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The Pursuit Of The American Dream By African Americans, Native Americans, And The Working Class

1672 words - 7 pages

America, for many, has long been a country where it was believed that you control your own destiny and prosperity. With hard work, persistence and struggle, success found in the “American Dream” can and will be achieved regardless of past social statuses and financial shortcomings. It is something that has rang true for most Americans, but certainly not without struggle. The late nineteenth century brought a great amount of obstacles to many groups of people living in America as they pursued comfort in social and economic aspects. The “American Dream” has long been a part of American society and culture. In particular, Native Americans, the working class, and African Americans have all experienced the struggle and accomplishment that comes with the “American dream”.
Native Americans faced many struggles in their efforts of achieving the “American Dream.” Shortly after the West became open for settlement, American discovery of some 350,000 Native Americans proved to be a problem for western settlers. Reservations were set up in North Dakota and Oklahoma in 1867 for Native Americans to live in, keeping western lands free of Native Americans. However, these two states in particular lacked soil rich enough to sustain plains Indians farming attempts. Even more, a gold strike in 1870 that brought whites to move into the reservations caused fights between Native Americans and whites. What most injured the Native American peoples was the near extinction of buffalo, a prime source of food, clothing, and tools for many of the Plains Indians. Buffaloes near extinction were, in part, due to Plains Indians overhunting them as a resource. But, in a strategy to further displace and weaken Native Americans, the army began killing millions of buffalo as well. The sport of shooting a buffalo from a moving train also helped to speed up the near wipe out of the species.
What appears to have helped Native Americans reach the “American Dream” discussed earlier was their assimilation into American society. The best words used to describe the purpose of assimilation were those uttered by the founder of one of the first assimilation schools in the country: “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man,” (Pratt). Around 20,000 Native Americans were put into schools that instilled English, American values, and vocations while stripping away “savage” Indian culture. Assimilation brought land reform, which broke up Native American communal lands in the West, and therefore found great support from railroad companies eager to snatch up land. The Dawes Act of 1887 promoted assimilation through land allotment and citizenship to Native American families. Unfortunately, the land allotments, which were often unsustainable, found their way to railroad companies from Indians who were unable to farm in the desert lands. Although blatantly racist and self-interested in its use here, assimilation ultimately led to the acceptance of Native Americans by white Americans, which in turn let...

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