In the 19th Century the Indian community faced harsh scrutiny. They were a misunderstood group of people who just like the blacks, wanted freedom and to be accepted in America. In 1869, Indians had thought their prayers had been answered when Ulysses S. Grant announced a new “Peace Policy” in the west. “In reality the [peace] policy rested on the belief that Americans had the right to dispossess Native peoples of their lands, take away freedoms, and send them to reservations, where missionaries would teach them how to farm, read and write, wear Euro-American clothing, and embrace Christianity.
If Indians refused to move to reservations, they would be forced off their homelands by soldiers.”1 This is not what Sitting Bull meant when he said, “The life my people want is a life of freedom.”
Freedom was a sore subject for the Indians, considering all of what they went through. The Indians were consistently broken and never could seem to catch a break.
They were driven west after their homes along the east were seized. During the late 19th century is when things took a turn for the worst. The government tried to run the Indians off their land by destroying the very foundation of their economy; Villages, horses, and buffalo. The army unleashed vicious attacks breaking the tribes one after another. Some tribes surrendered and were relocated to reservations in Oklahoma. Chief Joseph, Leader of the Nez Percé Indians, was one of the many Indians removed to Oklahoma. Chief Joseph delivered a speech in Washington, D.C. to a distinguished audience that included President Rutherford B. Hayes. Chief Joseph states, “When I think of our condition my heart is heavy . . .
We only ask for an even chance to live as other men live.”2 He continues to plea, “Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work . . . free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to think and talk and act for myself, and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty.”3 What Chief Joseph wants is to be able to preserve his people’s culture and political autonomy. They simply wanted to be like “White” American citizens where they could have the freedom to do as they please, whether it was practice their own religion or travel back to their homelands. Without freedom the Indians could no longer be themselves and they were forced to conform to something they were not.
What is so bad about Indians?
The “White” Americans and “White” government did not like the idea of giving the Indians freedom or citizenship. It was mainly due to the fact that they didn’t like the “Indian idea for freedom” which was mainly centered towards preserving cultural and political autonomy and maintaining control of their ancestral land. Officials wanted the federal government to persuade or force the Indians to surrender most of their land and to exchange their religion, communal property, nomadic way of life, and gender religions for Christian worship, private ownership, and small farming on reservations with men tilling the fields and women working in the home.
4 Whites were not fond of the Indians’ way of life and would not let them become citizens until they dropped all Indian ways of life and adopted the American lifestyle. Government passed the “Dawes Act” which would give land back to the Indians as long as they would adopt the habits of “civilized life.” Many more laws and treaties were passed offering Indians citizenship, however they were only applicable if they left their tribal setting.
Sitting Bull just wanted his people to live a life of Freedom, much like Chief Joseph. Both risked their lives to give their people the freedom they thought they deserved. Even though Indians were offered American citizenship, they could never really gain the freedom they wanted because they would have to give up their traditional way of life.
For the Indians, the only way to gain a life of freedom was to give up their previous life. Indians did not want to just conform to the “normal” American life. Indians wanted to live the American life where they could live in peace and do as they please without being condemned by others who are not like them.
Foner, Eric, “An Indian’s View of Indian Affairs”, Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History, Vol. 2, 3rd edition, edited by Eric Foner, 28. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2011 Foner, Eric, “An Indian’s View of Indian Affairs”, Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History, Vol. 2, 3rd edition, edited by Eric Foner, 28. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2011 Foner, Eric, Give Me Liberty: An American History, Vol. 2, 3rd Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2011 “President Grant advances “Peace Policy” with tribes – Timeline – Native Voices.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/nativevoices/timeline/342.html (accessed September 24, 2013). Trafzer, Clifford, American Indians/ American Presidents: A History, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009
Cite this What does Freedom Mean to the Indians?
What does Freedom Mean to the Indians?. (2016, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/indians-rights/