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Anthropologists define tribes—as in the Native American tribes of the trans-Mississippi West—as communities

of people who define themselves as sharing a common origin, bonds of kinship (real or metaphorical) of some kind, and shared cultural beliefs and practices. In negotiating with Indian leaders over land, however, the U.S. government chose to see tribes as something else—as nations with sovereignty over a given territory and its inhabitants. How did these two definitions of the tribe clash and how does this clash explain the history of U.S.-Native American relations in the West in the decades after the Civil War?

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