Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Regna Darnell


Led by anthropologist Sol Tax, action anthropologists endeavoured, between the 1940s and 1970s, to challenge the liberal imperialist and settler colonial paradigm of Post-WWII applied anthropology, the termination policy of the 1950s, and the neo-evolutionary theories, such as Julian Steward’s multilinear evolution, that bolstered racist-colonial myths of assimilation. Several projects of emphasis include The Fort Berthold Removal Project, The American Indian Chicago Centre, A mapping project called The North American Indians: 1950 Distribution of Descendants of the Aboriginal Population of Alaska, Canada and the United States, and the American Indian Chicago Conference . In addition to Sol Tax, notable action anthropologists featured in this work include Nancy Lurie, Robert Rietz, Sam Stanley, Robert K. Thomas and Albert Wahrhaftig. Through ethno-historical and archival research, this project excavates The Sol Tax Papers in constructing a narrative around the emergence of Tax’s political philosophy as it manifested through the theory and methods of action anthropology. In doing so, the theory and methods of action anthropology, it is shown, are informed by the needs of Indigenous Peoples in North America as they were articulated to Tax and his colleagues, thus calling them action in response. As a history of anthropology project, this project is situated in an ongoing conversation about the political significance of historiography and the history of anthropology where Settler-Indigenous relations in North America are of a primary concern. Sol Tax and action anthropology, it is argued, are examples of traditions anthropologists might draw upon in approaching contemporary questions concerning Settler obligations to Indigenous Peoples in North America in meeting the challenges of colonialism, especially in consideration of anthropological practices of decolonization.