Hostile Takeover Of The New World Essay

, Research Paper The Effects of the United States Government on the Indians “The responsibility of any nation, and the particular responsibility of elected officials of any nation, is not to justify

, Research Paper

The Effects of the United States Government on the Indians

“The responsibility of any nation, and the particular

responsibility of elected officials of any nation, is not to justify

what has passed for legality but to anticipate the conditions

and problems of tomorrow and attempt to deal with them. The

current confusion and violence in Indian Country are a result

of the failure to do so by generations of elected officials in this

country. To continue to perpetuate myths about American

Indians which have no basis in fact or in law is merely

avoiding the larger issues confronting the nations of the

world,” said author Vine Deloria, Jr. (Deloria, Prologue) The

United States government failed miserably in its attempt to

deal with the Indians. By pushing them further and further

West, they pushed the Indians to hate and distrust the white

man to the point of war. These wars resulted in hundreds of

white deaths. However, the wars resulted in the destruction of

several entire Indian tribes and the near extinction of Indian

spirit throughout America. The tale is a sad one, one that

Americans should not be proud of. After every broken treaty,

the Americans blamed the Indians for existing, despite the

want of the Indians to simply live on their lands peacefully.

The “Trail of Tears” was a great tragedy and many thought it

would be the last now that all of the Indians were out of the

eastern United States. But the U.S. government became land

hungry and due to their idealism of “Manifest Destiny,” the

“Trail of Tears” was only a starting point on the path to the

destruction of the Indians of the West. By 1850 gold had been

discovered in California, and white settlers were heading

West to strike it rich and lay claim to the entire continent.

(Utley and Washburn, page 163) New violence erupted as the

white man moved into Indian hunting grounds. Ten percent of

the Diggers in California met death violently. In 1846,

California was home to 100,000 Indians. By 1851, the

population had dropped to 30,000. (Utley and Washburn,

164)”That a war of extermination will continue to be waged

until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected,” said

California governor in 1851. (Utley and Washburn, 179)

Under the ideals of Tom Fitzpatrick, United States Indian

Agent, the U.S. government decided it didn’t only want to

separate the whites and the Indians, but also intended to

restrict them to specified areas known as reservations.

Nineteenth century removal and reservation policies reduced

Indian lands to mere islands in the stream of American

settlement. Reservations themselves were largely unwanted

or remote environments of little value. (Lewis, 1) The policy

makers did not only want to control the Indians, but civilize

them as well. The chiefs are thought to have agreed to these

treaties not because they understood the provisions, but

because a U.S. treaty tactic was to bribe them with a stock of

presents waiting to be distributed after the signing. (Deloria,

177) War was also threatened if the Indians did not sign. Most

of the time, the Indians ignored the treaties, not truly

understanding the motives of the whites to tell them what they

could and could not do. Moreover, just as the Indian chiefs

could not make their people obey these treaties, the U.S.

government could not make their own countrymen respect the

treaties. “It must certainly appear evident that something must

be done to keep those Indians quiet and nothing short of an

efficient military force stationed in their country will do this,”

warned Fitzpatrick. (Utley and Washburn, 195) The U.S.

government began forcing the Indians onto reservations.

Sometimes they would simply kill them with no warning such

as the killing of 224 Shoshones in the Battle of Bear River in

Montana, 1862. (Utley and Washburn, 201) The Apaches and

the Navajos experienced a similar fate. With nothing left, and

all their warriors dead, the reluctantly gave into the U.S.

government. One by one, the tribes were tricked into trusting

the white man. This trust almost always resulted in death for

the Indians. However, under the direction of President Grant,

Ely Parker or Donehogwa, a Seneca Indian, was appointed

the as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. (Brown, 177) Despite

