American Indians Essay, Research Paper
Throughout the history of the United States, American Indians have be treated poorly. Ever since the white men crossed the Atlantic ocean 200 years ago till the mid 1900 s, the poor treatment and killing of Indians never ceased. US Policies passed between the Revolutionary War and the mid 1900 s hurt American Indians and put them at an extreme disadvantage.
Before the Revolutionary War, the first hint that the relationship between the American Indians and the white people would be rocky was when the British ordered the Proclamation of 1763. It prohibited any white settlers to settle west of the Appalachian Mountains because of numerous conflicts with the American Indians. After the Revolutionary War, the concept of Manifest Destiny , to expand the nation to the Pacific Ocean and possibly Canada and Mexico, motivated many Americans to look beyond their territories.
After the Revolutionary War, they successfully gained all the land east of the Appalachian Mountains, from the St. Lawrence River to the 31st parallel. When the United States signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, it gave them the Great Lakes and Mississippi. The United States were able to expand even more after they were able to urge the Native Americans to give up their lands in the Northwest Territory in 1784 and 1785. In 1802, all the states had given up their territories to the federal government as part of the new Constitution. Most importantly, when North Carolina gave up its territories, it stopped making payments that were guaranteed to the Indians in earlier treaties. The United States were to pay off the debt, but they failed to do so. A large contribution to the expansion of the United States was acquired through the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. Then in 1819, Florida was purchased from the Spaniards. Texas freed itself from Mexico in 1845, became an independent state, and joined the United States. Lastly, in 1848 the last major land the United States obtained was California and New Mexico from the Mexican Cession. On the 75th birthday of the nation, the United States had fulfilled its Manifest Destiny and its borders crossed the entire North American Continent (Jones, Pg. 9-12).
The trouble for the American Indian began here. With all the new land acquired, many white Americans headed to the west and mid-west to settle. During these settlements, the Indians got in the way. The settlers were taking their land away from them and the white settlers killed the Indians to get rid of their problems easily. In the minds of many white Americans, the best way to solve the problem with Indians interfering was to exterminate them. The first major battle that erupted between the Indians and the Americans over land ownership and Indian treatment from the Americans occurred during the War of 1812. In 1813, the Indians along with their allies the British, fought the Americans at the Battle of the Thames River. Here Tecumseh died. Tecumseh was the leader of the Shawnee Tribe who also led and united many Indian tribes to drive the Americans off of their land. After he died, the Indians lost an important leader and hence lost their sense of direction and stopped fighting for awhile.
In 1828, Andrew Jackson, the war hero who defeated the Creeks and British became the new President of the United States. Andrew Jackson was considered a frontier man. The Americans on the frontier looked up to him and expected him to have a no-nonsense policy toward the Indians (Jones, Pg. 19). The Cherokee Indians were the first Indians to be a victim of the Jackson policy. At the time, the Cherokees were the most prosperous Indian nation. The white settlers in the area began to raid the Cherokees. The federal government did nothing about this. But when the Cherokees retaliated against the white settlers, the Cherokees were tried and punished severely. Finally, the Cherokees got fed up and appealed to the federal government and worked fiercely to keep the treaty obligations that required the United States federal government to protect the Cherokees and their lands. But the federal government said that the white settlers who took their land were too numerous to be moved and thus were unable to help the Indians. So instead of following the treaty with the Cherokees, the federal government under the Jackson administration took land away from them. The Cherokees brought their case to the Supreme Court to seek justice. Rather, the United States Senate ratified the Treaty of New Echota and President Jackson signed the treaty into law allowing the government to remove all Cherokees from their land (Satz Pg. 20). This decision by President Jackson was the first in a series of massive Indian removal (Gilbert Pg.23) . Finally, the Cherokees were forced to flee to Indian Land , also known as Oklahoma. After the successful removal of the Cherokees, the federal government decided to remove the Choctaws, Creeks, and Chickasaws to Oklahoma as well. The Indians were harassed by the whites and suffered from diseases while traveling to Oklahoma on the trail known as the Trails of Tears (Gilbert Pg. 27,28). In 1832, US troops chased the Sauk nation across the Mississippi River. They killed at least 200 Sauks. As a result of this inhumane act, the federal government gave the remaining Sauks their own land in Iowa. Most of the removals made by the United States government were conducted without thinking about the comfort or health of the Indians. Most of the time, they were conducted with brutality (Jones, Pg. 23). The Indians were forced to walk hundreds of miles because the government did not provide them with good transportation. Also, the United States government promised housing, food, farm supplies, and livestock to start them out at their new locations, but they turned out to be false promised and hopes for the Indians. In most cases, the Indians were usually dropped off in the wilderness and left there to survive on barely nothing. Other times when they reached their new locations, before they knew it, they were being removed to another location. This process was repeated over and over until the Westward Movement.
