Native America Federal Policies from the 1800s to 2000

Adriana Calderon April 28, 2011 Ethnic Study 1 Native America Federal Policies from the 1800s to 2000 The new US Government was careful not to antagonize the Indians and sought to treat them with mutual respect. This is evidenced in early treaties where the term “Red Brothers” was used to convey this sentiment of equality. By 1800 interaction between the Indian and white settlers had become quite common through trade. Many Indians traded for household goods, traps and tools. The US became concerned about the cultural differences and sought to improve the Indian station in life by providing education.

The United States no longer feared the Indian but rather took a paternal position toward the Indians and the treaty language reflected this when the Indian was referred to as “Our Red Children. ” The US Constitution via Article I section gives the Federal Government dominant power over states in policy making; the congress shall have the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes. The Constitution further enumerates these powers denied to the states in Article I section x.

The state of Georgia challenged the federal government’s power over states rights, a precursor to the Civil War, when it challenged the trust relationship and the autonomy of the Cherokee. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall in three decisions (Marshall Trilogy) upheld the United States’ federal power, defined the responsibility of the doctrine of federal trust, and clarified the sovereignty of Indian nations: Johnson v McIntosh 1823, Cherokee v Georgia 1831, Worcester v Georgia 1832. The new government wanted to keep peace with the Indians and used trade as its device.

It was hoped that the interaction between the white settlers and Indians would create a dependence of the Indian for white goods and soothe the tensions of the white settlers through familiarity via social interaction. President George Washington proposed government regulated and operated trading houses. The Government Trading Act of April 18, 1796 was established for carrying on a liberal trade with the several Indian nations, within the limits of the United States. This act restricted trade exclusively through government agents; anyone else was subject to fines. It as hoped independent and illegal trade with the Indians would be unprofitable and a deterrent to independent and foreign white traders as the Government Trading Houses were very competitive. The new government placed Indian affairs under the jurisdiction of the War Department. In this way the government could police, protect, and regulate trade and commerce with the Indian tribes. The treaties, doctrines, and Congressional acts affected the lives of Indian tribes within the limits of the United States. Many of the Cherokee in Georgia assimilated to the white man’s way of life.

Chief William McIntosh, an extreme example, was a slave holding plantation owner who lived in a two story Federalist style mansion. The trading houses allowed many Indians such as the Cherokee and Seminole Creek to acquire such things as colorful cloth that was permanently incorporated into their dress. Household cooking utensils, hunting rifles, along with the technology for logging and agriculture was attractive to many Indians and they soon settled into log cabins and communities that mirrored many white settlements.

Other Indians preferred to remain hunters and gathers and fur trade became their means of barter. The new country was difficult to police and fraud prospered. Both government and non-government trading houses started the illegal trade in liquor. The interaction between the white man and Indian introduced new words and technologies into each other’s culture. The white man absorbed the snowshoe, canoe, tobacco, and corn whereas the Indian absorbed the rifle, the kettle, and many household items into their culture.

Some Indians adopted Christianity. The Civilization Fund Act (March 3, 1819) was enacted when The United States government became increasingly concerned with the education of the Indian tribes in contact with white settlements and encourage activities of benevolent societies in providing schools for the Indians and authorized an annual ‘civilization fund’ to stimulate and promote this work. With many Indians assimilating into the white culture a change in white attitude toward the Indian heralded a new era of Indian relations.

As a result of the War of 1812 the government trading houses suffered economically and private trading interests succeeded in bringing about the abolition of this institution via an act of Congress May 6, 1822. Trade by unscrupulous individuals flourished though the US Government enacted several regulation measures. Pressure of immigrants wanting to settle on Indian land increased and Indian tribes sought resolution on title and real estate issues with the Supreme Court based on their status as a foreign nation.

The Marshall Trilogy Decisions clarified the status of the Indian nations in respect to the United States. With increased litigation and policy in Indian affairs Secretary of War John C Calhoun created the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the War Department March 11, 1824. The issue of Indian Removal increased as Georgia pressed the federal government to hold to its promise of April 24, 1802, in which the United States had agreed to extinguish the Indian land titles in the state as soon as it could be done peaceably and on reasonable terms in exchange for the state’s western land claims.

President James Monroe believed that the land belonged to the Indians by binding treaties. He personally did not agree with Georgia’s claim but did propose a voluntary removal policy as the best solution in a letter to Congress January 27, 1825. The issue did not go away; the rich farm lands of the Cherokee and gold in the Georgia hills fueled the removal movement. President Andrew Jackson, an infamous Indian fighter, in his First Annual Address to Congress in December of 1829 let it be known that he was firmly committed to the removal of the eastern tribes to a region west of the Mississippi River.

