ages before the terms native american or indian were considered, the tribes were spread all over the americas. before any white man set foot on this land, it was settled by the forefathers of bands we now call sioux, or cherokee, or iroquois.
for thousands of years, the american indian grew its customs and heritage without disturbance. and that history is captivating.
from mayan and incan ruins, from the mounds left in the central and southern regions of what’s today the u.s. we have learned much. it’s a narrative of beautiful art and deep spirituality. archaeologists have unearthed highly elaborate structures and public works.
while there was unavoidable tribal conflict, that was nothing more than a slight blemish in the account of our forebears. they were at peace with this beautiful continent and intensely plugged into nature.
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when european leaders dispatched the first ships in this direction, the goal was to discover new resources – however the quality of environment and the bounty of everything from timber to wildlife subsequently changed their tune. as those leaders learned from their explorers, the motivation to colonize spread like wildfire.
the english, french and spanish raced to carve up the “new world” by sending over inadequately prepared colonists as fast as possible. in the beginning, they skirmished with the alarmed indians of america’s eastern seaboard. but that shortly gave way to trade, because the europeans who came ashore here learned that their survival was doubtful without indian help.
thus followed years of relative peace as the settlers got themselves established on american land. but the drive to push inland followed soon after. kings and queens from thousands of miles away were restless to find additional resources, and some colonists came for freedom and opportunity.
they wanted more space. and so began the process of driving the american indian out of the way.
it took the shape of cash payments, barter, and famously, treaties that were nearly consistently neglected once the indians were pushed from the land in question.
the u.s. government’s policies towards native americans in the second half of the nineteenth century were motivated by the desire to expand westward into regions inhabited by these native american tribes. by the 1850s virtually all native american tribes, roughly 360,000 in number, were living to the west of the mississippi river. these american indians, some from the northwestern and southeastern territories, were confined to indian territory located in contemporary oklahoma, while the kiowa and comanche native american tribes shared the area of the southern plains.
the sioux, crows and blackfeet dominated the northern plains. these native american groups encountered misfortune as the constant flow of european immigrants into northeastern american cities pushed a stream of immigrants into the western lands already occupied by these various groups of indians.
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the early nineteenth century of the united states was marked by its steady expansion to the mississippi river. however, due to the gadsden purchase, that lead to u.s. control of the borderlands of southern new mexico and arizona in addition to the authority over oregon country, texas and california; america’s expansion would not end there. between 1830 and 1860 the u.s. nearly doubled the amount of territory under its control.
these territorial gains coincided with the arrival of troves of european and asian immigrants who wished to join the surge of american settlers heading west. this, partnered with the discovery of gold in 1849, presented captivating possibilities for those prepared make the huge quest westward. therefore, with the military’s protection and the u.s. government’s assistance, many settlers set about establishing their homesteads in the great plains and other areas of the native american tribe-inhabited west.
native american tribes
native american policy can be defined as the regulations and operations made and adapted in the united states to summarize the relationship between native american tribes and the federal government. when the united states initially became a sovereign country, it implemented the european policies towards these native peoples, but over two centuries the u.s. designed its own widely varying policies regarding the changing perspectives and requirements of native american oversight.
in 1824, in order to apply the u.s. government’s native american policies, congress created a new bureau inside the war department called the bureau of indian affairs, which worked closely with the u.s. army to enforce their policies.
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with the steady flow of settlers into indian “” land, eastern newspapers printed sensationalized reports of savage native tribes committing massive massacres of hundreds of white travelers. although some settlers lost their lives to american indian attacks, this was certainly not the norm; in fact, native american tribes routinely helped settlers cross over the plains. not only did the american indians offer wild game and other supplies to travelers, but they acted as guides and messengers between wagon trains as well. despite the good natures of the american indians, settlers still presumed the possibility of an attack.
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to quiet these anxieties, in 1851 the u.s. government kept a conference with several local indian tribes and established the treaty of fort laramie. under this treaty, each native american tribe consented to a bounded territory, allowed the government to construct roadways and forts in this territory and agreed not to attack settlers; in return the federal government agreed to honor the boundaries of each tribe’s territory and make gross annual payments to the indians. the native american tribes responded quietly to the treaty; in fact the cheyenne, sioux, crow, arapaho, assinibione, mandan, gros ventre and arikara tribes, who entered into the treaty, even consented to end the hostilities between their tribes to be able to accept the terms of the treaty.
