||Previous studies of minority political behavior have demonstrated that empowerment, as measured by the election of a minority person to public office, has positive effects on participation among the members of the minority community. Although the empowerment theory has yet to be applied to American Indians, it shows much promise in explaining participation rates among this minority group because of the theory's emphasis on political context; and attitudinal factors. This dissertation explored the role of empowerment on American Indian participation, first by comparing turnout prior to empowerment to turnout post empowerment in three counties in the West: San Juan County, Utah; Big Horn County, Montana; and Roosevelt County, Montana. The findings indicate that turnout among Indians after empowerment, as defined by an Indian holding elected office, was higher than turnout prior to empowerment because of the positive effect of empowerment on perceptions and attitudes among American Indians. The election of an Indian to county office was a major context;ual change in each of the three counties, and the change had a positive impact on voter participation among Indians by influencing perceptions of government and attitudes of American Indians. Furthermore, the positive effect of empowerment on American Indian voters is both immediate and long-lasting. The positive effect on American Indian political behavior is evident immediately after empowerment, that is, Indians vote at higher rates in the first election following empowerment than prior to empowerment. Turnout continues to increase over time for American Indians, in contrast to non-Indian populations, indicating the long-lasting, positive effects of empowerment on Indian political behavior.