Has someone ever tried to force you to be someone you are not? If the answer is yes, then you know exactly how the Native Americans felt when the US government assimilated them. To assimilate means to bring into conformity with the customs, attitudes, etc., of a group, nation, or like; adapt or adjust, states dictionary.com.
The US government assimilated the Native Americans because they were worried about their well-being. Henry Knox, the secretary of war during the American Revolution, was part of a group of individuals who were concerned about the welfare of the Native Americans, states lumen.instructure.com. Knox personally believed that their way of life was not sustainable. This is where the thought of assimilating the Native Americans would make them become civilized. Usadokatowar.org states that many historians have argued that the U.S. government believed that if American Indians did not adopt European-American culture they would become extinct as a people.
A few ways the US tried to assimilate the Native Americans were by the Indian Removal Act, Dawes Act, and by education. The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 29, 1830, authorizing the president to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders, states www.loc.gov. This made Indians give up their land to the Americans. Chapter 18.6: The Transformation of Indian Societies states that The Dawes act in 1887 allowed the president to distribute land, not to tribes, but to individuals legally “severed” from their tribes. 160 acres were given to those who wanted the land. Of course, some Indians moved due to
benefits of having free land and being protected by the Americans, but others, did not want to leave their tribes behind. Chapter 18.6: The Transformation of Indian Societies also states that Hollow Horn Bear, a Sioux chief, offered a different opinion, judging the Dawes Act to be “only another trick of the whites.” I can see where he got this from. Even though the land and education was free from the government, the Indians could not do whatever they wanted to. Myths, Indian religions, and sacred ceremonies were banned. If a medicine man or shaman were caught practicing traditions, they were sent to prison or cast out. The government creating boarding schools may have sounded great to the Indians because they were actually getting an education, and on top of that, it was free. It was a magnificent encouragement to get the Indians to assimilate. The only down side of the situation was that the young Indians were not taught their native cultures. For example, cooking class were offered to the Indian girls during school, but they prepared American style foods.
The methods above were inappropriate. The Indian Removal Act was graceless. The Indians were asked to move at first, but when the government saw that some tribes were resisting, they were soon all forced to move. In the mist of traveling, many died due to the weather conditions. The Trial of Tears is one heartbreaking event that took place. History.state.gov states that three and four thousand out of fifteen to sixteen thousand Cherokees died in route from the brutal conditions of the “Trail of Tears.” This touches my spirit considering I have Cherokee Indian in my blood. The Dawes Act took away the Indians traditions. It is like the Americans took away who they were. In the video, “Into the West-Carlisle Indian School,” it showed how the Americans stripped their identity away. They made the children change into American clothes, pick a white man’s name, and even cut their hair. The cutting of the hair really caught my attention. Some were cut so short that it made the beautiful young ladies look like young men. One girl that was now named George said, “I can learn the white man’s ways just as well with long hair on.” This really sadden me because she knew was what happening, and she could do nothing about it. She tried to escape, but of course, she did not. The Americans could have done things differently. They were just children.
I believe that overall the US assimilation of the Native Americans was very cruel. It was a hard time for the Native Americans. They were forced away from their land, stripped of their traditions. They were made into something that they did not want to be. I feel as if the Americans should have looked at it from another point of view. They should have imagined how life would be if they were in their shoes. If they did, they may have done things differently.
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