Research Paper on Native Americans
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Sample Research Paper on Native Americans
Through out the history when humans walked the earth there always has been a dominant group trying to convert people different from them into sharing their beliefs and cultures. There has been many different process that these dominant groups have tried to convert their sub dominant groups, and many times through out history this has led to oppression of the sub dominant group. This was no different among the Native Americans. Living peacefully before the Europeans settlers arrived in the Americas the natives at the time led a plain, ritualistic type of life. At this time the Native Americans were the dominant group of the Americas. Only when these settlers arrived did the lives of these natives change drastically. In the beginning of these two groups meeting there was tension but both managed to corporate with each other, but as the settlers began to get comfortable with there surroundings things would start to change. These settlers, who in large part were explorers from Western Europe, would start to demand change and eventually this would lead to a great oppression of these native people. There were many groups or tribes of Native Americans back at the time when this oppression started, some are still here and some are long forgotten but all at some point were oppressed by these white explorers. At the present time this oppression is largely exterminated but in the past it held a large race of people back for centuries. In the following report the many years of oppression, the reasons this oppression started, and today’s current involvement with these Native Americans will be fully examined and explained.
First we will take a look into the lives of the natives of America pre dating the settling from Europeans and their attempt of conforming the ways of Indians. These Native Americans “have long been known as Indians because of the belief prevalent to the time of Columbus that the Americas were the outer reaches of the Indies.” (#1 2001 Native Americans) This will incorporate the time before the oppression of this group such as the times when the settlers lived along side with the Native Americans and even farther back in history before the settlers were even involved, when it was just the Indians living free. As previously stated there were many tribes of Native Americans living in the western hemisphere. These groups were spread all over the Americas, north and south, but we are going to focus on the groups that lived in the present day United States. These tribes spread all the way from the northwest coast, now called Washington State and upper California, all the way to the eastern woodlands of present day New York.
The Indians that were sedentary, groups with permanent homes, lived in self built houses mostly made out of wood or adobe. Usually surviving off of subsistence farming, hunting and gathering, and fishing from the near by water source that most the sedentary groups lived by. There were also nomadic tribes that existed at this time. This was a group that lived moving from place to place relying on their environment to survive. The nomads were hunters and gathers, hunting bison, buffalo, or deer depending on their location. Their shelter would usually be teepees, which were generally bison or buffalo skins put together around 3 or more wooden poles that were easily transportable if the group had to get up and leave. Most of these Indians wore what they hunter. Wearing layers of deer or buffalo hide in the winter to keep warm and less in the summer months they only took what they needed. From the feet to their head most was made of these hides so nothing was wasted. These clothes were worn over the reddish-yellow skin that the majority of the Native Americans shared in common, also sharing straight dark hair and dark eyes. There were many means of travel used by different tribes of Indians. The canoe greatly increased travel speed for Indians located near a river or water bed. In some areas Indians were fortunate enough to have wild horses, these horses increased speed, distance, and the ability to carry belongings easier. And all Indians at one point depended on their feet as a method to travel from place to place.
For a brief time in history Native Americans lived along side of the European settlers that eventually would be responsible for the start of their oppression. A very well documented account of this taking place is Thanksgiving, which is a well recognized national holiday. Believed to take place in the early 1600’s there are many theories about what took place between the two groups, but no matter what is believed that happened one account written on December 12, 1621 by an attendee of the event, William Bradford and it shows that the Native Americans and settlers did once get along, did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” (#2 1621 Winslow)
As the years went out there would be much less interactions between the two groups, but there would still remain some. For many years both groups would stay interactive with each other only through the bartering of goods. Both sides had different materials to exchange. For examples a few items the Indians would trade were fur, hides, jewelry, or rugs to be swapped for guns, ammo, steel traps and items such as sugar or salt.
As the years kept progressing so did the number of the settlers that arrived in North America. These settlers mostly being of Britain descent saw the land as a large resource of raw materials. And in time Britain had set up thirteen colonies. These colonies contained strong religious beliefs. Made up of settlers that held strong Puritan values, a Puritan was a person who wanted to purify the church of England. The Puritan religion is a very strict religion usually not even allowing laughter or play. The original thirteen colonies also attempted to become as industrialized as they possibly could. In time before as well as after the Revolutionary War the colonist attempted to make the most industrialized nation in the world. Soon these settlers explored most lands moving south and west. They would now be exploring into where more tribes of Indians lived. By this time the Indians were fed up of these settlers and would in most cases lead to wars, which we will learn more about shortly, between Indians and these new inhabitants of the United States. This is where the relationship would turn sour. “control of land and the resources within it has been the essential source of conflict between the Euroamerican settling population and indigenous nations.” (#3 1996 pg.37 Churchill) As much as the Indians attempted to fight back the white settler’s weapons were just too powerful and most tribes got over run during war. This is when the oppression had begun. These Puritans made a large attempt to convert IndianТs religions, which could sometimes turn violent, and the ever growing want and expansion of industry wiping out the Diaspora of these Indian tribes there was much tension that grew between the battling sides.
