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Message-Id: <Pine.OSF.3.91.951006150105.18780A-100000@coopext.cahe.wsu.edu>
Date: Fri, 6 Oct 1995 15:01:37 -0700 (PDT)
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From: EIRP News <eirpnews@COOPEXT.CAHE.WSU.EDU>
To: IND-NET <ind-net@listproc.wsu.edu>
Subject: Wotanging Ikche--nanews03.040(part A)

--------- RE: History ---------
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 1995 03:08:54 -0700 (PDT)
From: cherokee@WOLFE.net
Subj: History

History of the assimilation effort

By cherokee@WOLFE.net,
in Wotanging Ikche - Nannews, 03.040,
2 October 1995

As some of you wish to learn of our history...of what things caused in the pass affect what is happening today...I thought perhaps you might like to read this lesson on history that I wrote....

The drive to assimilate Indians into the mainstream of American life by changing their customs, dress, occupations, language, religion and philosophy has always been an element in Federal-Indian relations. In the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, this assimilationist policy became dominant. A major thrust of assimilation efforts was to educate Indians in American ways. in 1879 the Carlisle Indian Training School was established by a former military officer. Its philosophy of separating Indian children totally from their Indian environment and forcing them to adopt white ways became the basis for a widescale boarding school movement that eventually removed thousands of Indian children from their cultural settings and families. In addition, traditional tribal governing systems, particularly justice systems, came under strong attack during this period. The Bureau of Indian Affairs established tribal police forces and courts under the administrative control of its agents, the reservation superintendents and other efforts designed to erode the power and influence of Indian leaders and traditions. Everything Indian came under attack. Indian feasts, languages, certain marriage practices, dances and any practices by medicine or religious persons were all banned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Great Sioux Nation was a focus of much of the assimilation activity and Black Hills gold provided much impetus for reducing the size of the Sioux Reservation as non-Indians flocked by the thousands into South Dakota. The Sioux were ultimately forced to cede the Black Hills in 1886. In 1889 the Sioux Nation was divided into six, smaller, generally noncontinuous reservations. At the same time, the Bureau of Indian Affairs banned the practice of the Ghost Dance, a religion promising an Indian messiah that had gained prominence.

The latter part of the 19th century was also a period when the traditional Indian means of economic support were no longer viable. Subsistence hunting and gathering, which had supported many nomadic tribes, were precluded by the advent of reservations and the mass destruction of wildlife, particularly buffalo, that had accompanied white westward expansion. Many tribes were forced into economic dependency and a dole system of goods and supplies operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This period of economic hardship was accompanied by widespread and severe health problems.

Even those tribes whose economies were strong were unable to escape efforts to subjugate them. The Five Civilized Tribes, removed from Georgia in the 1830's, had organized themselves economically and politically a manner similar to the American States and territories. By the latter part of the 19th Century, these tribes were at least self-sufficient as the States and territories, but they were never-the-less stripped of most of their governmental powers in 1898.

All of these facts played critical roles in undermining tribal self-sufficiency, but the single most devastating development was the allotment system.

Allotment was advocated as a means of further civilizing Indians by converting them from a communal land system to a system of individual ownership. It was argued that ownership would make farmers out of savages.

In 1887 Congress passed the General Allotment Act, also known as the Dawes Act. Although many other acts of Congress would follow, the general formula of the Dawes Act set the pattern for allotting Indian reservations.

Each family had was to receive 160 acres and a single person was to receive 80 acres.

Title to the land was to be held in trust for at LEAST 25 years. Civilized Indians could end the trust period and receive United States citizenship and fee simple title to their land. Citizenship would be unilaterally granted all Indians only in 1924. Surplus lands within the reservation boundaries, lands not allotted or otherwise set aside, were to be sold to the United States and then opened for homesteading. The proceeds from the sales were to be placed in trust and used by the United States as an account for supplies provided to the Indians.

Allotment and other assimilationist practices received strong support from friends of the Indians. Many believed that these policies represented the only alternative to Indian extinction. Not everyone defended the Government's policies, however. Dissenters in Congress and elsewhere pointed out the underlying reality of the period: WHites were securing vast quantities of Indian lands.

Toward the end of the allotment period, the Federal Government commissioned a major study of conditions on Indian reservations. The study, known as the Meriam Report, enumerated the disastrous conditions affecting Indians at that time: high infant death rates, high mortality rates for the entire population, appalling housing conditions, low incomes, poor health and inadequate education. The policy of forced assimilation was judged a failure. The failure was that it had not worked. IT resulted in much loss of land and an enormous increase in the details of administration without a compensating advantage in the economic ability of the Indians but such criticism did not challenge ultimate assimilationist goals. In the wake of te damaging results of the reservation allotments and assimilation efforts, some Indians moved to use the American legal system on behalf of the People. By 1910 a small group of Indian lawyers had emerged to do battle in the courts over the questions of Indian lands, citizenship allotment procedures and the enforcement of treat rights. Even though reservations were originally conceived of as a means to deprive Indians of their lands, they represented the las remnants of Indian land and, as such, were held sacred by the tribes. Despite the prison-like aspects of life on many reservations, Indian advocates moved to protect this land base.

And thus....this is our issue today....gentle winds....