2005- Buffalo Tiger, Bobo Dean, and the “Young Turks”: A Miccosukee Prelude to the 1975 Indian Self-Determination Act

“On 12 June 1971 United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs Louis R. Bruce journeyed to the Florida Everglades to meet with Miccosukee chairman Buffalo Tiger and members of the tribal business council. The purpose of his visit was to celebrate the signing of a contract on 14 May in Washington between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, allowing the tribe to operate comprehensive social and educational programs formerly administered exclusively by government bureaucrats.

Under the headline “Florida Indians Assume Own Rule,” the New York Times reported, “The accord signed after six months of difficult negotiations, is the first such agreement reached between an Indian tribe and the federal government since President Nixon, in a 1970 message to Congress, announced that he favored a policy of Indian Self-determination.” Arguably this transaction placed the Miccosukee tribe in the vanguard of the Indian self-determination movement.

The following is an account of the Miccosukees’ struggle to wrest control over their own economic destiny from
conservative elements within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Department of the Interior and is based heavily on recent interviews with former Miccosukee tribal chairman Buffalo Tiger, who engineered the groundbreaking agreement, and Washington attorney S. Bobo Dean, who represented the tribe in the negotiations, as well as Bradley J. PattersonJr., an official in the Nixon administration who was intimately involved in framing
the president’s 1970 message.”