Native Americans

Native Americans have experienced discrimination at the hands of European settlers during the colonial era and the white majority in the United States for over four hundred years. In that time, there have been a wide variety of policies towards Native Americans, some with good intentions and some bad, but none seemed to resolve the clash of cultures and the difficulties faced by Native Americans. They have rarely enjoyed liberty and equality in the American system of self-government.

The first encounters of European colonists and Native Americans in North America set the patterns for the relationship for nearly two centuries. First, and most devastatingly, Europeans unwittingly brought many diseases for which Natives had no immunity, and hundreds of thousands died. Second, Native Americans sometimes benefitted from trading furs and other goods to Europeans, but the trade often altered traditional commercial routes or Native ways of life. Third, colonists and Natives engaged in a series of massacres and wars throughout the Eastern Seaboard that resulted in brutality and a large number of deaths on each side. Native American scalping of enemy combatants and civilians in the wars caused the Europeans to think them uncivilized savages. King Philip’s War, fought in New England in 1675-1676, remains the bloodiest war in American history in casualty rates. The British and Americans supposedly used germ warfare against Native Americans, but there was in fact only one unproven claim of the British army spreading smallpox through blankets. Finally, the European population grew rapidly, and colonists expanded onto Native lands through war, broken treaties, and land grabs.

Before, during, and after the American Revolution, there were a number of wars fought on the Ohio Valley and Mid-West. Native Americans on the frontier had generally sided with the French during the French and Indian War and on the side of the British during the American Revolution. Native Americans found that they lost large amounts of land after the American Revolution and did not have a say in the peace treaty. Some of the Founding Fathers expressed the hope that Natives would be integrated into American society by adopting private property and agriculture, white styles of dress, and education and written languages. They believed that this was a benevolent, humane, and enlightened policy, and that, if accomplished, the two peoples could live in relative peace. Nevertheless, after the American Revolution, white Americans continued to flood the frontier for agricultural land. This was spurred on by the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. Americans believed that they had a “Manifest Destiny” or divine mission to expand westward and conquer the entire continent. Native Americans would either be paid for their land or compelled to give it up by force. Either way, keeping all of their lands did not seem to be an option for white settlers.
Ch 32 native americans option 5
Native Americans on the frontier had generally sided with the French during the French and Indian War and on the side of the British during the American Revolution. Native Americans found that they lost large amounts of land after the American Revolution and did not have a say in the peace treaty.
Manifest Destiny found support in federal law when Congress passed the Indian Removal Act (1830) that allowed the national government to relocate Natives beyond the Mississippi River.

Even though the Cherokee people adopted white ways, Georgia supported those whites who sought to take Native lands. In the Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) decision, Native Americans sued to protect their property rights from encroachment by the state of Georgia on behalf of land-hungry white settlers. In the decision, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall broke with the custom of treating Natives as independent nations that theoretically protected the sanctity of land treaties and declared that the tribes were “domestic dependent nations” rather than an independent nation with sovereign treaty rights. In Worcester v. Georgia (1832), another case dealing with the relationship of Cherokee and the Georgia state government, Marshall reversed his earlier decision and declared that Native tribes were foreign nations who were immune to state laws. However, President Andrew Jackson used his executive power and sided with the white Georgians. In a famous statement of the exercise of executive power President Jackson retorted when he heard of the decision: “John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.”

In 1838, despite the legal victory, more than 16,000 Cherokees were forcibly removed to the Oklahoma Territory and an estimated 4,000 died tragically in this “Trail of Tears.” It followed the removal of several other tribes from the Southeast including tens of thousands of Choctaw, Seminoles, Creek, and Chickasaw throughout the 1830s.
Trail of tears 1
In 1838, despite the legal victory, more than 16,000 Cherokees were forcibly removed to the Oklahoma Territory and an estimated 4,000 died tragically in this “Trail of Tears.”
In 1851, the Indian Appropriations Act initiated the policy of establishing reservations, or land parcels set aside for Native tribes, as an attempt to balance the demand of Western settlers for land and to protect lands for Natives. The land however was often poor, away from ancestral homes, and forced Natives to adopt white agriculture. Moreover, individual Americans demanded Native lands and chiseled away at the size of reservations. In addition, the reservations worsened the lot of Native Americans, but Americans continued in their advance to settle the continent.

