A Final Promise: The Campaign to Assimilate the Indians, 1880-1920

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In the bureau was transferred to the Department of the Interior as so many of its responsibilities were related to the holding and disposition of large land assets. In Commissioner George W. Manypenny called for a new code of regulations. He noted that there was no place in the West where the Indians could be placed with a reasonable hope that they might escape conflict with white settlers. He also called for the Intercourse Law of to be revised, as its provisions had been aimed at individual intruders on Indian territory rather than at organized expeditions.

In the succeeding Commissioner, Charles Mix , noted that the repeated removal of tribes had prevented them from acquiring a taste for European way of life. In Secretary of the Interior Caleb B. Smith questioned the wisdom of treating tribes as quasi-independent nations. The movement to reform Indian administration and assimilate Indians as citizens originated in the pleas of people who lived in close association with the natives and were shocked by the fraudulent and indifferent management of their affairs. They called themselves "Friends of the Indian" and lobbied officials on their behalf.

Gradually the call for change was taken up by Eastern reformers. The 19th century was a time of major efforts in evangelizing missionary expeditions to all non-Christian people. In the government began to make contracts with various missionary societies to operate Indian schools for teaching citizenship, English, and agricultural and mechanical arts. In his State of the Union Address on December 4, , Ulysses Grant stated that "the policy pursued toward the Indians has resulted favorably They are being cared for in such a way, it is hoped, as to induce those still pursuing their old habits of life to embrace the only opportunity which is left them to avoid extermination.

The Quakers had promoted the peace policy in the expectation that applying Christian principles to Indian affairs would eliminate corruption and speed assimilation. Most Indians joined churches but there were unexpected problems, such as rivalry between Protestants and Catholics for control of specific reservations in order to maximize the number of souls converted.

The Quakers were motivated by high ideals, played down the role of conversion, and worked well with the Indians. They had been highly organized and motivated by the anti-slavery crusade, and after the Civil War expanded their energies to include both ex-slaves and the western tribes. They had Grant's ear and became the principal instruments for his peace policy. During —, they served as appointed agents on numerous reservations and superintendencies in a mission centered on moral uplift and manual training.

Their ultimate goal of acculturating the Indians to American culture was not reached because of frontier land hunger and Congressional patronage politics. Many other denominations volunteered to help. In , John H. Stout, sponsored by the Dutch Reformed Church, was sent to the Pima reservation in Arizona to implement the policy.

However Congress, the church, and private charities spent less money than was needed; the local whites strongly disliked the Indians; the Pima balked at removal; and Stout was frustrated at every turn. In Arizona and New Mexico, the Navajo were resettled on reservations and grew rapidly in numbers. The Peace Policy began in when the Presbyterians took over the reservations. They were frustrated because they did not understand the Navajo. However, the Navajo not only gave up raiding but soon became successful at sheep ranching. The peace policy did not fully apply to the Indian tribes that had supported the Confederacy.

They lost much of their land as the United States began to confiscate the western portions of the Indian Territory and began to resettle the Indians there on smaller reservations. Reaction to the massacre of Lt. The Sioux were given the choice of either selling their lands in the Black Hills for cash or not receiving government gifts of food and other supplies.

In , Interior Secretary Henry M. Teller called attention to the "great hindrance" of Indian customs to the progress of assimilation. The resultant "Code of Indian Offenses" in outlined the procedure for suppressing "evil practice. The Court would serve as judges to punish offenders. Outlawed behavior included participation in traditional dances and feasts, polygamy, reciprocal gift giving and funeral practices, and intoxication or sale of liquor. Also prohibited were "medicine men" who "use any of the arts of the conjurer to prevent the Indians from abandoning their heathenish rites and customs.

The Five Civilized Tribes were exempt from the Code which remained in effect until In implementation on reservations by Indian judges, the Court of Indian Offenses became mostly an institution to punish minor crimes. The report of the Secretary of the Interior lists the activities of the Court on several reservations and apparently no Indian was prosecuted for dances or "heathenish ceremonies.

In , Chief Justice Roger B. Taney expressed that since Native Americans were "free and independent people" that they could become U.

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The political ideas during the time of assimilation policy are known by many Indians as the progressive era , but more commonly known as the assimilation era. The progressive era was characterized by a resolve to emphasize the importance of dignity and independence in the modern industrialized world. The progressive era thinkers also wanted to look beyond legal definitions of equality to create a realistic concept of fairness.

Such a concept was thought to include a reasonable income, decent working conditions, as well as health and leisure for every American. Through cases such as Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock , Talton v.

Dawes General Allotment Act

Mayes , Winters vs. The United States , United States v. Winans , United States v. Nice , and United States v. Sandovalprovides an excellent example of the implementation of the paternal view of Native Americans as it refers back to the idea of Indians as "wards of the nation. As new legislation tried to force the American Indians into becoming just Americans, the Supreme Court provided these critical decisions. Native American nations were labeled "domestic dependent nations" by Marshall in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia , one of the first landmark cases involving Indians.

Kagama set the stage for the court to make even more powerful decisions based on plenary power.