The Westward Movement caused even more troubles for American Indians. The Westward Movement began after gold was found in California. Many settlers and gold diggers traveled to the west for many different reasons. The government prepared to try and prevent any conflict and confrontation between the Whites and the Indians before it happened by sending the US Army to regulate. They built forts and garrisons for this reason. Army officials were sent west to make agreements and treaties with the Indians. Also, their job was to make sure that the treaties and agreement were not to be violated by both parties. From 1778-1871, the federal government made 389 treaties with the Indian nations. The conditions of the treaties were that if the United States were to take any of the Indians billion acres of land, then the government would pay for the land and give them annual annuities and supplies. Also, the Indians would always have land for themselves. These lands would be free from taxation. Unfortunately, the treaties were often broken. Settlers ignored the treaties and invaded and settled on Indian territory guaranteed under the treaty.
The Fort Laramie Treaty, which was signed in 1868 is an example of a broken treaty (Utley Pg.61,86). The Indians were given exclusive rights to the sacred land of the Black Hills. Then in 1874, when gold was discovered there, the white gold diggers and miners ignored the treaty and invaded the Indian territory. When these settlers invaded their land and the government did not do anything about it, the Indians took action and attacked the settlers. The victim of these Indian raids felt that the government should be protecting them from the Indians, because they felt they had not done anything wrong. Again, the government did not do anything. So this time the settlers retaliated against the Indians by themselves. Besides killing innocent Indians and invading their land, the white settlers showed no respect for the land. They destroyed the grass and tree, almost killed all the game for pleasure that the Indians depended on for survival. By 1871, tension and conflict between the Indians and the settlers grew even stronger. The white people wanted the government to give them access to Indian land while the Indians wanted the government to keep their word, follow the treaty, and protect their lands.
In order to meet the demands of the white people, the federal government decided to have a new policy. The policy was to have no more treaties with the Indians. They were no longer be considered as independent nations. Hostile Indians were to be captured by the US army and put in Indian reservations. If they resisted to go to a reservation they were considered hostile. To make it easier to send all the Indians to the reservations, the government urged white hunters and sportsmen to kill off the buffaloes. This was the most important game that the Indians depended on to live. Between 1872 and 1874, white hunters and sportsmen killed about four million buffaloes, leaving about 150,000 (Brash Pgs. 62, 66,67).
Reservation life was terrible for the Indians. Most of the Indian reservation were wasteland. They were inhabitable. Indians were often expected to farm on these wasteland, which was quite impossible. Indian Reservations became crowded as more and more Indians were being pushed and moved off their own land. Another problem was that the Indians were often sent to reservations that were not suitable for them. For example, the Navajos, Indians who live in the hot desert, were sent to a reservation across the country to Florida. And the Sioux Indians, Indians who lived in the cool plains, were sent to reservations in the desert of New Mexico. The poor and crowded conditions on the reservations caused deadly diseases to spread and caused thousands of deaths on the reservations.
Many of the Indians became fed up with reservation life, and left. Many tribes formed temporary alliances with each other to save themselves. They were successful at the Battle of Bighorn in 1876 where they defeated General George Custer. Even though they were victorious, this only angered the white people even more. Armies were doubled as a result of this. As they lost battles, they found it more difficult to fight on (Billard Pg. 338-339). Every time they were defeated, all their belongings would be destroyed. They would have been lucky to live. In 1890, Chief Sitting Bull and his 300 innocent remaining Indians were massacred by the US Army in South Dakota. As a result of this, many Indian tribes gave up hope and surrendered.
At the beginning of the 20th, there were about 250,000 Indians in the United States. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was formed under the Department of War. The responsibility of the bureau was to see that the best interest of the Indians were served and to decide what those interests were. But the Bureau was made up of white males. They were often bias towards the Indians. This hurt the Indian culture and future generations because now the goal of the bureau and federal government was to civilize all Indians and make them forget their old ways and traditions. Slowly, they were trying to erase the Indian traditions and culture away. The new generations of Indians were taken away to boarding school. They were not allowed to speak their native language. They were forced to practice Christianity. They were told that their Indian heritage were not approved by American society (Billard Pg. 341-384).
As of today, Indians still live on reservations. They do not have to pay taxes. The American Indians today are well treated. They are considered Americans today and have equal rights just as any other ethic groups in the United States. Although the American Indians are treated equally today, they were not treated equally for the past 200 years. The white men came across the sea and invaded their land. All they could do was watch and try to fight back, but that did not work for them. The future generations were greatly affected by this because the sad events did not allow them to have as many opportunities and ease to learn about their roots and tradition.