This War is for a Whole life





This War is for a Whole life


The book This War is for a Whole Life gives a detailed description of the plight of the Native Americans of Southern California between the 19th and 20th Century. The book tells the unrecorded tales of the Indian community members and elders who fought to retain their culture, rights, and resources between 1850 and 1966 (Hanks, 2006). The author Richard Hank spent about six years drawing these stories from the elders who hail from the clan, about which he writes. He wrote these stories from these twelve clans in a bid to educate the public on the issues that were faced by the Indians in southern California and the process they used to take down some of the most critical political and social barriers of that time.

He asserted that history books do not provide a clear understanding of the political and cultural issues of the Indians; therefore, his main aim was to provide accurate accounts of the events that unfolded during that period of resistance. The conflict arose between native Indians and white settlers because of the inability to achieve a middle ground. The two societies experienced major challenges in co-existing due to their sharp differences in culture. The Indians wished to retain their culture and lands; hence, there was a struggle to avoid adoption of the white customs and attitudes. The following is a chronological analysis of the major events that occurred based on the book in each of the chapters.

Chapter 1

The first chapter gives a description of the execution of the Indian reorganization act. This was a federal rule that focused on the well-being of the Indians in the country. Passed in 1934, it was popularly known as the Wheeler-Howard Act. The main interests of creating the legislation were to conserve and develop the Indian lands, give Indians several political rights such as the right to home rule and to form organizations and businesses (Hanks, 2006, 33). This was one of the major steps taken by the Indians to ensure they retain their culture through refraining from assimilation into the pre-dominantly white American Society.

The chapter also describes the political mayhem that arose during the activism of the Indian tribes. It focuses mainly on the southern part of California and enables the readers to understand the reforms and termination of political events in the mid 1950s. The Indian culture was characterized by communism and socialism. This brewed much political disagreement especially since it affected the economy of the country as a whole during the early 1930s. However, this was a time when the country was suffering from The Great Depression, after which they would be faced with World War 2. The government considered this a more pressing issue, and the plight of Native Americans was put to a temporary halt.

Chapter 2

The Indian Termination Policy is critically examined in this chapter. It extended for nearly two decades and the main aim was to assimilate the Native Americans into the pre-dominant society. This, the government believed was a way to make them more “civilized” and live lives that were considered to be of American standards. During the WW2, there was much effort made by the government to formulate laws and policies that would aid in the termination, which was believed to be a cause of disunity among the American people. The Indian Bureau was done away with through transferring the office of Indian affairs to Chicago. Termination laws were mostly characterized by revoking legal governing rights of the Indian elders. Many educational and health programs would be put to a stop in this process.

The laws passed would absorb the Native Americans into the mainstream American society, thereby making their culture and ways of life disappear into oblivion. Overall, the Native American sovereignty was jeopardized by these regulations, which were consequently met with much resistance (Hanks, 2006, 89). The Indians struggled to fight the discriminatory policies that were promoted by the government from the federal to the local level. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was disintegrated and this led the mission Indians to attempt to combat this issue through coming to an agreement with the government.

Chapter 3

The third chapter of the book gives an in-depth analysis of the conflicts that arose because of the termination process. When the government carried out a survey of the state of the Indian communities, their conditions were found to be less than satisfactory, and this was attributed to the mismanagement of the Bureau of Indian affairs. Thus is the reason for its disbandment. The government saw it fit to free the Indians from the bureaucracy of the BIA. The mission Indians were therefore unable to legally fight this, as their lobbies were met with rejection on both ends, by the government and in the native communities. There was much controversy following the termination process, since the representatives allowed to foresee this process were from the Indian tribes themselves.

One of the most important goals of the mission Indians was to create awareness of their issues to the public. This would assist them to garner support and acquire advantage that would aid them to have their own terms during the process of termination. However, the government saw to it that this information would not reach the public eye for fear of scrutiny and maintenance of public order. This would ease the termination process through avoiding conflict as much as possible. The public law 280, which mandated the transference of the law enforcements from tribal communities to state government, brought about the end of Indian laws in California along with five other states.

Chapter 4

The community members worked hard to curb the termination process. This was seen by their efforts to stall the process for as long as possible, while at the same time attempt to negotiate with the government some terms that would be more favorable to the Indian tribes. On the other hand, the concurrent house resolution 108 and the public law 280 spearheaded the dissolution of the reservations in India. The House Concurrent Resolution 108 made it possible for the federal government to cease supervision of the Indian communities as well as render them subject to the same laws as the rest of the American population. This would mean that the land, which they owned, would be at risk of being taken and turned into public property.

The Indian communities saw some of the policies in these acts to be in conflict with their culture and therefore did not cater for their own well-being. This is because the legal protection of the government was not guaranteed, and the risk of property and land loss was imminent. Therefore, they tried to create open lines of communication with the federal government in a bid to communicate the issues and subsequently come to an agreement. The clash in power and jurisdiction that ensued made the termination process more difficult between the two parties and thus the process extended for several years.

Chapter 5

The House Concurrent Resolution 108 was officially passed in 1953. The problems of the southern Californian Indians were directly addressed by the Californian government. The mission Indians together with their allies eventually complied with the laws passed. The assimilation of the Indian tribes developed upon this major political turn. The chapter explains the functions of the federal government particularly on the delegation of duties to authority bodies. This was a delicate political step to be taken, and it required the intervention of the state government that would oversee some of the political operations and ensure peace and order within the state. The government took steps into understanding the issues of the Indian communities. This would enable them to maintain a peaceful coexistence with the rest of the non-Indian population in southern California (Hanks. 2006, p. 223).

The impact of the termination process was identified and evaluated by the communities and the government alike. The issue of misuse of federal funds was of particular interest to the native tribes, and this was used as an opportunity for the Indians to further attempt to stall the termination process. The resistance spearheaded by a committee formed by the elders fought to ensure that the process of termination of culture was stopped by any means possible. The government faced much difficulty due to the opposition of their legislations by the committee, which was eventually able to stop the Indian termination process.


The problems clearly stated in the book developed from being local issues to national ones, which warranted the attention of the state government. The chapters present a chronological account of the events that took place during this time, which some scholars refer to as a period of cold war between the two parties. The main issue discussed in the book is the obstacles the native Indian faced during the late 19th century and well into the 20th century. The main struggle was to retain their land and culture. On the other hand, the American government fought hard to assimilate the native Indians. They believed that this would promote overall unity in the American population, while the Native Americans saw this as a means to do away with their centuries-old culture and lands. This is because the laws passed did not cater to the native-Indians well-being, as these regulations included revoking of legal protection of their lands.

In the end, the common interest was for peace and unity to thrive within the state and country as a whole. This would be attained through ensuring that every citizen is treated fairly and provided with equal opportunities and rights regardless of ethnic origin, social status, and financial capability. Race and social class issues were rampant during that time, and the native Indians formed a large part of the government’s considerations. Thus, the Native American problem was considered a national one. It therefore prompted swift action to be addressed. In the end, the termination process came to a halt and some of the laws formed to facilitate it were revoked, thus enabling the state to move forward from what was considered a huge racial, social, and political hurdle to cross.


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