Native American Hardships
Native Americans have been struggling in society since the Europeans had migrated to the United States of America. Native Americans have always tried to get along with the Europeans yet the Europeans wanted dominance over the Native American population. In American schools children learn about how the Native American were savages and how they were the cause of the tension between the Europeans and the Native Americans. Native Americans still haven’t assimilated into American culture or Society.
Native Americans and Europeans have been in contact for centuries and there are stories depicting first encounters. There is one story by Sarah Winnemucca describing her life among the Piute’s tribe. In this tale there were prophecies describing White men to come to the Native American tribes and being their brothers. When the Europeans came in contact with the Native Americans the Native Americans perceived them to be their brothers because of the prophecy. Due to the prophecy the Native Americans did not take any precautions when meeting the Europeans. The Europeans wouldn’t be friends with the Native Americans and kept them at a distant. The Native Americans than had to migrate just so the White men would not cause violence to their tribes. They were skirmishes between the Native Americans and American colonizers which made more conflict between the Native Americans and Colonists. (Winnemucca 507-17) There were many wars and battles fought between the Native Americans and Colonists of America during the 1800’s. Many of these wars were ended by treaties that the Native Americans and American Government agreed upon. When reading the articles in Norton Anthology of American literature volume C, I found that the Native Americans referred to treaties quite often and they would be footnotes describing the name and details of the treaties. I found this quite interesting so I decided to look for a journal relating to Native American treaties.
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The article stated that there had been two million square miles of land transferred from the sovereignty of Native Americans to the United States of America. The president use to deal with the Native people directly but in 1871 the congress stripped that right. 2.5million Native Americans living in the present-day United States and the U.S. government officially recognizes 565 tribes and Alaska Native peoples . They are concentrated in California, Oklahoma, and the Southwest. There were many treaties offered to the Native Americans and this chart displays all these different treaties even small ones that weren’t accepted. Only a portion of wars involving Native Americans were actually full fledge wars with start and finish dates as well as real planned battles such as Red Clouds War. The other type of war were small sporadic attacks such as Third Seminole War (1855–58) involved very small numbers of Indian warriors with the conflict itself small attacks on Florida settlers with less than 200 Native American Attackers.
Many treaties came after wars such as all treaties do such as the Treaty of Fort Laramie which was established after Red Clouds War. A lot of treaties were followed up by Indian Removal System where the Indians would be transferred to a piece of land they could call their own but wasn’t anything close to what they deserved these pieces of land were called reservations. This article was a bit shocking considering that they didn’t mention what I actually wanted to see in a treaty article which was how the Native Americans were usually lied to and their treaties would fall apart. In the story they mentioned the treaty of Fort Laramie which the Native American in the story described how the treaty wasn’t upheld because there was gold in the black Hills, and they moved the Native Americans and also they didn’t give them supplies. I looked at several stories that were dealing with treaties and I couldn’t find a journal dealing with how the Native Americans were mistreated by treaties signed by the United States of America. (Spirling 84-97) It disappoints me greatly that as an American citizen that my government would treat Native Americans this way and blatantly lie. American citizens did make reparations. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act require federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to return Native American “cultural items” to their respective tribes. The Native Americans definitely deserve these reparations but it also disappoints me how people are misinformed about Native Americans. Most people assume since there are Native American Casinos that Native Americans are rich which is not true at all most native Americans don’t receive any money from casinos most of the money if their tribe even owns a casino goes to the high ranking members of the tribe. Native Americans have many problems in their culture and society.
Some problems are alcohol problems along with poverty. America as a whole should step up and help these people just as we do for other people such as the money raised for Haiti and Japan. If we are willing to help other countries we should be willing to help people in our own country even if they are a sovereign nation. People don’t realize the problems locally because Native Americans are not associated when describing American culture and society. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s young Native Americans were sent to schools where they were being trained to be assimilate into American culture and leave all their culture behind which was not the right way to handle the situation. The young Native Americans should have been taught American culture while still being able to hold onto their own culture. There was one story that exemplifies this exact situation and it was written by Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. Their were stories of Zitkala Sa called “Impressions of an Indian childhood” and “The school days of an Indian girl” by Gertrude Simmons Bonnin and are quite sad but show a triumph when overcoming hardships. The short selections described Zitkala’s life and dealt with assimilation. There was symbolism in these stories in several different ways. She seemed miserable after attending the eastern school. She went through that school and then attended college all so she could obtain knowledge. Zitkala Sa is a young Native American girl part of the Sioux tribe. Her and her family were made to relocate and lost members of the family due to this relocation.
