Rich Indians

Native People and the Problem of Wealth in American History

By Alexandra Harmon

400 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-0684-2
    Published: February 2013
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9957-1
    Published: October 2010
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8527-2
    Published: October 2010

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Long before lucrative tribal casinos sparked controversy, Native Americans amassed other wealth that provoked intense debate about the desirability, morality, and compatibility of Indian and non-Indian economic practices. Alexandra Harmon examines seven such instances of Indian affluence and the dilemmas they presented both for Native Americans and for Euro-Americans--dilemmas rooted in the colonial origins of the modern American economy. Harmon's study not only compels us to look beyond stereotypes of greedy whites and poor Indians, but also convincingly demonstrates that Indians deserve a prominent place in American economic history and in the history of American ideas.

About the Author

Alexandra Harmon is professor of American Indian studies at the University of Washington. She is editor of The Power of Promises: Perspectives on Northwest Indian Treaties and author of Indians in the Making: Ethnic Relations and Indian Identities around Puget Sound.
For more information about Alexandra Harmon, visit the Author Page.


"[Harmon] unites ethnography, history, and economic thought to offer a fresh perspective on Indian and Euro-American notions of wealth and how these shaped their views of one another. . . . Recommended. Graduate students, faculty."--Choice

"The book's greatest strengths are its synthesis of diverse materials and its ability to clearly articulate profound moral ambivalence. . . . The divergent pieces of history that Harmon connects . . . constitute a radically new way to understand twentieth-century Indian history." --Journal of American History

"[A] well-crafted discussion of Indian wealth."--Journal of Southern History

"Harmon offers a diverse, atypical view of the effects of tribal and American-influenced economics on Indian people."--Indian Country Today

"A well-researched history. . . . Highly recommended for college and university libraries and some public libraries."--Tennessee Libraries

"A sorely needed effort to integrate Native Americans into the story of American economic development and its consequences . . . . Noteworthy."--American Historical Review

Multimedia & Links

Read: Alexandra Harmon explores the differences in public discourse about wealthy Indians compared to discourse about wealthy non-Indians. Read "Public Reaction to Indians’ Pursuit of Wealth."

Read: Harmon explores the distribution of wealth in Indian communities and the questions that arise when these communities confront economic disparities. Read "Economic Disparities in Native American Communities."