After the Civil War, the brutal wars between the Native Americans and federal troops continued with casualties on both sides. In 1876, General George Custer and the Seventh Cavalry attacked Chief of the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe, Sitting Bull, who led an alliance of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors at Little Bighorn. Custer recklessly attacked the Natives led by Crazy Horse, war leader of Oglala Lakota tribe, who killed Custer and all his 250 soldiers. In late 1890, at the Wounded Knee massacre, the U.S. Seventh Cavalry took revenge by slaughtering 150 Sioux men, women, and children after the warriors refused to surrender their arms.

During the mid-to-late nineteenth century, America industrialized as migrants continued to settle the West, using the Transcontinental Railroad and marking off private properties with barbed wire. Thus was it clear that the settlers were moving rapidly westward, establishing farms, and depleting massive herds of buffalo that the Natives depended upon for food. Reformers were outraged by the mistreatment of Native Americans as chronicled in Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor (1881). Reformers sought to implement integration into American society with the Dawes Act (1887), which imposed a system of individual ownership of land and allotted parcels of land to Natives while selling off “surplus” land to white Americans. However, the Act both failed to protect Native lands or integrate them into American culture.

In 1934, the New Deal reinforced the idea that the federal government would care for dependent Native Americans with the Indian Reorganization Act.

The new law ended the policy of allotting land to individual Native Americans and supported tribal sovereignty over the lands. The federal government moreover provided funds for health care, social welfare, and education on the reservations. Although reservations had been embraced by reformers, they soon fell out of favor as a symbol of white control. The federal government also seemed to fail just as much as the reservations in ameliorating the conditions of Native Americans which continued to worsen compared to an affluent postwar America.

After World War II, the conditions on reservations were shown to be well below that of middle-class America. Poverty, unemployment, crime, and malnutrition were endemic on reservations. Rates for suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and infant mortality were startlingly high. Reformers sought a remedy by removing Natives from oppressive reservations and their historical stigma into mainstream America in what was called “Indian termination” policy. Whereas critics complained that Natives were forced into reservations, they now fought against being forced to assimilate. It seemed that both segregation and integration were abject failures and the elusive search for a successful policy respecting the liberty and equality of Natives would not be found.
Native americans
After World War II, the conditions on reservations were shown to be well below that of middle-class America. Poverty, unemployment, crime, and malnutrition were endemic on reservations.
The 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of a movement in pursuit of Native American rights just as other groups engaged in similar reform movements. In several incidents occupying historic monuments, activists on the left sought to publicize the plight of Native Americans.
In late 1969, hundreds of Natives and their white supporters occupied Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to expose the historical discrimination and “genocide” suffered by Natives and to demand a center there for the study of Native American history and culture. The last occupiers did not leave Alcatraz until 1971. Politically radical Native Americans joined the American Indian Movement (AIM), and hundreds took over Wounded Knee in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in February, 1973. The members of AIM occupied the town for 71 days, and there were several exchanges of gunfire with federal law enforcement officials. For Native activists, it seemed more evidence of oppression by the federal government, but the charges were dropped against the leaders. The reservation suffered a crime rate nearly ten times that of Detroit after the federal officials departed, and the lofty aims of the activists were not achieved.
The violent protest by radicals soon gave way to the multicultural and diversity trends in education during the 1980s and beyond. The term “American Indian” fell into disfavor as a symbol of European oppression and “Native Americans” became the accepted term. Activists called depictions of Native Americans as sports mascots racist and applied pressure to use more innocuous symbols. For example, Stanford University changed their mascot from Indians to Cardinals, and Dartmouth University from Indians to Big Green. Many historians began to portray the European settlement of America as an “invasion” or “genocide.” After Indian reservations gained the right to open gaming casinos, tribes began to earn large sums, and some non-Natives claimed Indian ancestry to take advantage of the windfall of revenue. Similar questions of who was a Native American were applicable to college applications and federal contracts, both of which employed affirmative action programs.
Native Americans have rarely enjoyed the benefits of liberty and equality under the American republic. They have had a status throughout the centuries that has alternated between separation and assimilation. Federal policies related to Native Americans have changed many times over the last two hundred years, but none have seemed to improve their freedom or equality in American society. Unlike women or African Americans, who have won greater liberty and equality in recent decades to fulfill American ideals, Native Americans can point to few examples of progress. Over the past century, federal policies that have attempted both separation and integration have failed because they have been unable to resolve the tension of preserving the unique autonomy of Native Americans while at the same time integrating them into the American character.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Question 1 of 2

    In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), Chief Justice John Marshall’s decision treated Natives as domestic dependent nations, and in Worcester v. Georgia (1832),

  2. Question 2 of 2

    The Indian Appropriations Act

This reading brought to you by:

