledged the danger that
termination created for Indians' legal rights and cultural identity
and worked to uphold the well-being and identities of the Indian
community on a national scale. The assassination of President
John F. Kennedy
in November of 1963
greatly affected the NCAI. Strong factionalism between 1962 and
1963 had just about obliterated the organization; Kennedy’s death
also killed any "NCAI leaders' hopes for an 'Indian Camelot'" as
well. The NCAI desperately sought new leadership and management;
the selection of Vine Deloria, Jr.
as executive director in 1964 brought about a modern and fresh era
for the NCAI. The appointment of Deloria as executive direction did
not mean that the NCAI would face no problems and run seamlessly,
however. By 1964 there were no major legislative battles, such as
the first termination laws, for which NCAI could rally its members.
Although the termination policy did not officially come to an end
until 1972, the NCAI was already experiencing heavy criticism and
fading support by the late 1950s and 1960s. The founding of new
national intertribal organizations, such as the National Indian Youth Council
and others in the early 1960s helped the Native American
cause but not the stability of the NCAI.
Soon the NCAI lost its unique position as the sole voice of the
Indian people in Washington.
- History. National Congress of the American
Indian. (retrieved 25 June 2009)
- Cowger, Thomas W., The National Congress of American Indians: The Founding
Years. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1999) 3,
Questia, 1 Dec. 2008