On May 28, 1830 The Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress after months of bitter debate not only in Congress but in the press. This act did not authorize enforced removal of any Indians, but merely gave the President power to initiate land exchanges with Indian nations residing within the states or territories. However the Indians chose not to move and force was necessary. The Cherokee population numbered in the thousands and a gradual removal was planned; but when gold was discovered on Cherokee land the removal was hastened.

During the autumn and winter of 1838 the last of the eastern tribes were rounded up and detained in concentration camps before being forced marched west. This March which took the life of one in four Indians is commonly referred to as the “Trail of Tears. ” During this period the United States was engaged in a civil war that tested the Union. Its military might was improved and after the civil war the government used this might to control the increased Indian hostilities in the West.

Manifest Destiny seemed confirmed as a basic truth and the fate of the Plains Indians was secured with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railway May 10, 1869 in Promontory Point, Utah. The removal and relocation had tremendous consequences for many of the eastern tribes. The Choctaw, Cherokee, and Creeks were removed to Oklahoma along with numerous other tribes. Their physical and ecological environment was different. The land was unfamiliar and they were forced to live with other tribes that could not speak their language or understand their customs and traditions; some of these were natural enemies.

Hunters and gathers had to become farmers. They were often short-changed by the unscrupulous traders increasing their dependence on the United States Government for subsistence. These tribes lost their autonomy as the Bureau of Indian Affairs replaced their council governments. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was more concerned with the assimilation of Indians and less interested in preserving the traditional way of life of Indians. Boarding schools were built to educate the children in the white dominant culture.

Traditions and knowledge of the homeland and culture were kept alive by elders secretly. Many of the removed eastern tribes adopted Christianity through forced acculturation via the education of the children. The Plains Indians were forced to submit to reservation life as the buffalo, their means of subsistence, was eradicated largely in part by the railroad industry. By 1870 much of what is referred to now as the Continental Forty-Eight was dominated by the white man.

The Sioux, Cheyenne, and Apache tribes would continue to struggle for another twenty years but the railroad and the loss of the buffalo marked the end of the second period. Next was the beginning of a third period of Native American relations with the United States Government, one of forced assimilation. This period began with the end of the more infamous Indian wars and the capture, surrender, or death of such notable personalities: Cochise and Geronimo of the Apaches, Little Wolf and Dull Knife of the Northern Cheyenne, and Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull and Black Elk of the Sioux.

Nothing incensed the American attitude toward the Native Indian as the defeat (massacre) of General George Custer and his troops at Little Bighorn Creek. The United States Army, thirsting for revenge, the country north and west of the Black Hills, killing Indians wherever they could be found, Though Indian military resistance had be contained, the massacre of 230 Sioux at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation Dec. 28, 1890 marked the end of Indian independence. The US quit making treaties with Indians because it was viewed as an impediment to the assimilation of Indians.

Because of humanitarian attacks upon the treaty system and the objections of the House of Representatives to the concentration of authority for dealing with the Indians in the hands of the Senate through its treaty-making power, Congress in 1871, in an obscure rider to the Indian appropriation bill, outlawed further treaty making with Indian tribes. Shortly thereafter the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Francis A. Walker, assigned Indian agencies to religious societies primarily to advance the moral and religious character of the Indians in November 1872.

By doing so the US government was removed as the initial contact. The political nomination to the office of agent was removed and placed in the hands to those interested only in good will. In essence Indian tribes had no forum of direct interaction with the US Government. The Dawes Act of 1887 reflected the forced assimilation views of those who would reform Indian Policy. This act dissolved many tribes as legal entities, wiped out tribal ownership of land, and set up individual Indian family heads with 160 free acres.

If the Indians behaved themselves like good white settlers, they would get full title to their holdings, as well as citizenship in twenty-five years. Congress via the Indian citizenship Act, June 2, 1924 granted citizenship to all Indians born within the United States who were not yet citizens. Since war, disease, and starvation reduced Indian populations, the excess reservation land that was not allotted was reacquired by the US Government and sold to railroads and white settlers.

The federal government allocated the proceeds from the sale of these lands to be used to educate and civilize the native people. This period of assimilation and allotment affected the lives of Native Americans more than any other period. The violent conflicts between the Indian tribes and the US military reduced tribal populations. The termination of treaties reduced tribal status to something less than nation status. By not having treaty making power tribes lost effective negotiation power with the US Government. The Dawes Act served to destroy both the reservation system and tribal organization.

The Dawes Act tried to make rugged individualists out of the Indians by making them farmers. The Dawes Act removed nearly fifty percent of Native American land from Indian tribes and accelerated the already rapid loss of traditional Indian culture. The religious controlled agencies were instrumental in separating the children from their tribes, teaching these children English and indoctrinating them with white values and customs. For the next fifty years The Dawes Act served as the government’s official Indian policy.