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Policies toward Native Americans

Native Americans migrated to the Americas from Asia centuries ago. Reportedly they made the trek across from Asia to northern Europe and down through the Americas. Some stopped along the way and formed societies until they populated both North and South America. These groups included Incas, Mayans, Aztecs and many other North American tribes. The Natives lived in relative peace and prosperity for many centuries in the Americas. Conflict between tribes was minimal until interference from the colonists.

Their conflicts generally consisted of limited warfare between tribes for a specific purpose. Beginning with the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the world of the Native American began to change. Columbus’ first thought, when he landed, was how to enslave and exploit them. The Natives were invaded by imperialist Europeans looking for wealth and colonies in the New World. Countries such as Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands and Italy participated in the transatlantic slave trade of Africans which brought them to the Americas. Europeans needed labor to develop the new colony.

They attempted to enslave the Natives but they were no match for European diseases such as small pox and measles, hence they decided to import Africans. The Europeans needed to forge alliances with the Native Americans in order to survive in the new world. Description of Public Policies As the colonies grew, the Europeans began to regard Native Americans as an impediment to the growth of the New World. Thus they set out to annihilate and destroy them by various means. One such attempt was the distribution of blankets laced with Typhoid fever.

The number of Native Americans north of the Rio Grande decreased from 10 million in 1500 to about 600,000 in 1800 by 1900 it was reduced to 250,000. They fell victim to warfare, racist policies and diseases. The United States formulated a policy during the nineteenth century toward Native Americans that followed the precedents established during the colonial period. (T. Schaefer) They adopted an attitude that the country belonged to them (the colonists) and the government set on a mission to destroy and/or confine Native Americans on reservations.

The government enacted many racist federal policies to deal with the natives including: 1830 Removal act which forced them to leave their ancestral homes and walk west. The 1887Allottment Act divided tribal lands. As time went on other misguided acts were enacted to control Natives after their lifestyle was negatively impacted by European colonists. Most were unsuccessful. The Government encouraged unhealthy diets and alcohol consumption which ruined the health of Native American Communities in a systematic way over decades. They also interfered with cultural practices such as the use of peyote during religious ceremonies.

The American buffalo, which was their dietary staple, was practically made extinct. Policies were adopted to encourage Native Americans to become more like the colonists. The colonists considered Natives as savages. During the 1800’s they built schools which were for the purpose of “Americanizing” the Native Americans. The main Native American peoples in the Southeast were the Cherokee Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, and Chickasaw. These groups were known collectively as the Five (Wikipedia)Civilized Tribes because they rapidly adopted many elements of European life.

Conclusion The effects of the various government policies on Native Americans have been disastrous. The Europeans took tribal lands by force and enacted racist policies which decimated Native American societies. Native Americans often had an ambiguous legal status in the United States. They were not considered full citizens of the U. S. nor of a recognized foreign nation. Laws were applied unevenly. Murder of an American Indian, for example, would not be considered a capital crime until a precedent was set in 1825. The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 granted U.

S. citizenship to all Native Americans. Prior to the passage of the act, nearly two-thirds of Native Americans were already U. S. citizens. (Wikipedia) In 1932 John Collier was appointed as commissioner of Indian Affairs by President Roosevelt. Collier was an outspoken critic of the Bureau of Indian Affairs . He was both knowledgeable and respectful of Native American culture. As commissioner he was committed to reversing the government’s previous policies that were hostile to traditional Native American cultural practices.

He also wanted to improve the health and welfare of Native Americans. (Wikipedia) Collier immediately went to work to improve economic condition of Native Americans. In 1946, the Indian Claims Commission Act allowed Native Americans to sue for injustices, however their tribal lands were not returned. During the 1950’s and 1960’s congress enacted additional legislation which ended the status of the Native American as a “ward” of the government. Natives were positively impacted by the civil rights movement of the 1960’s along with other minority groups.

In recent US history an efforts have been made to correct some of the injustices done to Natives. In many states they enjoy free college tuition. Native Americans currently operate a number of profitable casinos from which they receive royalties. Native Americans were subject to harmful government policies. There are several activist groups fighting for Native American rights. Some tribes have established the right of sovereignty and utilize self governance. The treatment of the Native American by the United States Government has been disgraceful but improvements have been made in recent decades.

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