What Was the Pan-Indian Movement?

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The pan-Indian movement is any movement that brings together various Native American tribes and promotes unity between them. Often tribes join forces for political purposes, erasing any tribal lines or former rivalries between the groups. By teaming up, the various tribes work together to protect the interest of all Native Americans.

A pan-Indian movement grew early in the 20th century regarding the legal status of peyote. When legislative efforts were made to prohibit Native American peyote use, the Native American church was formed to protect such use under the First Amendment. Early pan-Indian organization efforts also focused on the protection of Native American tribal resources and on governmental assimilation policies. The first national pan-Indian political organization that Native Americans actually controlled was the National Congress of American Indians, which began in 1944 in Oklahoma.

More recent pan-Indian movements have focused on helping young Native Americans maintain their Indian and tribal identities, to reconnect with Native American spirituality and reduce extremely high suicide rates among Native American youth. Although some Native American tribes are forbidden to share their unique religious practices with other tribes, spiritual leaders of different tribes have been able, under the pan-Indian movement, to find religious ceremonies that all tribes can share in common.