As previously mentioned there were countless wars that took place involving Native Americans and explorers or settlers in early American history. There would be constant struggles between these two groups over the control of North America. These wars would go on to shape the beginning of the oppression of the Native American. In an overwhelming majority of these wars the Indians would be defeated, this was simply because their enemies weapons, and plans of war were stronger. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries explorers would attempt to convert the Indians into Christians, the Indians being against this would refuse and in turn the sides would war. One such account of this can be seen by the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680. This took place between Spanish Conquistadors and the Native Americans living near the Rio Grande. The Spaniards attempted to cover these Indians which eventually led to an uprising against them. Another war erupted around the same time but over slightly different reasons. Taking place in the late 1630’s between a group of English settlers and the Pequot Indians giving it the name The Pequot War. The Pequot tribe lived along the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut. This war first began with a killing of trader by the Indians after a long period of tension, cause from an attempt of conversion as well as other factors, between the two enemies. The military force in the area quickly massacred the Indian tribe in one day killing most and making the rest slaves. This is a perfect example of the ease the settlers had defeating the Native Americans. The expansion of the United States moved west in the nineteenth century and so did the wars that were occurring. Wars happening during this time are probably the most famous or periods of wars between both sides. These wars and altercations have been captured many times in film and book, even though the portrayals of the Indians were usually nearly fictitious to raise interest. “the inaccurate images and false impressions perpetuated by the entertainment industry persists , and this perniciousness has become a formative force for a few prominent Native authors and filmmakers who have made this issue a central element of their books and movies.” (#8 2001 pg. 100 Bataille) Although some records of these times may not be the most accurate, the time period has gotten the nickname “The wild west”. One of the most famous wars during “the wild west” is one that has been dubbed “Custard’s Last Stand”. The official name of this war was the battle of Little Big Horn and it took place in 1876. And this was one of the few wars that the Indians would win, believed to be the last major victory for the Indians before treaties between the two sides. A battle would ensue between the well known chiefs of the Sioux and Cheyenne, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, and an commander of an American army, Colonel Custard. Since the two tribes made allies with each other their forces were strong and were able to kill Colonel Custard and his men near the Black Hills of Dakota. After many more wars and massacres of Indians many of the great Indian chiefs decided to surrender and make treaties with the settlers. The settlers would take advantage of the fact that the Indians were poorly educated and eventually the Native Americans would be forced to live on reservation, and it did not stop there.
At the finally of all these wars the settlers had become victorious. They have now spread through out all the United States, settling the South and West of our nation. Now that they were in control they began to force Indians to do things against their will and placing restrictions on what they could do. One of the first things that happened was the Native American people were forced to live in land the government set aside for them call reservations. Although reservations are still around in present day many qualities of them have changed. Today reservations are not looked at as such a negative aspect of Native American life, but many see it as their homeland and a place to bring back a way of culture and life rarely followed anymore. Many of the first reservations had a very negative property instill in them, much oppressions and stereotypes would be place on this group during these times.
Another of the first oppressions after the treaties began between the Indians and settlers would be the obligation of assimilation to the Native Americans. The white settlers, who have now been titled Americans, forced the Indians to follow the rules based on their culture and beliefs. One way they did this was to force education upon them. An old stereotype of these Native Americans was that they were dumb and much less educated then their white oppressors. “Indians have always been educated according to the ways of a particular culture. Male and female children of all tribes were taught to hunt, track, make weapons, cook, sew, tan hides, preserve foods, make shelters, etc., depending on their gender roles”. (#6 1996 pg. 92 Mihesuah) Even though in the Native American culture this would make them educated the new Americans did not see these qualities as education, so in turn the “white man” forces the Indians to learn about their history and values and the Indians are told to forget about their past culture and ways of life. This was done in Indian schools however because not until the mid 1900Тs Indians were not allowed to attend white schools.
There were many other ways, besides education, that the white men forced assimilation upon these natives. They were forced to wear the white mans clothes, buy the materials the white man provided (which they could not afford), and were forced to speak the language of the settlers. Many tribes spoke different languages, usually depending on the area(s) they lived. Tribes such as the Shawnee or Kickapoo spoke in a dialect of Algonkian language. This dialect was very focused on the oral aspect of language, not using writing very often. So when the white man forced these Indians to speak English, which puts an emphasis on writing, the Native Americans had a very difficult time learning it. Even the tribes that supported the United States against other tribes were forced to assimilate. For example, The Cherokee tribe, living in the areas of Oklahoma and North Carolina, this group originally spoke a language called Tsalagi. The white man did not take their support into consideration also putting them in reservations and making them learn English.