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To summarize congressional plenary power, the court stated:. The power of the general government over these remnants of a race once powerful, now weak and diminished in numbers, is necessary to their protection, as well as to the safety of those among whom they dwell. It must exist in that government, because it never has existed anywhere else; because the theater of its exercise is within the geographical limits of the United [ U. The decision in United States v. Kagama led to the new idea that "protection" of Native Americans could justify intrusion into intratribal affairs.

The Supreme Court and Congress were given unlimited authority with which to force assimilation and acculturation of Native Americans into American society. Nice , was a result of the idea of barring American Indians from the sale of liquor.

A final promise: the campaign to assimilate the Indians, | University College London

While many tribal governments had long prohibited the sale of alcohol on their reservations, the ruling implied that American Indian nations could not be entirely independent, and needed a guardian for protection. Like United States v. Sandoval rose from efforts to bar American Indians from the sale of liquor. As American Indians were granted citizenship, there was an effort to retain the ability to protect them as a group which was distinct from regular citizens. The Sandoval Act reversed the U.

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Joseph decision of , which claimed that the Pueblo were not considered federal Indians. The ruling claimed that the Pueblo were "not beyond the range of congressional power under the Constitution". The ruling continued to suggest that American Indians needed protection. There were several United States Supreme Court cases during the assimilation era that focused on the sovereignty of American Indian nations. These cases were extremely important in setting precedents for later cases and for legislation dealing with the sovereignty of American Indian nations.

The defendant was an American Indian who had been found guilty of the murder of another American Indian. Crow Dog argued that the district court did not have the jurisdiction to try him for a crime committed between two American Indians that happened on an American Indian reservation.

The court found that although the reservation was located within the territory covered by the district court's jurisdiction, Rev. Section stated that Rev. The Court issued the writs of habeas corpus and certiorari to the Indian.


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Mayes was a decision respecting the authority of tribal governments. This case decided that the individual rights protections, specifically the Fifth Amendment, which limit federal, and later, state governments, do not apply to tribal government. It reaffirmed earlier decisions, such as the Cherokee Nation v. Georgia case, that gave Indian tribes the status of "domestic dependent nations", the sovereignty of which is independent of the federal government. Mayes is also a case dealing with Native American dependence, as it deliberated over and upheld the concept of congressional plenary authority.

This part of the decision led to some important pieces of legislation concerning Native Americans, the most important of which is the Indian Civil Rights Act of The question arose of whether or not the United States Supreme Court had jurisdiction over this issue. In an effort to argue against the Supreme Court having jurisdiction over the proceedings, the defendant filed a petition seeking a writ of certiorari. This request for judicial review, upon writ of error, was denied.

The court held that a conviction for murder, punishable with death, was no less a conviction for a capital crime by reason even taking into account the fact that the jury qualified the punishment. The American Indian defendant was sentenced to life in prison. This United States Supreme court case came about when the surviving partner of the firm of E.

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ISBN 13: 9780521379878

It was believed that the livestock was taken by "Victorio's Band" which was a group of these American Indians. It was argued that the group of American Indians who had taken the livestock were distinct from any other American Indian tribal group, and therefore the Mescalero Apache American Indian tribe should not be held responsible for what had occurred.

After the hearing, the Supreme Court held that the judgment made previously in the Court of Claims would not be changed. This is to say that the Mescalero Apache American Indian tribe would not be held accountable for the actions of Victorio's Band. This outcome demonstrates not only the sovereignty of American Indian tribes from the United States, but also their sovereignty from one another. One group of American Indians cannot be held accountable for the actions of another group of American Indians, even though they are all part of the American Indian nation.

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Yakama tribe, reaffirming their prerogative to fish and hunt on off-reservation land. Further, the case established two important principles regarding the interpretation of treaties. First, treaties would be interpreted in the way Indians would have understood them and "as justice and reason demand".

A Final Promise The Campaign to Assimilate the Indians, 1880 1920

Political rights reserved to the Indian nations include the power to regulate domestic relations, tax, administer justice, or exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction. United States was a case primarily dealing with water rights of American Indian reservations. Open to the public Held. Open to the public S University of Sydney Library. Barr Smith Library. Open to the public ; JJJ Open to the public N ; UNSW Library.


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Cultural assimilation of Native Americans

Add a tag Cancel Be the first to add a tag for this edition. Lists What are lists? Login to add to list. Be the first to add this to a list. Comments and reviews What are comments? After a reservation had been allotted surplus land would be purchased by the government and sold to homesteaders. Although conceived primarily by eastern reformers, the Dawes Act also responded to the land hunger of western states and settlers.

Indian tribes resisted the new law, but the government applied pressure to numerous tribes to accept its principles. Between and the government allotted out of reservations. During this period the Indian estate shrank from million acres to 52 million acres through the cession of surplus land and the alienation of land after the end of the trust period. Overall, the act failed to convert Indians into self-sufficient farmers. On many reservations allotments proved too small to be commercially viable, and heirship proceedings following the deaths of the original allottees often left Indians with scattered and fragmented landholdings.

Ironically, the act also failed to destroy tribal communities on most reservations.

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