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in the late 19th and early 20th century the unite

d Statesmode of conduct in the area of the Native American was that of adomineering step-father. The consequences of Manifest Destinywere manifested. The question was, What to do with the NativeAmerican? There was no simple answer to this, but there was apredominate feeling of the necessity of destroying everythingthat was remotely Indian. Once on the reservations, the Indianswere in a state of dependency. All things were given them by thefederal government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs made decisionson the quality of life of the Native American, and policiespertaining to them. Their major effort was that of assimilation. United States policy, however, was marked with ethnocentrismtherefore causing the governments experiment at assimilation tofail.

The policies of the BIA were not only to remove NativeAmericans from the land granted them by treaties, it was also toget rid of their Indianness. Indianness was defined as thepossession of certain cultural traits, blood relationships,beliefs and values, or a membership on a tribes roll(Josephy78). The pervading sentiments toward this Indian problem wasexpressed by Thomas Jefferson Morgan, Commissioner of IndianAffairs in 1889, The Indian must conform to the white mansways, peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must(78). Politicians and missionaries alike took up the call to make theIndian into civilized human beings. Military attitudes of this time was marked with paradox. Many of the officers who wrote about their adventures withpolicing the Indians, and their wives, some of whom went on towrite books also, were in a since humane toward the Indian. Theyunderstood the Indians anger in their being driven off theirland. There was however, a feeling of superiority in theirpatronage of the Native American. They felt that their beliefs,culture and religion were an interesting topic of study. Theyalso believed that they were humans, but of a inferior race(Smith140). By no means were they as intelligent as white society. Their feelings were echoed by politicians and missionaries ofthat time.

In 1869, President Grant began giving full power over theIndian agencies to American churches and missionary bodies. Itwas believed that their honesty and charity would give them moresuccess in the pacification and assimilation of the tribes. In ashort period of time, 73 agencies were apportioned to thePresbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Quakers,Congregationalist, Reformed Dutch and other agencies. Missionaries believed that by converting the Native Americans toChristianity, this would encourage the adjustment process fromvirtual nomads to sedentary farmers. These missionariesunderstood that the cornerstone of Native American society wastheir religion. They believed that since the once strong chiefand warriors were all dead or resigned to their fate, themedicine men were the only obstacle left in the way of the fullcooperation of the heathens. Thus by the mid-1800s, the US hadbanned most forms of Indian religion on the reservations(Reed48). Those who attempted to maintain tribal customs andtraditions were subjected to severe punishment including: imprisonment, forced labor and even starvation. Traditionaldress, ceremony, dances, and singing were forbidden by law. Every overt manifestation of the spiritual content that had heldIndian society together was banned by an encompassing ReligiousCrimes Code(Josephy,85). This code effectively ended freedom ofreligion for the Native Americans. Though thought to beincorruptible, many churchmen became greedy and dispossessedIndians of their land and resources.

The first major political action that facilitated the effortof assimilation was the Dawes General Allotment (Severalty) Actof 1887. This act attempted to convert all tribal lands intoindividual ownership. In exchange for renouncing their tribalholdings, Indians could become citizens and get individual landgrants; 160 acres to family heads, 80 acres to singleadults(Fuchs 8). Ownership would come only after the expirationof a 25 year federal trust. The Burke Act of 1906 waived theremaining trust for all Indians judged competent to farm(Readerscompanion 268). All surplus land was opened for sale tonon-Indians. The goal of this edict was to expedite theassimilation of the Indians, and hurry the process of turningthem into good Christian tillers of the soil. The Annual Reportof the Department of the Interior 1901, supports this, ..ifsteadfastly adhered to will not only relieve the government of anenormous burden, but will practically settle the Indian questionwithin the space generally allotted to a generation(Fuchs 8).

The land where they were moved, however, was basicallyunable to produce any crop, and the Indian had beliefs thathindered them from scarring the face of their mother earth. Saysanthropologist Gordon Macgregor:The small size of allotments in areas of limited rainfall, the poor quality of the soil,the erosion that followed plowing up natural grassland ranges, the timberedallotments too small for productive operation, the rocky, infertile soil, and even inCalifornia allotted lava beds, led to non- or inefficient use. Rental of allotmentsproved the only feasible solution for the aged, women, and child allottees. Thefederal practice of granting rights to, but not ownership of, inherited lands furtherstalemated the allotment for the assimilation policy. The strongest barrier, however was the cultural resistance shown among the greatnumber of non- agricultural tribes(Fuchs 8).