his efforts, the crooked U.S. government could not be

overcome. He could not make peace between the whites and

the Sioux, Cheyenne and other remaining tribes. The Indians

believed it was wrong to sell their land. They believed it was

theirs and a price could not be put on the fields where they

lived, cultivated crops and hunted buffalo. Donehogwa best

summed up Indian dissatisfaction by saying, ” Although this

country was once wholly inhabited by Indians, the tribes, and

many of them once powerful, who occupied the countries now

constituting the states east of the Mississippi, have, one by

one, been exterminated in their abortive attempts to stem the

western march of civilization??If any tribe remonstrated

against the violation of their natural and treaty rights,

members of the tribe were inhumanly shot down and the

whole treated as mere dogs?It is presumed that humanity

dictated the original policy of the removal and concentration of

the Indians in the West to save them from threatened

extinction.. But today, by reason of the immense

augmentation of the American population, and the extension

of their settlements throughout the entire West, covering both

slopes of the Rocky Mountains, the Indian races are more

seriously threatened with a speedy extermination than ever

before in the history of the country.” (Brown, page 176) The

hate Donehogwa received from men such as William Welsh

and others forced him to resign. Shortly after Donehogwa

resigned, all treaty making powers of the Indians were

revoked. The government believed the U.S. officials

representing the Indians could better adhere to the best

interests of the Indians. The Cheyenne were eventually

overcome and many were slaughtered. The battle can be best

summed up by this account from Little Wolf of the Northern

Cheyenne: “We have been south and suffered a great deal

down there. Many have died of diseases which we have no

name for. Our hearts looked and longed for this country

where we were born. There are only a few of us left, and we

only wanted a little ground, where we could live. We left our

lodges standing and ran away in the night. The troops

followed us. I rode out and told the troops we did not want to

fight, we only wanted to go North and if they would let us

alone we would kill no one. The only reply we got was a

volley. After that we had to fight our way, but we killed none

who did not fire at us first. My brother Dull-Knife took one-half

of the band and surrendered near Fort Robinson?They gave

up their guns, and then the whites killed them all.” (Brown,

331) Before the battles, the Cheyenne numbered in the

10,000s. The Great Cheyenne in their effort to evade

reservation, numbered in the 100s in total in January, 1879.

(Brown, 350) Rumors came to the Sioux that people were

being starved on reservations. Those that did not starve

inherited diseases due to close and unsanitary quarters;

many of the Indians were mocked. The soldiers were thought

of as overseers, not dignified and helpful aides to the Indians.

They would be forced to work. The provisions, clothing and

other goods, promised by the U.S. Government were nowhere

to be found. They were being treated as hostels. The Sioux

would not give into reservation life without a fight. And fight

they did. They killed 224 of General Custer’s men in The

Battle of Little Bighorn, June 25, 1876. But, their victory was

short lived. The betrayal that resulted was sickening. Crazy

Horse, and Ogala Sioux, was assassinated. The Nez Perces

were wiped out and Chief Joseph was said to have died of a

broken heart shortly after.(Brown, 330) The Sioux began

performing a sacred Indian ritual called the Ghost Dance. This

dance gave the Indians hope that the white man would go

away, the near-extinct buffalo would return and Indian life

would be peaceful as it once was. This dance was the idea of

Wovoka, a Paiute Messiah. (Brown, 416) After many battles

between the Sioux and the white men, many Sioux tribes had

been forced onto an anvil-shaped block, 35,000 square miles,

of Dakota land, which was declared worthless by U.S.

surveyors. (Brown, 416) This dance was their only hope. In

July 1881, Sitting bull was forced to bring his people to the

remaining Sioux on this reservation. He could run no more;

his supplies were gone and his people were dying. Sitting Bull

was held prisoner at Fort Randall. (Utley and Washburn, 338)

There were six different Sioux tribes on this land. Under

Newton Edmunds and Samuel Hinman, another treaty was

made with the Indians in which the Indians unknowingly ceded

14,000 square miles of their land back to the U.S.

Government in return for cows and bulls. (Brown, 429)After

this betrayal, the dancing was vigorous. By November, 1890,

all other activities came to a halt. (Brown, 435) This scared

the white people living in the territories. The soldiers tried to

force the Indians to stop this dance. The soldiers resolved to

arrest Sitting Bull since the dancing was not stopped. In this

attempt, Sitting Bull was shot through the head by an Indian

policeman and killed on his reservation where the soldiers

would “protect him and his people.” (Brown, 438) The Ghost

Dance continued. In fact, it was the only way to let out their

grief over Sitting Bull’s assassination. On December 17, 1890,

troops arrived on the reservation to disarm the men and stop

the frightening activities taking place there. The Indians,

under the direction of Big Foot, were moved to Wounded

Knee Creek. There were 120 men and 230 women and

children. (Brown, 441) The teepees and clothing of the

Indians were searched extensively for weapons. In the

madness, Black Coyote mistakenly shot off his gun. (Brown,

442) Indiscriminate killing from the soldiers followed. One

estimate placed the death toll at 300. There were only 350

Indians in total at Wounded Knee Creek. (Brown, 444) The

remaining 4 men and 47 women and children were sent to an

Episcopal mission church before there were shipped off to a

military prison. Later, some were of the few survivors were

released back onto the reservation. The effects of these

heartless killing were many on the Indians. Many of the tribes

were left without their chiefs and holy men. These were the

men they looked to for guidance and hope. A culture of

Indians that numbered 1,850,000 at the time of Columbus had

dwindled to less that 250,000 at the time of Wounded Knee.

(Zinn, 22) The Indians now had an ultimatum-live out your life

on the reservation or die. Reservation life only deteriorated

and the land the Indians were to live on got smaller and

smaller. In total, tribal leaders were convinced or tricked into

signing 371 treaties up through the 1870s, ceding almost all

of their land to the government. By Supreme Court ruling, the

remaining small tracts constituted “dependent nations.”

(Thurman, 1) While some Indian resistance was crushed by

dramatic massacres, for the most part Indians were subdued

by a combination of disease, alcohol, food rationing, the

cooperation of Indian collaborators, and the theft of Indian

children for boarding schools. (Thurman, 1) The Bureau of

Indian Affairs, until its transfer to the Interior Department, was

part of the War Department. (Thurman, 1) White

homesteaders were used to police the Indian people, while

others came to see them as good trading partners. In 1936,

federal authorities established tribal councils on the

reservations with some traditional forms of government. Many

of the events of the past are still protested and reoccurring

today. By the beginning of the 20th century, Indians controlled

remnants of their former estates. Drought, the Dust Bowl, the

Great Depression and the American market economy led to

an abandonment of Indian agriculture after World War II.