BRI Logo
Law of Demand
As prices decrease, the quantity demanded increases or as prices increase, the quantity demanded decreases.
Natural rights
Rights which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.
Inalienable rights
Rights which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.
Except where authorized by people through the Constitution, government does not have the authority to limit freedom.
Popular sovereignty
The power of government flows from the people.
Separation of powers
A system of distinct powers built into the constitution, to prevent an accumulation of power in one branch.
Checks and balances
Powers distributed among the branches of government allowing each to limit the application of power of the other branches and to prevent expansion of power of any branch.
The people delegate certain powers to the national government, while the states retain other powers; and the people, who authorize the states and national government, retain all freedoms not delegated to the governing bodies.
Fairness or reasonableness in the way people are treated or decisions are made.
private property
The natural right of all individuals to create, obtain, and control their possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, as well as the fruits of their labor.
limited government
Citizens are best able to pursue happiness when government is confined to those powers which protect their life, liberty, and property.
representative government
(or republican government) Form of government in which the people are sovereign (ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.
republican government
(or representative government)Form of government in which the people are sovereign (ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.
civil discourse
Reasoned and respectful sharing of ideas between individuals is the primary way people influence change in society/government, and is essential to maintain self-government.
The fundamental principles by which a state or nation is governed. The United States Constitution, written in 1787, lays out the roles and powers of each of the three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial), the protections of due process and rule of law in the states, a republican form of government, and the manner in which to amend the document.
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson was a Virginia plantation owner who was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson served as a legislator and governor in Virginia, as well as an ambassador to France, Secretary of State under George Washington, Vice President under John Adams, and the third President of the United States. During his political career, Jefferson founded the Democratic-Republican Party with James Madison, and he bought the Louisiana Purchase from France. After his presidency, Jefferson started the University of Virginia near his home, Monticello.
Bill of Rights
The first ten amendments to the Constitution, ratified in 1791, which limit government power and protect individual liberties, including the freedoms of speech, press, religion, petition, and assembly, as well as protections against cruel and unusual punishment, unreasonable search and seizure, and other due process rights.
Second Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens’ rights to create a militia and to bear arms. “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Due Process
The government must interact with all persons according to the duly-enacted laws; applying these rules equally among all persons.
Every individual is equal to every other person with respect to natural rights and treatment before the law.
Consent of the governed
The authority of the government must come from the people through elections and through the people’s interaction with government.
Individual responsibility
Individuals must take care of themselves and their families, and be vigilant to preserve their liberty and the liberty of others.
Rule of law
Government officials and citizens all abide by the same laws regardless of political power.
Declaration of Independence
The document written in 1776 by the Founders to send to Britain’s King George III in which independence from Britain was declared and the reasons for the separation were explained.
Articles of Confederation
The first national government document developed in 1781 by the Founders. The Articles created a federal legislative branch, but there was no executive or judiciary. The states retained most of the governmental powers.
The group of people who wrote and influenced the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the United States Constitution, and the United States Bill of Rights. These men were instrumental in establishing the nation and its governmental documents and practices.
Federalist Papers
A series of 85 essays written to convince the people of New York to ratify the Constitution. The authors were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. These documents are considered to be the most authoritative explanation of the political theory of the Constitution.
First Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition the government. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Law of Supply
As the price drops, the quantity supplied also drops.
Fourth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens’ rights against unreasonable searches and seizures of property and explains that warrants must be issued with probable cause. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Fifth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects the right indictment by a jury, against double jeopardy, self-incrimination, loss of life, liberty, or property without due process, and just compensation for private property taken for public use. “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Tenth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it states that the powers not enumerated or delegated in the Constitution are reserved for the states and the people. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Eighth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects against excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishments. “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Ninth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, the listing of certain rights protected by the Constitution cannot be used to deny rights not enumerated in the document. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Alexander Hamilton
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton served as General Washington’s chief of staff, promoted the ratification of the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, and founded the nation’s financial system and first political party.
James Madison
Madison was a Framer who was instrumental in writing the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He is known as the “Father of the Constitution.” Madison partnered with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write the Federalist Papers in support of the ratification of the Constitution. He also served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, the United States House of Representatives, Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson, and the fourth president of the United States.
George Washington
First President of the United States, George Washington served as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
John Locke
An English philosopher and physician, John Locke was one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and is known today as the Father of Classical Liberalism.
