American Indians · Native Americans

Indian Removals and Reservations

In the 19th century, the incessant westward expansion of the United States incrementally compelled large numbers of Native Americans to resettle further west, often by force, almost always reluctantly. Native Americans believed this forced relocation illegal, given the Hopewell Treaty of 1785. Under President Andrew Jackson, United States Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized the President to conduct treaties to exchange Native American land east of the Mississippi River for lands west of the river.

As many as 100,000 Native Americans relocated to the West as a result of this Indian Removal policy. In theory, relocation was supposed to be voluntary and many Native Americans did remain in the East. In practice, great pressure was put on Native American leaders to sign removal treaties. The most egregious violation, the Trail of Tears, was removal of the Cherokee by President Jackson to Indian Territory.[78]

Native Americans and U.S. Citizenship

In 1817, the Cherokee became the first Native Americans recognized as U.S. citizens. Under Article 8 of the 1817 Cherokee treaty, “Upwards of 300 Cherokees (Heads of Families) in the honest simplicity of their souls, made an election to become American citizens”.[79][80]

Factors establishing citizenship included:

  1. Treaty provision (as with the Cherokee)
  2. Registration and land allotment under the Dawes Act of February 8, 1887
  3. Issuance of Patent in Fee simple
  4. Adopting Habits of Civilized Life
  5. Minor Children
  6. Citizenship by Birth
  7. Becoming Soldiers and Sailors in the U.S. Armed Forces
  8. Marriage to a U.S. citizen
  9. Special Act of Congress.

After the American Civil War, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 states, “that all persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States”.[81]

Indian Appropriations Act of 1871

In 1871 Congress added a rider to the Indian Appropriations Act ending United States recognition of additional Native American tribes or independent nations, and prohibiting additional treaties.[82]

Education and Indian boarding schools

After the Indian wars in the late 19th century, the United States established Native American boarding schools, initially run primarily by or affiliated with Christian missionaries.[83] At this time American society thought that Native American children needed to be acculturated to the general society. The boarding school experience often proved traumatic to Native American children, who were forbidden to speak their native languages, taught Christianity and denied the right to practice their native religions, and in numerous other ways forced to abandon their Native American identities.[84][85][86]

Since the rise of self-determination for Native Americans, they have generally emphasized education of their children at schools near where they live. In addition, many federally recognized tribes have taken over operations of such schools and added programs of language retention and revival to strengthen their cultures. Beginning in the 1970s, tribes have also founded colleges at their reservations, controlled, and operated by Native Americans, to educate their young for jobs as well as to pass on their cultures.

American Indian Boarding Schools:

Non-reservation boarding schools

In 1634, Fr. Andrew White of the Society of Jesus established a mission in what is now the state of Maryland, and the purpose of the mission, stated through an interpreter to the chief of an Indian tribe there, was “to extend civilization and instruction to his ignorant race, and show them the way to heaven.”[7] The mission’s annual records report that by 1640, a community had been founded which they named St. Mary’s, and the Indians were sending their children there “to be educated among the English.”[8] This included the daughter of the Pascatoe Indian chief Tayac, which exemplifies not only a school for Indians, but either a school for girls, or an early co-ed school. The same records report that in 1677, “a school for humanities was opened by our Society in the centre of [Maryland], directed by two of the Fathers; and the native youth, applying themselves assiduously to study, made good progress. Maryland and the recently established school sent two boys to St. Omer who yielded in abilities to few Europeans, when competing for the honour of being first in their class. So that not gold, nor silver, nor the other products of the earth alone, but men also are gathered from thence to bring those regions, which foreigners have unjustly called ferocious, to a higher state of virtue and cultivation.”[9]

Harvard College had an Indian College on its campus in the mid-1600s, supported by the English Society for Propagation of the Gospel. Its few Indian students came from New England, at a time when higher education was very limited for all classes and colleges were more similar to today’s high schools. In 1665, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, “from the Wampanoag…did graduate from Harvard, the first Indian to do so in the colonial period”.[10] In early years, other Indian schools were created by local communities, as with the Indian school in Hanover, New Hampshire in 1769, which gradually developed into Dartmouth College. Other schools were created in the East, where Indian reservations were less common than they became in the late nineteenth century in western states.

Chiricahua Apaches Four Months After Arriving at Carlisle. Undated photograph taken at Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

West of the Mississippi, schools near Indian settlements and on reservations were first founded by religious missionaries, who believed they could extend education and Christianity to Native Americans. Some of their efforts were part of the progressive movement after the Civil War. As Native Americans were forced onto reservations following the Indian Wars, missionaries founded additional schools with boarding facilities, to accommodate students who lived too far to attend on a daily basis.

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School, founded by the US Army officer Richard Henry Pratt in 1879 at a former military installation, became a model for others established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Pratt said in a speech in 1892, “A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the man.”[11] Pratt professed “assimilation through total immersion.”[11] He conducted a “social experiment” on Apache prisoners of war at a fort in Florida.[12] He cut their long hair, put them in uniforms, forced them to learn English, and subjected them to strict military protocols.[12] He had arranged for the education of some of the young Indian men at the Hampton Institute, a historically black college, after he had supervised them as prisoners at a fort in Florida.

At the prison, he made efforts to have the Indians taught English and United States culture, while giving them leeway to govern themselves. From seeing the progress of both his younger prisoners and the ones who attended Hampton, he came to believe that removing Indians from their native culture could result in their successful assimilation into the majority culture of the United States. As at the Hampton Institute, he included in the Carlisle curriculum vocational training for boys and domestic science for girls, including chores around the school and producing goods for market. They also produced a newspaper, had a well-regarded chorus and orchestra, and developed sports programs. The vocational training reflected the administration’s understanding of skills needed at most reservations, which were located in rural areas, and reflected a society still based on agriculture. In the summer, students often lived with local farm families and townspeople to continue their immersion in European-American culture, and provide labor at low cost to the families. Carlisle and its curriculum became the model for the Bureau of Indian Affairs; by 1902 there were 25 federally funded non-reservation schools in 15 states and territories, with a total enrollment of over 6,000 students. Federal legislation required Native American children to be educated. Parents had to authorize their children’s attendance at boarding schools, but sometimes officials used coercion to gain a quota of students from any given reservation.[13]

As the model of boarding schools was adopted more widely by the US government, many Native American children were separated from their families and tribes when they were sent or sometimes taken to boarding schools far from their home reservations. These schools ranged from those similar to the federal Carlisle Indian Industrial School, which became a model for BIA-run schools; to the many schools sponsored by religious denominations.

In that period, when students arrived at the boarding schools, their lives usually altered dramatically. They were given short haircuts (a source of shame for boys of many tribes), uniforms, and English names; sometimes these were based on their own, other times they were assigned at random, and sometimes children chose new names. They were not allowed to speak their own languages, even between each other, and they were expected to attend church services and encouraged to convert to Christianity. Discipline was stiff in many schools (as it was in families and other areas of society), and it often included chores and punishments.[12]

The following is a quote from Anna Moore regarding the Phoenix Indian School:

If we were not finished [scrubbing the dining room floors] when the 8 a.m. whistle sounded, the dining room matron would go around strapping us while we were still on our hands and knees.[14]

The 1928 Meriam Report noted that infectious disease was often widespread at the schools due to insufficient funding for meals providing good nutrition, overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions (an element shared by many towns in the early 20th century) and students weakened by overwork. The report said that death rates for Native American students were six and a half times higher than for other ethnic groups.[14]

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