Thousands of years before the arrival of the English colonists, the natives of America flourished in a rich, abundant land that provided well for its inhabitants. The Americas were filled with peoples as radically different from one another as they are from Swedes or Chinese. There are hundreds of cultures, languages, and ways of living in Native America. The place was a model of diversity at the time of Columbus’ arrival (Jaimes 440). With the advent of dispute between the colonizers and the natives, one by one the Indian tribes were shoved backwards and forced to inhabit lands they do not want.
Conflicts arose in view of the question of where the Native Americans should settle the most famous conflict of which was the Great Sioux War. It was a lengthy, disjointed struggle between the U. S. Army and allied tribes of the Teton Sioux and Northern Cheyenne Indians that occurred in a span of fifteen months between March 1876 and May 1877 (Greene XV). Why do these Indian Reservations hurt the Native American? In this paper, we shall answer this question and explore its effects and impact on the life and culture of the American Indian. Main Body Because of escalating conflicts between the English settlers and the Native Americans, the U.
S. Congress eventually passed several Acts beginning with the Indian Appropriations Act in 1851. It authorized $100,000. 00 to be used in negotiating the reduction of Indian Territory and relocating the natives (Barrington 25). Various tribes were relocated from their ancestral lands to infertile lands allocated by the government. For this purpose, religious men who were nominated by churches were appointed to hold positions in government. Their job was to oversee Indian agencies on reservations in the hope of converting the Indians into Christianity.
Quakers were very active in this effort (Levinson, et al. 491-492). They were given special privileges such as monetary benefits which fortified their dependence on the United States government. Here, American Indians were promised education, healthcare, and other benefits. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the federal government took the role of guardian of the Indian land. While recognizing each tribe’s ownership of the land, the federal government held ultimate authority over American-Indian affairs (Levinson, et al.
491-492). Presently, there are about 310 Indian reservations in the country and more than 550 recognized tribes recognized by the federal government (Wikipedia 2008). This means that not all tribes have been awarded with reservations and are living in urban areas. Although a small but growing middle-class has emerged recently, most American-Indians are likely to have low incomes, high levels of unemployment, and low educational and occupational attainment, whether they live on reservations or in urban areas.
Reservations are home to about one-fourth of the American-Indian population. (Levinson, et al. 491-492) Because these Indian reservations are isolated from the economic mainstream of the United States, these Native Americans are deprived of the opportunity for economic advancement. These are communities with very high poverty rates due to the high unemployment of the local populace. Farming, and recently, gambling, are major sources of revenue for some tribes. Only a handful of tribes, however, have the resources for the economic development of their reservations.
Most tribes suffer from a dearth of fertile land and mineral or other exploitable natural resources; they have little venture capital, and have a population that is relatively uneducated, unskilled, and poor. Reservations become islands of desperate poverty and isolation for most Native American people (Levinson, et al. 491-492). Coupled with this unfortunate image of the American Indian is the perception that he cannot control the intoxicating effects of alcohol. Perhaps no stereotype has been so long-lasting and so thoroughly ensconced in our social fabric as that of the ‘drunken Indian’.
Our federal government gave it official recognition by prohibiting the sale of beverage alcohol to the Indian people for over a century (Westermeyer 110). Many see this character of the ‘drunken Indian’ as a portrayal of a hopeless and powerless figure with no alternative means to resolve his poverty, degradation, and the destruction of his culture. The federal government’s prohibition of alcohol sale to Native Americans stem from the perception that they have a natural tendency to resort to alcoholism. The message, in my opinion, however, is plain and simple: cultural discrimination which has been endured by this race for five hundred years.
Conclusion It all comes down to the very words of the immortal Thomas Jefferson when he said: ‘Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition (Jefferson 1787). With the isolation, deprivation, and discrimination of these Native Americans for over five hundred years, their rich and vibrant culture has deteriorated along with their quality of life and self-esteem. The only recourse for survival that was presented to them was the complete surrender of their former liberties and total dependence on the government of the United States of America.
Called ‘The Land of Opportunity’, the U. S. has a moral obligation to bring deliverance to this once dignified, proud and noble race of the land of America.
Barrington, Linda. “The Other Side of the Frontier: Economic Explorations into Native American History. ” Perseus Books Group (1998): 25. Greene, Jerome. “Battles and Skirmishes of the Great Sioux War, 1876-1877: The Military View. ” University of Oklahoma Press (1996): XV. Indian Reservation. 2008. Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia. 22 April 2008 <http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_reservation>. Jaimes, M. Annette. “The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization, and Resistance. ” South End Press (1992): 440. Jefferson, Thomas. “Selection from Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia” (1787). Levinson, David, et al. “Education and Sociology: An Encyclopedia. ” Taylor & Francis. Oxford, UK: (2002): 491-492. Westermeyer, Joseph. “The Drunken Indian: Myths and Realities” Beliefs, Behaviors, & Alcoholic Beverages: A Cross-Cultural Survey. Ed. Mac Marshall. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1979. 110.