(Lewis, 1) In the 1930s the government instituted livestock

reduction and reseeding procedures to bring value back to

reservation fields. Despite those efforts, most tribes still deal

with overgrazing, erosion and improper land use. In recent

years, modern Indians begin placing needs over older cultural

patterns. These new ideas have put many Indians at odds

with environmentalists. In Nevada, the Bureau of Land

Management chain-clears extensive forests to improve

grazing potential of the land for white permit holders. Of

course, the Shoshone Indians of whom this land “belongs” to

and whose resources are being destroyed have never given

consent to these activities. (Lewis, 2) Some of their

reservation lands contained unseen resources of immense

worth. Many heated environmental debates over the

exploitation and development of that land are still occurring

today. Extensive coal and uranium mining on the Navajo

reservation and mismanagement of these resources has

destroyed large areas of land. Despite the efforts of the

Council of Energy Resource Tribes to balance the use of

natural resources, mining, oil and gas exploration scars

thousands of acres of Indian lands. (Lewis, 2) Sportsmen and

state governments largely debate Indian hunting and fishing

rights. Off-reservation hunting and fishing is already limited.

These regulations hit Native fishermen in the Northwest

particularly hard .In the 1960s; Indian activists staged fish-ins

to publicize the situation. Eventually the case was taken to

court. In United States v. The State of Washington (1974),

Judge George Bolt reaffirmed the rights of Northwest tribes to

harvest fish under the provisions of the 1854 Treaty of

medicine Creek without interference by the State of

Washington. The Boldt Decision restored a measure of Indian

control over their environment and natural resource use.

(Lewis, 3) By 1900, whites actively competed with Indians for

the scarce Western resource, water. In 1908, the Supreme

Court ruled in Winters v. United States that the Indians

reserved the priority water right for present and future use.

Irrigation became widespread with the promise of Indian

self-sufficiency, but many of the projects failed and the land

often ended up in the hands of white settlers who bought the

best Indian lands. (Lewis, 4) Many organizations have been

developed to help get Indians back on their feet such as the

North Dakota Committee for Equality, the Cowboy and Indian

Alliance, and the like. These organizations support treaty

rights, and counters racism through media work and cultural

events. However, the Indian movement is still opposed by

organizations like the Interstate Congress for Equal Rights

and Responsibilities. This Anti-Indian Movement romanticizes

Indians as noble savages resisting big government.

(Thurman, 2) Many Indians sold and continue to sell their

stories to book-writers and moviemakers. Their main goal is to

make people aware that they exist and continue to survive,

despite the apathy and lack of concern they continue to face

from the United State’s government. Small victories have

been won as a result of the stamina of the Indians. In 1924,

the Citizenship Act of 1924 naturalizes Indians born within the

territorial limits of the U.S. (Internet Source 1) In 1934, the

Indian Reorganization Act recognized tribal governments as

sovereign nations. (Internet Source 1) South Dakota governor

George S. Mickelson and representatives of the state’s nine

tribal governments proclaimed 1990 as a Year of

Reconciliation. (Internet Source 1) The greatest effect that the

U.S. government had on the Indians is not one that is easy to

explain. They took something from these people no money,

land, or compensation could ever replace. They broke the

spirit of these people. The government forced them to attempt

to start over. Many live out their lives clinging to the stories of

the past. Life was so simplistic. In some ways, life was a

utopia. The people worked for the food they ate and used all

of the parts of the animals they hunted. All men were equal

and honorable. God was the prime ruler of the lives of all

Indians. Family bonds were strong. Weapons were used only

as mechanisms of defense and for hunting purposes. Of

course, there were wars, and there was crime but nothing like

the wars and crime of today. The people had a sense of worth

and spirit that can’t even be imagined in today’s technological

society. The mountains talked to them and the streams had a

voice and personality. Nature was respected and resources

were used carefully. Nevertheless, even against these

overwhelming odds, the traditional cultures and religions

survived. Technologies and practices adapted to Western

society, but the core values of native peoples remained.

Today, the will to survive and preserve culture and moral

order still lives on in the hearts of Indians. They strongly

believed that harmony between man and the universe couldn’t

be achieved in battle. They still live with a vision of a world

without American dominance. The spirits of those in the past

are believed to live on. They watch over the Indians and

guide them as time passes and the Indians are further

stereotyped as drunks and crooked casino owners. Alas, the

ways of the Indians were replaced. Sacred hunting territories

gave way to railroads and ranches. Buffalo are an animal of

the past and often thought of as an animal of mysticism. Both

the buffalo and the Indian culture are romanticized in movies

that are neither truthful nor accurate. Stereotypes and

prejudices replaced unity and togetherness. Pollution haunts

every city on the planet. Respect of one’s fellow man gave

way to crimes unthought of by the Indians. They lived their

lives honorably. They died honorably. Even despite hardships

and misconceptions, they will continue to live honorably. That

is one thing the government can never take away from them.