One day we stopped at a tourist outpost in the redwoods.
The outpost sold American Indian jewelry and crafts manufactured in Taiwan—not unusual and not surprising.
But I was surprised by the title of a children’s book called The Vanishing Race.
Filled with images of plains Indians, the author announced indigenous people once roamed North America, rode horses and built teepees.
I was surprised such a book could be found that announced Indians had vanished.
So when I started graduate studies soon after our coastal journey I decided to work on projects that showed Indians had not vanished.
Armed with scholarships from my tribe and the university, I took a class in public opinion and voting.
I figured this would be a path to study Indian voices.
But when I began looking for research on public opinion, politics and American Indians I found little information.
Undaunted I talked with professors and librarians, unwilling to abandon my cause.
I simply couldn’t find any data—at least not in the 1980s–on public opinion and voting among indigenous North Americans.
I arrived at the unwelcome conclusion that researchers didn’t want to bother with native concerns and politics.
No one cared.
And that strengthened the trope of the vanishing race.
Photo by Edward S. Curtis titled The Vanishing Race. Used with permission from the Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian: the Photographic Images, 2001. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/award98/ienhtml/curthome.html