Date of Award

Spring 1989

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This study investigates the etiology of American Indian homicide. Its triangulated methodology combined both the quantitative multivariate analyses with indepth interview data from American Indian male homicide offenders.

At the national level, a descriptive analysis was performed that compared American Indian, black, and white disaggregated homicide rates. Although black homicide rates are far greater than either American Indian or white rates, American Indian rates are more than double that of the white population. American Indian homicide is more likely to involve knives while both black and white homicide is more likely to involve handguns. However, when handgun and other gun categories are added together, they account for over 40 percent of all homicides regardless of race/ethnicity. Homicide victims are more likely to be acquaintances involved in conflict situations with the offender in all racial/ethnic groups. And although homicide is a predominantly male phenomenon for all groups, both black and American Indian populations have a significantly higher percentage of female perpetrated homicides than the white population.

Multiple regression models estimated American Indian homicide at both the state and SMSA levels. Economic deprivation theory was supported at the reservation state level while a subculture of violence theory was supported at the SMSA level.

The qualitative analysis of interview data not only supported the same causal forces of economic deprivation and a subculture of violence, but also illuminated other contributing factors as well. Sources of social disorganization culture conflict and alcohol/drug use were also found to play an important role in these offender's lives. This data provided tremendous insight into the nature and extent of the psychological pain that manifests as a result of these structural and cultural conditions.

A theoretical model of American Indian Homicide was formulated from the results of both quantitative and qualitative analyses. It includes elements of economic deprivation, a subculture of violence, social disorganization, and culture conflict and perceived powerlessness, with alcohol/drug abuse placed in the model as an intervening variable.