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress, comprised of delegates from 12 of the 13 American colonies, represented the colonists during and after the American Revolution. The Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence and ratified the Articles of Confederation.
King George III
King George III was the King of Great Britain at the time of the American Revolution. His actions towards the American colonies, outlined in the Declaration of Independence, spurred the American Revolution.
Great Depression
Spanning ten years from 1929 to 1939, the Great Depression was one of the longest-lasting economic downturns in the history of the United States affecting the U.S. and most of the world.
An introductory statement, preface, or introduction.
Cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others.
Using power over people in a way that is cruel and unfair.
John Adams
Before becoming the second President of the United States, John Adams served as the country’s first Vice President under George Washington. Adams was an advocate of American independence from Britain and a Federalist.
John Jay
Founding Father John Jay was one of the signers of the Treaty of Paris and served as the first Chief Justice of the United States. He was also one of the authors of the Federalist Papers.
Third Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens against the quartering of soldiers in private homes without their approval. “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
Sixth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects the rights of impartial jury trials, the right to be informed of the accusations against you, the right to be confronted by witness, and the right to be assisted by counsel. “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
Seventh Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects the right of jury trials in law suits dealing with more than twenty dollars and protects against reexamination of the trial in any court if decided by a jury. “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
Alexis de Tocqueville
French political thinker and historian, Alexis de Tocqueville is best known for his works Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution. He visited the U.S. in the 1830s and wrote admiringly about many aspects of American law and society.
Democracy in America
Written by Alexis de Tocqueville after visiting the United States, Democracy in America contains de Tocqueville’s analysis of and reflections on the United States’ democratic system and society. The first volume was published in 1835 and the second in 1840.
Magna Carta
Written in 1215, it is the oldest document in the British and American heritage of rights. Contributed to the adoption of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments of the Bill of Rights, and speaks of these rights as ancient.
Two Treatises of Civil Government
Written by John Locke in 1690, the Two Treatises of Civil Government criticize absolute power for kings and outline Locke’s suggestions for a more civilized society based on natural rights and the social contract.
Thirteenth Amendment
The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. “Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
The group of people who actually attended the Constitutional Convention and participated in writing the Constitution.
Fourteenth Amendment
Ratified in 1868, it states that all people born or naturalized in the United States are citizens and ensures that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Sixteenth Amendment
Ratified in 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment gave Congress the ability to collect income taxes. “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census of enumeration.”
Eighteenth Amendment
atified in 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment introduced Prohibition, the period of United States history when the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol was made illegal throughout the country. “Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited. Section 2. The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.”
Twentieth Amendment
The Twentieth Amendment was ratified in 1933, and it establishes procedures for presidential succession and the start and end of federal officials’ terms of office. “Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3rd day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
Twenty-First Amendment
In 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, ending Prohibition. “Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed. Section 2. The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited. Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.”
English Bill of Rights
Passed by the British Parliament in 1689, the English Bill of Rights limited the power of the British monarch, outlined the rights of the Parliament, and guaranteed Protestants the right to bear arms.
The legislative body of the United Kingdom (known as Great Britain or England during the Founding era).
Benjamin Franklin
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was a statesman, author, publisher, scientist, inventor and diplomat. He served in the Second Continental Congress during the American Revolution and helped draft the Declaration of Independence. In addition, Franklin helped negotiated the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War and later served as a delegate to the convention that produced the U.S. Constitution.
The right to vote.
A government in which the power belongs to citizens through the right to vote.
Fifteenth Amendment
Ratified in 1870, it states that the right could not be restricted based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” “Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Seventeenth Amendment
Ratified in 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment introduced direct election of Senators. “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures. When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct. This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.”
Nineteenth Amendment
Ratified in 1920, the amendment stated that a citizen’s right to vote must not be restricted based on gender. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Direct Democracy
Direct democracy is a political system in which the people vote directly on policies or laws, as opposed to voting for representatives who enact laws on their behalf.
Not planned or chosen for a particular reason; done without concern for what is fair or right.
Judicial Review
The process by which courts analyze the constitutionality of an act of government.
Majority rule/minority rights
laws may be made with the consent of the majority, but only to the point where they do not infringe on the inalienable rights of the minority.
An arbitrary order or decree.
Something that is owned by a person, business, etc. This includes possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, and the fruits of one's labor.
A government in which the power is held by the people.
Electoral College
A body of electors chosen by each state to vote for the president and vice president of the United States.
Conduct that reflects universal principles of moral and ethical excellence essential to leading a worthwhile life and to effective self-government. For many leading Founders, attributes of character such as justice, responsibility, perseverance, etc., were thought to flow from an understanding of the rights and obligations of men. Virtue is compatible with, but does not require, religious belief.