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this peaceful agreement between the u.s. government and the native american tribes didn’t last long. after hearing reports of fertile acreage and tremendous mineral wealth in the west, the government soon broke their promises established in the treat of fort laramie by allowing thousands of non-indians to flood into the area. with so many newcomers heading west, the federal government established a policy of restricting native americans to reservations, small areas of acreage within a group’s territory “” set aside exclusively for indian use, in order to provide more land for “” non-indian settlers.
in a series of new treaties the u.s . government made native americans to abandon their land and migrate to reservations in exchange for protection from attacks by white settlers. in addition, the indians were offered a yearly stipend that would include money in addition to food, livestock, household goods and agricultural equipment. these reservations were created in an effort to pave the way for increased u.s. growth and administration in the west, as well as to keep the native americans divided from the whites in order to lower the potential for friction.
history of the plains indians
these deals had many complications. most of all many of the native people didn’t altogether grasp the document that they were confirming or the conditions within it; further, the treaties did not acknowledge the cultural norms of the native americans. in addition to this, the government institutions responsible for administering these policies were weighed down with poor management and corruption. in fact most treaty conditions were never executed.
the u.s. government rarely honored their side of the agreements even when the native americans went quietly to their reservations. unethical bureau agents frequently sold the supplies that were intended for the indians on reservations to non-indians. moreover, as settlers demanded more property in the west, the government frequently reduced the size of the reservations. by this time, most of the native american peoples were dissatisfied with the treaties and angered by settlers’ persistent appetite for land.
a look at native american symbols
angered by the government’s dishonorable and unfair policies, some native american tribes, including bands of cheyennes, arapahos, comanches and sioux, battled back. as they fought to preserve their lands and their tribes’ survival, over a thousand skirmishes and battles broke out in the west between 1861 and 1891. in an attempt to coerce native americans onto the reservations and to end the violence, the u.s. government responded to these conflicts with significant military operations. clearly the u.s. government’s indian regulations required of a change.
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native american policy changed dramatically after the civil war. reformers felt that the scheme of pushing native americans into reservations was far too harsh even while industrialists, who were concerned about their land and resources, considered assimilation, the cultural absorption of the american indians into “white america” as the sole long-term strategy for guaranteeing native american survival. in 1871 the government passed a pivotal law stating that the united states would not deal with native american tribes as sovereign nations.
this law signaled a drastic change in the government’s relationship with the native peoples – congress now deemed the native americans, not as countries outside of its jurisdiction, but as wards of the government. by making native americans wards of the “” government, congress believed that it would be better to make the policy of assimilation a widely recognised part of the cultural mainstream of america.
more on american indian history
many u.s. government administrators considered assimilation as the most effective solution to what they viewed as “the indian problem,” and the only permanent strategy for guaranteeing u.s. interests in the west and the survival of the american indians. in order to accomplish this, the government urged native americans to move out of their customary dwellings, move into wooden houses and turn into farmers.
the federal government handed down laws that required native americans to reject their established appearance and way of living. some laws banned common spiritual practices while others ordered indian males to cut their long hair. agents on more than two-thirds of american indian reservations set up tribunals to enforce federal regulations that often banned traditional cultural and spiritual practices.
to hasten the assimilation process, the government started indian facilities that tried to quickly and vigorously americanize indian kids. according to the founder of the carlisle indian school in pennsylvania, the schools were created to “kill the indian and save the man.” to be able to make this happen goal, the schools forced pupils to speak only english, dress in proper american attire and to substitute their indian names with more “american” ones. these new policies helped bring native americans nearer to the end of their traditional tribal identity and the start of their daily life as citizens under the complete control of the u.s. government.
native american treaties with the united states
in 1887, congress handed down the general allotment act, the most significant part of the u.s. government’s assimilation platform, which was written to “civilize” american indians by educating them to become farmers. in order to make this happen, congress planned to establish private ownership of indian property by dividing reservations, which were collectively owned, and allowing each family their own stretch of land.
additionally, by pushing the native americans onto limited plots, western developers and settlers could purchase the remaining territory. the general allotment act, also known as the dawes act, required that the indian lands be surveyed and each family be provided with an allotment of between 80 and 160 acres, while unmarried adults were given between 40 to 80 acres; the rest of the land was to be sold. congress thought that the dawes act would split up indian tribes and encourage individual enterprise, while cutting down the expense of indian supervision and producing prime property to be purchased by white settlers.
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the dawes act proved to be disastrous for the american indians; over the next generations they lived under regulations that outlawed their traditional lifestyle but didn’t offer the critical resources to support their businesses and households. dividing the reservations into smaller parcels of land brought about the significant decrease of indian-owned land. within thirty years, the tribes had lost in excess of two-thirds of the territory that they had controlled before the dawes act was enacted in 1887; the majority of the remaining land was purchased by white settlers.
regularly, native americans were cheated out of their allotments or were required to sell their property in order to pay bills and feed their families. as a result, the indians were not “americanized” and were routinely unable to become self-supporting farmers or ranchers, as the makers of the policy had expected. aside from that it developed resentment among indians toward the u.s. government, as the allotment method often destroyed land that was the spiritual and social center of their days.
native american culture
between 1850 and 1900, life for native americans changed significantly. due to u.s. government regulations, american indians were forced from their housing because their native lands were parceled out. the plains, which they had previously roamed without limits, were now inhabited with white settlers.
the upshot of the indian wars
over all these years the indians ended up cheated out of their property, food and approach to life, as the “” government’s indian policies forced them into reservations and attempted to “americanize” them. many american indian bands would not survive relocation, cultural destruction and military loss; by 1890 the native american population was reduced to fewer than 250,000 people. as a result of generations of discriminatory and dodgy policies implemented by the united states authorities between 1850 and 1900, life for the american indians was altered forever.