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The Continued Oppression Of Native American Communities

1468 words - 6 pages

The United States Government was founded on the basis that it would protect the rights and liberties of every American citizen. The Equal Protection Clause, a part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, provides that “no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”. Yet for hundreds of years, the US government and society have distressed the Native American people through broken treaties, removal policies, and attempts of assimilation. From the Trail of Tears in the 1830s to the Termination Policy in 1953, the continued oppression of American Indian communities produced an atmosphere of heightened tension and gave the native ...view middle of the document...

Many white officials had ideas about how to solve the “Indian problem”. Some leaders, like Andrew Jackson, were advocates of “Indian removal”: forcefully relocating Native Americans from their lands and transferring their territories to white farmers. Others, most notably President George Washington, believed that the best method was simply to “civilize” the Native Americans and make them as much like white Americans as possible. Both methods would result in policies that would later anger the Native American people and cause significant backlash.
As a general in the Army, Andrew Jackson had spent years leading campaigns against several Indian tribes. After he became president, he continued his quest by signing the Indian Removal Act in 1830. This act allowed the federal government to trade its land West of the Mississippi for Native-held land in the East. While this law required the government to negotiate removal treaties fairly, Jackson and his Administration frequently ignored this and often coerced, with help from the U.S. Army, Native Americans to vacate lands they had lived on for generations. Entire tribes were ordered to move, on foot, to their new homes in the West. Often, they were not supplied with food, supplies, or any other help. One leader of the Choctaw Nation described it as “a trail of tears and death” , and his description would eventually catch on as the name given to this period of forced relocation of Native American nations. The Trail of Tears continued throughout the decade, with the removal of several other American Indian nations: the Seminole in 1832, the Creek in 1834, the Chickasaw in 1837, and finally the Cherokee in 1838. By 1840, the Jackson administration had removed more than 46,000 Native American people from their lands east of the Mississippi and opened 25 million acres of land to white settlement. The Trail of Tears was a period when American Indians were not given the same rights as White Americans, and were unreasonably forced to act against their will.
But not all leaders agreed with the use of coercion and deadly force. To many, “civilizing” American Indians was the most logical and peaceful solution. George Washington once wrote in a letter to Marquis de La Fayette: “The basis of our proceeding with the Indian nations has been, and shall be, justice, during the period in which I have anything to do with the administration of the Government.” The supporters of cultural assimilation, a process of integration whereby members of an ethno-cultural community are “absorbed” into another community, believed that, like historian Robert Remini wrote, “if American Indians adopted the practice of private property, built homes, farmed, educated their children, and embraced Christianity, these Native Americans would win acceptance from white Americans.” The United States Government worked to convert American Indians to Christianity and suppress the practice of Native religions. Indian boarding schools were...

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