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COLONIZATION OF AMERICAN INDIANS Coercive Assimilation in the U.S. 1887-1934

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Colonization of American Indians. Coercive Assimilation in the U.S. 1887-1934. What is Colonialism?. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Coercive Assimilation in the U.S. 1887-1934

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What is Colonialism? Colonialism is the establishment,

exploitation, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a set of unequal relationships between the colonial power and the colony and between the colonists and the indigenous population.

While we think of the English colonists settling in the eastern United States, we sometimes fail to realize that they soon colonized the Native people.

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Colonialism in the US As the colonies grew in population, they

demanded more land and conflicts with the original inhabitants began.

The ideology of “Manifest Destiny,” the idea that the English colonists and their descendents have the God –given right to control land from the East to West Coasts became the rationalization for removal of the indigenous people onto reservations.

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Manifest Destiny “…(They) were wolves and beasts who deserved nothing

from the whites but 'total ruin’.” -George Washington“…

(The US should) “pursue [Indians] to extermination, or drive them to new seats beyond our reach." -Thomas Jefferson"...

(US troops need) to root out from their 'dens' and kill Indian women and their 'whelps'.” - Andrew Jackson, greatest Indian killer of all American Presidents.

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Manifest destiny The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a

war with savages, though it is apt to be also the most terrible and inhuman. The rude, fierce settler who drives the savage from the land lays all civilized mankind under a debt to him. American and Indian, Boer and Zulu, Cossack and Tartar, New Zealander and Maori… it is of incalculable importance that America, Australia, and Siberia should pass out of the hands of their red, black, and yellow aboriginal owners, and become the heritage of the dominant world races.” -Theodore Roosevelt, 1894 2

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Defining Coercive assimilation Coerce: to compel by force, intimidation,

or authority without regard to individual volition or desire.

Assimilation: the process by which a person or a group’s language and culture come to resemble those of another group

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Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce: “Let me be a free man—free to travel,

free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself.”

Washington, D.C. 1879

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1887-1934 U.S. Indian Policy Force Native people to assimilate into

the dominant American culture through “Americanization.”

The creators of the policy said it was for the protection and preservation of the Indians.

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Historian Paul Prucha (1986)writes, “the ultimate goal was transformation:

to induce the Indians all to become cultivators of the soil, to adopt the white man’s language, customs, and religion, and finally to be self-supporting citizens of the commonwealth. Agriculture, domestic and mechanical arts, English education, Christianity, and individual property were the elements of the civilization program (110).

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Reformers were convinced of their Christian superiority and saw no need to inquire about positive values in Indian culture or ask Indians what they would like.

Assimilation would solve “the Indian problem” because there would be no more Indians.

Indians could be denied rations if they objected.

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Coercive assimilation Assimilation would remove Indians from

land that white settlers wanted.

3 Main Forces of Coercive Assimilation: Allotment Christianity Education

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1887 General Allotment (Dawes) Act

160 acres to each man, woman, and child Intent was for Indians to become individual land

owners and farmers, and to live among whites.

“Excess” land was sold to whites. Millions of acres of land were taken from Tribes.

Allotment was generally disastrous for communally-oriented Tribes who did not view land as a “thing.”

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Land losses


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Christianity For thousands of years Indians lived in

harmony with the natural elements in a manner that supported all other life. They took care of places and made sacred offerings to the Creator.

By 1884, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs had begun regulating and outlawing Indian religious practices like the Sundance.

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Christianity Christian missionaries flooded into reservations in the

early – mid 19th Century, the Presbyterians to the Nez Perces in the 1830s.

Christian missionaries, government agents, teachers and priests.

To maintain some connection to their traditional religions Indians adapted the Christian holidays to their traditional ceremonies and worshipped in both ways at the same time, or they hid their traditional ways and practiced Christianity openly.

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Christianity – as coercive assimilation

Through allotment Indians lost many of their sacred places, some taken by force, some by presidents to make National Parks.

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Education as coercive assimilation Treaties first mentioned setting aside

funds for the education of Indians in 1743.

Richard Henry Pratt opened the Carlisle Indian School in 1879 with funds from Congress. Pratt’s motto was “Kill the Indian, save the man”.

Carlisle was an off-reservation boarding school where children spent most of the year. Can’t speak own language, couldn’t

practice own religion; harsh punishment for either.

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While children attended some classes, they spent the majority of their time working for the school. Girls worked in the kitchens, while boys did manual labor. Sometimes, the food was poor or spoiled.

The teachers at school taught that Indian ways were foolish and stupid. The children were made to feel ashamed of who they were, of being Indian. Since anything “Indian” was forbidden, many children forgot their customs, their former way of life, and their language.

The mortality rate at many schools was high. The crowded and dirty conditions at schools caused many students to become ill and die. Consumption (tuberculosis) was one of the most common diseases children died from. Often, parents were not even informed that their child was ill until they were dead.

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Indian Boarding Schools


Map of boarding schools in US

Federal boarding school enrollments swelled from 6,200 at 60 schools in 1885 to more than 17,000 in 153 schools at the turn of the century. By 1932, nearly one-third of Indian children were in boarding schools, a total of about 24,000.”

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Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 1917. Congress would no longer pay

religious groups to educate Indian children.

After the Meriam (Congressional) Report of 1928 found Indians living in wide spread poverty, Congress declared allotment a failure.

1930: BIA admitted to kidnapping children to take them to boarding schools.

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Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 Policies designed to give Tribes more say

in their futures and self-determination.