The Association on American Indian Affairs, The American Indian: Volume 2, Number 2, 1949
Not all who speak of self-government mean the same thing by the term. Therefore let me say at the outset that by self-government I mean that form of government in which decisions are made not by the people who are wisest, or ablest, or closest to some throne in Washington or in Heaven, but, rather by the people who are most directly affected by the decisions. I think that if we conceive of self-government in these matter-of-fact terms, we may avoid some confusion.
Let us admit that self-government includes graft, corruption, and the making of decisions by inexpert minds. Certainly these are features of self-government in white cities and counties, and so we ought not to be scared out of our wits if somebody jumps up in the middle of a discussion of Indian self-government and shouts “graft” or “corruption.”
Self-government is not a new or radical idea. Rather, it is one of the oldest staple ingredients of the American way of life. Many Indians in this country enjoyed self-government long before European immigrants who came to these shores did. It took the white colonists north of the Rio Grande about 170 years to rid themselves of the traditional European pattern of the divine right of kings or what we call today, the long arm of bureaucracy, and to substitute the less efficient but more satisfying Indian pattern of self-government. South of the Rio Grande the process took more than three centuries, and there are some who are still skeptical as to the completeness of the shift.