One champion of the pre-AIM period was Robert Burnett. The early to mid 1960s did not go well for tribes. In congress, the Democratic chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, James Haley championed Indians but with his own twist. He believed Indians should participate more in “policy matters” but “the right of self-determination is in the Congress as a representative of all the people.”
Burnett, a former Rosebud (South Dakota) tribal chairman would prove to be a central figure in the development of the Trail of Broken Treaties in 1972. But in the 1960s he met with presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and pressed for Indian self-determination and control in transactions over land. One such struggle was the fight over long-term leasing. Non-Indian businesses and banks said they could not invest in leases of 25 years, even with generous options. Relieving the long-term poverty on most reservations through business partnerships was seen as infeasible. A return to the 19th Century 99-year leases was seen as a possible solution. Even when used “sparingly” as recommended in the discussions, the Interior Department memo said, “a 99-year lease is in the nature of a conveyance of the land.” These battles over land had their beginnings in the 1870s when wholesale taking not leases, was on the president’s table. In the 1950s, leases were a way onto Indian land.
Another champion was Wallace “Mad Bear” Anderson, a Tuscarora leader in the 1950s. The rotund and highly outspoken Anerson travelled to Cuba and talked with Castro but found his defining moment in a struggle with the renowned New York planner Robert Moses. The struggle ended in a bitter compromise. (See also Wikipedia Tuscarora Reservation).