The stories don’t blatantly state this but to my knowledge the relocation is due to when Andrew Jackson was president he made many Native Americans relocate to reservations called the trail of tears. Many presidents after Jackson continued to move the Native Americans to pieces of land that the European Americans did not want. This relocation led to her uncle and sister dying due to illness. Many native Americans dealt with death during these relocations because they would receive little or no food on the trip and travel by walking or wagons. This did not affect Zitkala as much as her mother who had a distain for the “palefaces” or European Americans. Due to these deaths in their family her mother did not want Zitkala to go with the missionaries to the school in the east where she would receive an education. There were a lot of differences shown between the European Americans and Native American values in this story. (Bonnin 1087-1094) The story allows the reader to see how a young Native American girl would have to go this school in the East and learn traditions of the European Americans.
Native Americans during this time did try at the schools in the east so they could obtain knowledge and help their people assimilate into American Society. The education in the east made a gap between the older generations and the younger generations of Native Americans. In the story this young girl had to give up her traditions such as her long hair just to meet with America’s culture and lose her culture. This story exemplifies her triumph over her hardships such as many other Native Americans had to go through. Also the story talks about the trail of tears which involved Native Americans having to relocate to parts of America other colonists didn’t already live or want to live. Many people died on the relocation trips, so intern many Native American families were destroyed by these events and a bigger rift came between the Native Americans and American Government.
There was a story by John M. Oskison which went to describe how an older Native American wanted to assimilate into Christianity. The story was called The problem of Old Harjo and dealt with a man named Harjo. Harjo was around missionaries a lot and wanted to become a Christian. He went to many services and was ready to convert to Christianity. The problem he had was that he had two wives and in Christianity you’re only allowed to have one. So the young missionary told the man he would have to get rid of one but they both meant a lot to him and after you read the story you realize they all like the situation and want to stay together. The young missionary sees this and does not ask him to become a Christian anymore but to be happy with his situation. (Oskison 1036-41) This story shows another way that a Native American cannot become part of American culture or society just because he cannot convert to Christianity. Religion seems to be a big part of American culture even in today’s society. This man Harjo wanted to become Christian but because of his old cultural traditions such as having more than one wife he can’t convert. This shows how two cultures even in the same country can be completely different. Native Americans have trouble trying to assimilate when their cultural traditions are so different.
I had many reactions to the stories I read and the topic as a whole. I feel like Native Americans should be seen as Americans even if they have their own traditions and even if they are to be their own sovereign nation, they should still receive help from America. Americans have caused most of the problems to Native Americans just by stealing their lands and making their own country. Even though Americans have made reparations with the Native Americans we still owe them a lot and should be willing to help them out. The American government has treated them unfairly and lied to them on many occasions and even in legal documents such as the treaties discussed earlier. Native Americans have gone through enough hardships they could use the government and citizen’s help even if it is by not discriminating or judging them.
This paper was written to describe how Native Americans have struggled in society and haven’t become assimilated yet still exist in American society just by being in America itself. Native Americans have gone through a lot due to the early colonization of America and wars during the 1800’s and even though most of the problems were caused by the European Americans, the blame goes onto the Native Americans. Native Americans should get to be seen in a higher light and in the American educational system they should be honest and tell student how the history really occurred. One example I could use is how in elementary school everyone learned that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves but in high school or college you learn that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves because he was losing the war and need the Emancipation Proclamation to help him win. The same thing happens when discussing Native Americans many young students end up seeing the Native Americans as savages and brutes, they get described as they did in old westerns and they weren’t savages or brutes. The Native Americans deserve to be treated equally especially after the hardships which they managed to triumph through.