All of these injustices upon the Native Americans would continue into the twentieth century. In the early 1900Тs when it was time for the U.S. CensusТs the Indian race was not even included. Now having been assimilated into the white mans culture, the oppression would continue onto the labor market the Indians were trying to attempt to enter to gain money for their families. On their journey to attain employment the Indians ran into many barriers. “While Indians contend that on some reservations the unemployment rate is nearly 90%, the Department of Labor argues that on the same reservation can only identify 20% as being unemployed.” (#7 1993 pg.20 Frazier) The Native Americans would run into this problem in almost every reservation inhabited. Not being able to contend with the Department of Labor many Indians had to leave their homes on the reservations in order to find work in surrounding cities. Unable to have much better luck in these cities, rarely being able to find jobs and if one was found the pay would be much less then that of a non-Indian worker. It is a fact that the Indian people have the largest unemployment rate out of any other minority. With all of this unemployment, lack of income, and lack of government help it has left so many Indians in poverty. “Many Indians live in terrifying poverty with no transportation, no running water, electricity, or telephones (although some people don’t want these things), and who receive little, if any, assistance from the government. (#6 1996 pg. 87 Mihesuah)
Eventually the Native Americans would fight back. One of the first ways the Native Americans fought back was the Allotment Act (also called the Dawes Act) of 1887. This act changed the ownership of tribal lands. Previously the community was the owners of the land but this act would turn it into individual ownership. Each Indian that was over 18 years old and was male was given an portion of acres and the rest of the tribal lands, considered to be “excess,” were sold to non-Indians. In the early to mid 1900’s the Indians would join other minority groups in the Civil Rights Movements.
Their goals in mind were to gain their land that was lost to treaties and wars, and recover any reparations that the government might owe them. To fight all these discriminations Native American people got together and formed groups to help end the prejudices against them. One of these groups was the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Started in 1864, it played a large role between federal and tribal governments in the 1900Тs. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is known for doing many things in the push for Native American civil liberties. One thing this group is famous for is that they gave strong support and aid to Indians in cities, and gave a strong effort into moving Indians into cities and helping them in finding jobs, and more in order to get the Indians equal rights and pay. “The off-reservation policies of the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) were reflected in fiscal activities of the BIA in that the Bureau of Indian Affairs shifted federal dollars away from reservations to support some activities in urban areasЕnearly one half a dozen of these offices were established “in such cities as Seattle, Washington; Los Angles, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Gallup, New Mexico; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Cleveland, Ohio.” (#7 1993 pg. 34 Frazier) But the greatest single thing that the Bureau of Indian Affairs would do for the Native Americans would be the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. This act did exactly what it stated, it granted citizenship of the United States to Indians for the first time, and now allowed them to vote.
There were many other acts, government documents, and actions that awarded these Native Americans with the rights the greatly deserved. One important act was the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968. This act is basically the Native Americans version of the Bill of Rights. Under this act the individual rights of an Indian are covered in such areas as, freedom of religion and speech, right not to incriminate oneself, no double jeopardy, and the rest basically follow the rest of the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution. Another major act was the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. This acts aim was to provide maximum Indian participation in the government and education of the Indian peoples. It also provided for the full representation of Indian tribes in programs and services created by the U.S. Government for Indians and encouraged the development of human resources of the Indian people, such as the control of their own education. Although there are many more acts, the last one that will be discussed in this report will be the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. Under this act it stated that no human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of culture significance could be touched, removed or destroyed with out the proper authority, an example of this authority is national museums for the sake of protecting the nation’s history.
Besides these acts that promoted Native American rights there were many other things the Indians were awarded to compensate for their losses. One such way was, with the exception of federal income taxes, most Indian’s live a nearly tax free life. Also many areas of lost lands have been claimed back by the Native Americans. The Indians not having to pay property taxes, and many United States laws not being able to apply on these newly acquired lands, due to the Native American’s reparations, many Native Americans took advantage of their wonderful position. The Indians would open big industries and businesses on these lands; businesses such as five star casinos, restaurants and hotels, which in many cases are a multimillion dollar a year industry.
Today Indians make up a very small percent of every states population in the United States. The largest Indian populations today are concentrated on the west side of this country, and just the opposite is true for the lowest population of Indians which the states on the east side of the country hold. In the 1990 U.S. census Indian populations were tallied in every state. The top five most populated states, starting with the most populated, are Oklahoma with 252,420, California with 242,164, Arizona with 203,527, New Mexico with 134,355, and Alaska with 85,698. The five states with the lowest population of Native Americans are as follows, Vermont with 1,696, Delaware with 2,019, New Hampshire with 2,134, West Virginia with 2,456, and Rhode Island holding 4,071 Indians. (#7 1993 pg. 15-17 Frazier) In the 1990 census it shows that only four states have 100,000 or more Native American population and over half the states in the United States are unable to carry a 50,000 person population of Indians.
This Native American history in North American is a long and eventful history. Starting with the relatively peaceful times of free roaming Indians, called the pre-constitutional era, until the introduction of the white European settlers, labeled the formative years; then this was followed by the oppression of their race, named the Era of Allotment and Assimilation, and later the government correcting its prejudice towards Indians in the past, which has been dubbed the Termination Era and the Self Determination Era. No matter how much reform is taken there is still discrimination of Indians in society today. An example of this can be shown on the very campus this author studies at. In a news paper that has been circulated on the Oswego State campus a story has been written about a so called Halloween prank stating that a student “made his way into a class being taught by a Native American professor, and proceeded to shoot a plastic arrow at the instructor in question and say “know try to get your land”. (#9 2003 Ponder) This goes to show that even in the present day discrimination of Native Americans is taking place, and the question is when will it stop?