In this essay, I will examine topics related to the reservation, the land of which was “granted” to the people known as Native Americans. A brief history will be discussed, along with current conditions and population, and will conclude with a summary, involving questions that parallel the information in the body of the paper. Brief History of the Indian Appropriations and Allotment Acts Indian reservation land was established in the late 1860’s after the Indian Appropriations Act was passed, and by 1868 the last of the treaties were being signed (Deloria, Jr 4).
From the time of the last of the treaties series to the 1880’s, there were continued efforts to move Indians off the land given to them, due to settlers wanting land for cattle ranches, the railroad making its way across the prairie, and the “civilization of the Indian communities” push for assimilation; thus the Dawes Act of 1887 for allotment of land to Native American tribes was proposed and put into action, only after several delays through debates between native peoples and the government (Deloria, Jr 5 & 6).
There were several tribes who would not agree with the act, saying that they had acquired their land from the Spanish, such as the tribes of the southwest. The Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles), which complied with accepting the “white way of living,” were exempt from the General Allotment Act (Deloria, Jr 8). The Pacific Coast tribes were only concerned with the right to be able to fish, therefore were not worried about the allotment act (Deloria, Jr 13).
Even with citizenship granted to tribes in 1924 by the U. S. government, there was struggle to maintain land that was given and the rights that Native Americans had on the allotments their communities received. Does that struggle continue today? The following consensus of information would confirm that the struggle continues today. Current conditions There are currently 202 tribes, with 1. 5 million residing on reservation land. Native Americans living on reservations still continue to experience high rates of unemployment and low life expectancy among the highest anywhere in the country.
Reservations such as the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, located in South Dakota, lacks water systems, making sanitary conditions nearly impossible, and the tribal members who are employed, survive on less than one-third of the American average income (Answers. com, 2007). The tribe has been battling over the rights to water quality and water availability since the passing of the Clean Water Act of 1972 (Kannler, 2002). According to the U. S.
Department of Commerce, through the Economic Development Administration, this tribal community is sustained by a small number of businesses, such as a telephone authority, a cable service, a gas company, and livestock herds (EDA website, 2007). This poses a contradiction, as the site appears to create a happy environment, yet the tribal website is completely opposite. Where is the money going, if not to the people in the reservation community?
A classic example of poor living conditions and the nation’s most economically devastated community is the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This reservation has been the focal point of many events in history; the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 which U. S. Cavalry killed 300 men, women, and children, the AIM (American Indian Movement) headquarters of the 1970’s, several stand offs between traditionalists and the federal government, resulting in such historical events as the Leonard Peltier case of 1977.
Although the EDA states small increases in the community’s tribally-owned businesses (EDA website), Miller’s article Off the Rez, listed in the National Review in December 2002, opened with the knowledge of slow starts in attempting to open tribally-owned businesses. It would take years to establish a business, due to the amount of “red tape” one would face, starting with the right piece of land all the way to being approved by the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) for a small piece of land with a short-term loan attached to it (Miller, 2002).
The “wealth” of Indian nations has been questioned for some time now, especially with casinos and small businesses available on reservation land; these do not take away from the knowledge of the poverty that continues to exist. If tribes such as the Crow, had $27 billion in coal in the 1980’s, placing $3 million for each tribal member, then how does it explain that only 0. 01 percent of that income was received by the community, leaving over 50% of the tribal population on public assistance (Anderson & Parker, 2004)?
If the lands are rich in resources, and the tribal community is allowing excavation of mentioned minerals, why are they not seeing the rewards for such wealth? Is the government keeping income needed by the community, and if so, why? The geographical segregation of Native American communities only serve as a constant reminder of the cultural alienation that these groups experience and of the need for meaningful reconciliation that transcends solely physical borders. Summary I want to ask for who is the reservation for, which is managed by the U. S.
Dept of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)? Was it founded to “help” Native Americans? NO, Indians were placed on allotted land by the U. S. government during a time when settlers were pushing westward, driven by the dream to own land and to start new lives in a new land. The railroads were moving in just as rapidly as the settlers were, tearing up endless tracks of prairie land, and upsetting the migration patterns of land animals that tribal communities were sustaining from.
Millions of buffalo were unnecessarily slaughtered, starting as a “new delicacy” for restaurant appeal in the East, and then being needlessly killed to make way for the railroad and to “civilize the Indian. ” Adding insult to injury, the land allocated to Indians was often of poor quality, not being of sufficient worth to sustain even the most basic agricultural practices and so leading down the inexorable path to poverty. Lines for flour and other unknown foods were long on the day when the government would ration to each family a small portion of non-nutritional substance to feed their children.
With absolutely minimal or non existent infrastructure, such as transport routes, health care and education, the Native Americans were trapped in vicious cycles of poverty, frustration and despair. Children were removed from their families and sent to government operated schools, where they were stripped of their culture and language, hair cut and new names given, they were not educated in the matters of science, mathematics, and history; they were subjected to physical, mental and sometimes, sexual abuse.
Some children died while enrolled at the government schools and some managed to run away; if caught, they were subjected to harsh discipline and sent back to the school. In addition to providing little support, the government pursued active policies disadvantaging the Native American population by severely curtailing self-governance and restricting opportunities for self-improvement, such as hunting or gathering food. Conclusion
Today, Native American populations are not subject to the conditions introduced with the formation of the reservation but do continue to suffer just the same. Crime rates rise, alcoholism rates climb with each generation, and domestic abuse reports go unfiled, even with domestic abuse centers available through Indian Health Services. Deaths consist typically of car accidents, as drunken driving rates increase and are the main culprit for these deaths.
The “positive” side to this sad situation is that more and more people are moving off the “rez,” more students attending college, resulting in lawyers, doctors, even congressmen; some of those people return to assist in building a better community, creating programs to ensure survival of the language, traditions long held by generations of families within the community. Casino earnings, after taxes and a portion going to state governments, go back into the communities, even though most tribal communities with casinos on reservation lands are not seeing what they could with these earnings.
In conclusion, regardless of the improvements being pursued and some being made with tribal communities, the reservation was not truly created for the Indian nations. It was essentially created for the encroaching white populations that were seeking freedom from the suppression and oppression faced in their home lands; coming to the “New World” only gave them room to impose the oppressive behavior which was bestowed upon them, therefore making the oppressed the oppressor.
Is there justification in this act? No, there is not. Should reservations be “closed” or have communities moved off the land? Then what happens to that land? These are questions that keep the door to this subject open and in need of further investigation.
Anderson, Terry L. & Parker, Dominic. “The Wealth of Indian Nations. ” National Review 12 July 2004. “Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, SD. ” Answers. com 2007. http://www.answers.com/topic/cheyenne-river-indian-reservation