Because the majority of Native Americans had never farmed, thisadaptation was cumbersome. Thus, the lands the tribes held wasseverely reduced; in 1887, the tribes owned about 138 millionacres, by 1900, the acreage was reduced to 78 million. About 90million acres of land total changed from Indian to whitehands(Josephy 132). This act was not reversed until 1934 in theIndian Reorganization Act which permitted the surplus land to bereturned to tribal ownership. In all of their attempts to reform the Native American, thefederal government focused many times on the children. Childrens removal from their home and tribe was viewed asnecessary for the elimination of the native identity andtherefore the Indian problem(Fuchs 224). This ideology washelped by the view that confinement and education cost less thanmilitary control. In 1865, a congressional committeeinvestigating conditions among the western tribes recommendedboarding schools remote from the Indian communities(225). Thefirst of such schools was the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle,Pennsylvania. This school was founded in 1878 by General RichardHenry Pratt. This school took children from Mid-Western andWestern tribes and taught them to read and write English, math,and a vocational skill. It taught them how to dress, act, andlive like white people. The most engaging part of his program,was the outing system. This was were the children would livewith a white family for three years after finishing school. Thechild would have to earn their keep using the trade they learnedin school. Pratt called this the supreme Americanizer(225). Pratt failed to realize that though the children were allowedinto the homes, they were never recognized as white persons. There were many methods employed to try and make the Indianswhite. Yet its ironic that both religious, benevolent, andsupposedly disinterested and the insensitive politicians andwesterners interested in Indian lands supported removal andallotment(Smith 80). This similarity is due to the attitude ofcultural superiority and ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism in thesince of being so rooted in ones own culture, that they had adisdain for others(Fuchs 247). Many thought that for theprocedure of assimilation to prevail, that there were steps thathad to be completed. First there was cultural assimilation; thiswas the task of teaching the Native Americans to play the role ofa white person, through education, and removal. This was thevirtue of giving the papoose a chance, also a conviction ofT.J. Morgan. Second, would come social assimilation, that is,accepting Indians into society. This would include patronizingtheir businesses. Third, would be marital assimilation, orintermarriage. Although this was somewhat prevalent in someparts of American society, it was not accepted in main streamAmerica. For assimilation to work, the dominant society mustaccept the lesser society, or basically absorb the lessersociety. There must be an absence of discrimination, an absenceof prejudice, and the value and power conflict must beeliminated. This is otherwise known as civic assimilation(Smith82). These rules were never followed and the Native Americanremained in outsider in their own land.

The life of the Native American began to change in the yearssurrounding 1934. Although Indians were granted citizenship in1924 including, the vote in local, state and national elections,many were denied these rights. President Franklin D. Rooseveltinitiated a change with his appointment of Jon Collier to chiefof the BIA in 1933. Colliers task was to design a New Dealfor the Native American. Collier produced a legislative packagethat called for the revolutionizing of US policy toward theIndian. The Indian Reorganization Act proposed six main pointsfor the change in policy: 1) the reorganization of tribes forself-government; 2) the immediate end to allotment; 3) theincreased recruitment of Indians for jobs in the BIA; 4) amulti-million dollar credit fund for farms and businesses ofNative Americans; 6) the mechanism for Indians to pool allottedlands and resources(Nabokov 306). Colliers ideas were that ofcultural freedom. Finally the Native Americans could feel thatthey were being represented, and that things were beginning tochange.

The thinking and the actions of the federal government, inthe late 19th and early 20th century concerning the NativeAmericans, was marred with the attitude of cultural superiority,causing the policy of assimilation to fail. The humanitarianefforts military missionary and political figures were weigheddown by their ethnocentrism. In their best interest, NativeAmericans were placed in a state of perpetual dependency on thefederal government. Unable to practice their traditions, theywere left feeling like step-children. Their relief began onlyafter people began changing their attitudes towards Indians. TheNative Americans still have problems with government policieswhich are questionable. Yet, progress has been made. Hopefully,there will come a day when there are no questionable policies.

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