Indigenous People

The word "American Indian" itself can be seen as a negative stereotype, because it is not the correct term used for referring to them. The name was given to the Native Americans because the colonists believed they had arrived in India when they first reached North America. They did not know of the existing nation already established in North America.

The image of the spear-wielding savage anxious to scalp an innocent colonist is the product of exaggerated tales told by the colonists and settlers. During their initial arrival into North America, the Native Americans were of great assistance to the colonists and even helped them survive and adapt to their new environment. Because the colonists were unfamiliar with the terrain and vegetation of North America, the Native Americans provided food and showed them how to farm. At times, the Native Americans acted as guides to help the colonists get through the foreign terrain of North America.

The first contact with the Native Americans by an outside people is controversial. The common belief is that Christopher Columbus was the first to set foot on "America". This first contact is said to have happened in many different ways by many different parties. It is displayed best through the journals of Christopher. Many Christians believed his major focus was to convert the to Christian which was one of his motives. His motives however became towards power and enslavement of the Native Americans. He realized how gentle, they were and thought they would be easy to make the subordinate group. The Native Americans were extremely rebellious and made great strides to keep their culture. This showed their strength and pride for themselves.

European colonists first lived independently of the Native Americans. Soon, the colonists realized how valuable the land that the Native Americans lived on was. The Power Conflict occurring at this point was specifically a process of Internal Colonialism. The English Colonialists came over and began to exploit the Native American land for the economic benefit of Britain; this began the steady extermination of the Native Americans beginning with the societies of the east. They then moved westward with little interference from the Native Americans because of many pacts, treaties and acts. The Native Americans refusal and inability to fully assimilate to the incoming culture of the American Colonialists brought hardship to them. The Native Americans were killed, enslaved, and stripped of their rights. Acts such as the Removal Act of 1830 justified the command, abuse and slaughter of the Native Americans.

Many laws, legislatures, and policies have been enacted to give Native Americans their rights, however, as we will see, many of these early laws hurt more than helped them in their quest for equality.

Eight years later, the Removal Act paved the way for the Cherokee Trail of Tears - 1838-1839. Cherokees, Seminoles and other natives of the south were removed by any means necessary for the advancement of the American/English culture. The removal and placement of Native Americans continued on through 1887.

However, this was not the case everywhere. In other states such as Northern Missouri, The Blackfeet Treaty of Fort Benton was enacted to maintain peace between the Americans and the Indians of the North i.e. the Blackfoot tribe. True to the times, there was much conflict. In retaliation, to their mistreatment, a movement of rebellion by the natives spread in the form of songs and dances. They wished for the Earth to swallow up their oppressors. This movement was the Ghost Dance.

In the 1830ís, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was established. It was established to supervise land dealings, reservation, and provision of supplies. It was also supposed to serve as a forum for the federal government to better communicate and develop better relations with the Native Americans. But instead of the Native Americans having equal representation, the white colonists controlled the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In 1887, The Dawes Act was passed in an attempt to force Native Americans to adopt the individualistic European -American land values. The act stated that reservation land should be divided between families. Colonists hoped this would cause the native Americans to farm on its own family land, allowing any left over land to be sold to the whites.

In 1924, the Indian Citizenship Act was passed. It granted Native Americans the right to citizenship and voting rights. There was a conflict between the Dawes Act of 1887 and the Indian Citizenship Act. The Dawes Act listed Native Americans as "wards" of the government; therefore they were again stripped of their voting rights.

In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act was passed in an attempt to establish Native American civil and cultural rights. It ended the common practice of land allotment, allowed more careful supervision of land sales by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This act spurred many other positive actions for the Native Americans. They were granted preferential hiring for employment and more joined the Bureau of Indian Affairs, allowing them more representation. Native American tribes reorganized themselves and managed to develop councils and constitutions. Many Native American groups also began to self-govern. They managed their own property without supervision of the federal government.

The Indian Reservation legislatures that were passed through World War II, and even acts that seemed fair to advancing Americans, kept the Indigenous Peoples confined to a set piece of land. They used to roam free, with very little confinement, safe for territorial boundaries. Now on reservations, they were forced to stay on land given to them, and expected to be content.