Sunday, November 8, 2015


Immigration Who Did Come First?

Destroying the Native American Cultures
When European settlers arrived on the North American continent at the end of the fifteenth century, they encountered diverse Native American cultures—as many as 900,000 inhabitants with over 300 different languages. These people, whose ancestors crossed the land bridge from Asia in what may be considered the first North American immigration, were virtually destroyed by the subsequent immigration that created the United States. This tragedy is the direct result of treaties, written and broken by foreign governments, of warfare, and of forced assimilation.
Today, people see the policies of the past with 21st century eyes. One might wonder how the nation's indigenous population became "inferior" cultures in their own land, or how a nation could have committed such atrocities in the name of "progress". One might question whether it is acceptable to make national decisions without involving in the decision making process those who will be most drastically affected.
In 1786, the United States established its first Native American reservation and approached each tribe as an independent nation. This policy remained intact for more than one hundred years. But as President James Monroe noted in his second inaugural address in 1821, treating Native Americans this way “flattered their pride, retarded their improvement, and in many instances paved the way to their destruction.”
In addition, Monroe observed that America’s westward growth “has constantly driven them back, with almost the total sacrifice of the lands which they have been compelled to abandon. They have claims on the magnanimity and . . . on the justice of this nation which we must all feel.” Despite Monroe’s concern for the plight of Native Americans, his administration successfully removed them from states north of the Ohio River.

Removing Native Americans from their Land
President Andrew Jackson offered similar rhetoric in his first inaugural address in 1829, when he emphasized his desire “to observe toward the Indian tribes within our limits a just and liberal policy, and to give that humane and considerate attention to their rights and their wants which is consistent with the habits of our Government and the feelings of our people.” Yet, only fourteen months later, Jackson prompted Congress to pass the Removal Act, a bill that forced Native Americans to leave the United States and settle in the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.
Many Cherokee tribes banded together as an independent nation, and challenged this legislation in U.S. courts. In 1832, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokees, but some tribes still signed treaties giving the federal government the legal authority to "assist" them in their move to the Indian Territory.
In 1838, as the deadline for removal approached, thousands of federal soldiers and Georgia volunteers entered the territory and forcibly relocated the Cherokees. Americans hunted, imprisoned, raped, and murdered Native Americans. Cherokees surviving the onslaught were forced on a 1,000-mile march to the established Indian Territory with few provisions. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on this “Trail of Tears.”
An audio recording of a Native American song commemorating this tragedy is available in the American Memory collection, Florida Folklife. A description of how some Cherokees settled in West Virginia can be heard in the audio recording Plateau Region as Unofficial Refuge for Cherokeefrom the Tending the Commonscollection.
The expansion of the United States that encroached upon Native American lands occurred faster than many policymakers had predicted with events such as the Mexican-American War in 1848 placing new territories and tribes under federal jurisdiction. A government report, The Indians of Southern California in 1852, explained that many Californians believed “destiny had awarded California to the Americans to develop” and that if the Indians “interfered with progress they should be pushed aside.”
Civil War Years
This anti-Native American sentiment is echoed in books of the era such as Andrew Peabody’s The Hawaiian Islands (1865), which claimed that a “law of the divine Providence” caused some races to submit to those of “superior physical and intellectual vigor”:
Under this law . . . the aborigines of North America will ultimately disappear, and the humane policy which ought to have been pursued to them from the first would not have ensured their preservation in the land, though it would have averted the condemnation of blood-guiltiness from the European settlers. (Page 18)
Despite the prevalence of beliefs such as Andrew Peabody's, the Union Army welcomed many Native American volunteers to fight in the Civil War. James Blunt’s December 2, 1862 letter to Kansas Citizens requests aid to nearby refugee Indians driven from their homes “by the Rebel for no other reason than adhering in their allegiance to their great Father.”
Ironically, a year later, Kit Carson led the Union Army in an attack on the Navajos in the desert Southwest. Union Soldiers destroyed crops, orchards, livestock, and homes in a campaign to relocate the tribes to a federal reservation.
Thousands of Navajos surrendered to U.S. troops in 1864. These men, women, and children were forced to walk 300 miles to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. This legendary “Long Walk” ended at a small, disease-filled camp that served as a Navajo prison for four years.

19th Century Perceptions
Despite their welcome to serve in the Union Army, Native Americans were not recognized as U.S. citizens throughout the nineteenth century. A clause in the Fourteenth Amendment “excluding Indians not taxed” prevented Native American men from receiving the right to vote when African-American men gained suffrage in 1868. Instead, tribes remained independent nations that were expected to sign agreements such as the Kit Carson Treaty to establish Native American reservations in U.S. territories.
Ulysses S. Grant acknowledged such disparities in treatment in his first inaugural address in 1869 when he said, “The proper treatment of the original occupants of this land--the Indians [is] one deserving of careful study. I will favor any course toward them which tends to their civilization and ultimate citizenship.” The theme continued in a different vein during Grant’s second inaugural address in 1873: “Our superiority of strength and advantages of civilization should make us lenient toward the Indian . . . . If the effort is made in good faith, we will stand better before the civilized nations of the earth and in our own consciences for having made it.”
The ongoing conflicts with Native Americans even disturbed U.S. military leaders such as General George Custer. In his 1874 memoir, My Life on the Plains, Custer said that every American should be willing to avoid these “Indian wars” at any cost:

 For let [a soldier] act as he may in . . . a campaign against the Indians, if he survives the campaign he can feel assured . . . that one-half of his fellow-citizens at home will revile him for his zeal . . . while the other half, . . . will cry "Down with him. Down with the regular army, and give us brave volunteers who can serve the Government in other ways besides eating rations and drawing pay." (Page 20)

Custer's Last Stand ... Aftermath
Custer didn’t deal with military victories and moral failures for long. In 1876, he and his 264 men died in an attack on Sioux and Cheyenne warriors during the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Black Hills, Montana.
The federal government opened Black Hills to gold mining in 1875 but Native Americans refused to leave the area because of its religious significance. As the U.S. military gathered to forcibly relocate the warriors, Custer’s troops disregarded orders and attacked a village.
George Flanders was a soldier in a group arriving in Black Hills on June 26, 1876, a day after Custer’s charge. Flanders buried his comrades that day and, years later, he heard an account of Custer’s battlefield actions. In the Federal Writers’ Project essay, George L. Flanders, he recounted the Cheyenne Indian tale that “Custer had received a wound in the hip and was unable to get up, but continued shooting until he had used all except one of his cartridges and with that last bullet shot himself.”
Custer’s death galvanized the military. In subsequent months, they tracked down Sioux and Cheyenne warriors and forced them onto reservations.
Military pursuit wasn’t the only hunt of concern to Native Americans. Buffalo was a prime resource for its meat and hide. The millions of animals roaming the plains in the 1860s virtually disappeared within two decades as hunters from across the United States and abroad drove the herds to near extinction.
The Federal Writers’ Project’s “History of a Buffalo Hunter" described an 1877 horseback excursion that continued “until they had killed enough buffaloes to fill fifty carts with the meat.”
Another account, from Noah Armstrong, recalled the precarious relationship between U.S. soldiers and Native American hunters:
[W]e came upon a smouldering [sic] campfire and the remains of a buffalo . . . . [and] a row of Indians going down the path single file. We opened fire as we were accustomed to doing and killed two of the Indians . . . . [and] chased them right on into a white camp and found to our dismay that we had been chasing Government Indians . . . sent out with United State Officers . . . to show them how to hunt buffalo. We . . . [had] to go into court over killing the Indians, but it was settled in our favor.
The killing of buffalo reduced the number of resources available to independent Native Americans. For many Native Americans, the federal government’s reservation system became the only means for survival.
President Grover Cleveland noted the national obligation in his first inaugural address in 1885: “The conscience of the people demands that the Indians within our boundaries shall be fairly and honestly treated as wards of the Government and their education and civilization promoted with a view to their ultimate citizenship . . .” Citizenship, however, remained almost sixty years away.
In the meantime, the Dawes Act of 1887 dissolved many Indian reservations. An 1888 report from the Indian Rights Association, The Condition of Affairs in Indian Territory and California, questioned America’s treatment of Native Americans: “The whole management of Indians has been abnormal . . . Everything is controlled by arbitrary laws and regulations, and not by moral, social, or economic principles.” The report concluded that opening Oklahoma up to settlers and moving Native Americans farther west “would be unjust, cruel and disastrous.”
Nevertheless, the federal government opened Oklahoma’s unoccupied lands to white settlers in 1889. Four years later, the government purchased more than 6 million acres from tribes to pave the way for the Oklahoma land rush.
An audio recording of an interview with an Oklahoma settler includes a description of the violence that occurred between whites and Native Americans in the years before statehood.
Disaster at Wounded Knee
Such violent conflicts were common throughout many territories, and it was not long before the last official military action against Native Americans took place on December 29, 1890. Government officials banned a growing religion known as the Ghost Dance on a South Dakota reservation that month.
As part of the crackdown against the Ghost Dance, the army arrested Chief Big Foot and his Lakota tribesmen and confined them to a camp near Wounded Knee Creek. The day after the arrest, the military attempted to recover the prisoner’s weapons. A gun was accidentally discharged and soldiers opened fire. When the shooting stopped, more than 300 Lakota Indians were dead.
The massacre exemplified a culture at war with the Native Americans on various fronts. Books such asRecollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars (1894) describes the physical and psychological warfare involved in fighting Native Americans in the territories:
 He told me he hanged all of his prisoners, because the Indians had a great and superstitious horror of hanging; for they believe that no man's soul will be received into the happy hunting grounds that does not pass through the throat, which is impossible when that route is closed by a rope; it must seek another road of exit, and all such souls are rejected at the gates of Paradise. He said a fine moral effect was produced upon the Indians by this method of execution.

United States Citizenship for the Native American
By 1900, the Native American population in the United States had dwindled to approximately 250,000. The perceived diminishing of a “Native American threat” to white prosperity sometimes relegated Native Americans to little more than a novelty act. For example, Thomas Edison’s turn-of-the-century films such as Buffalo Dance,Sioux Ghost Dance, and the Sham Battle at the Pan-American Exposition documented traditional performances created for the interest and amusement of people attending an ethnic village in a World’s Fair. Meanwhile, materials such as the 1898 film, Indian Day School, and the 1923 map of Indian Reservations West of the Mississippi River documented the harsh new realities of Native American culture.
On June 2, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill granting Native Americans full citizenship. Coolidge posed with four Osage Indians in front of the White House to commemorate the event.
Three years later, the president’s photo opportunities included wearing a suit and feathered headdress when he was made a Sioux Chief as well as standing in front of the White House with some veterans of the Indian Wars.

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