I have decided to dive into the depths of the American Indians and the reasoning behind all of the poverty and the oppression of the “white man. ” In doing so I came across a couple of questions that I would like to answer. A). How did the Indian Removal Act of 1830 affect Native American culture, financial status, health, and B). Identity and how is life on the reservation oppressive for the Native Americans? In the 1830’s, Native Americans still lived in their native lands for the most part, however, white men considered them to be a threat to their peace.
So in 1838, the Federal government had what they called the “Five Civilized Tribes” removed. These tribes were the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole. They were force to march, under cruel conditions, through the cold winter weather, up to 800 miles from their homelands to the “Indian Territory”, which happens to now be Oklahoma. During this move known as the “Trail of Tears,” over 4,000 Cherokees alone died, because of disease, exposure, and starvation, out of the 15,000 moved. U. S. government officials concluded that unspecified tracts of “Indian Territory” needed to be more sharply defined into resevations.
Those opposing Westward expansion were rounded up and forcibly confined to the reservations. This was the cause of the Great Plains Wars of the 1860’s-1880’s (History and Culture: Indian Removal Act-1830). The same year the Indian Removal Act was passed, gold was found on the Cherokee lands. There was no way of stopping the rush of Georgians, Carolinians, Virginians, and Alabamians looking for instant wealth. Georgia held lotteries to give Cherokee land and gold rights to the whites. The state had already declared all laws of the Cherokee Nation null and void.
After June 1, 1830, the Cherokee had no rights or say in anything (the Trail of Tears). In the 1860’s-1870’s ferocious fighting from both the whites and the natives were seen at battles such as the Fetterman Massacre, the Wagon Box Fight, the Sand Creek Massacre, Beecher’s Island, the Battle of the Rosebud, and the Battle of Little Bighorn. Late 1875 Sioux and Chyenne Indians left their reservations defiant and outraged over the continued intrusions of the whites into their sacred land in the Black Hills. They gathered together in Montana with the great warrior Sitting Bull to fight for their lands.
They began to fight in the summer of 1876. This battle known as the Battle of Little Bighorn. However, within a year, the Sioux nation was defeated and broken (Plains Indian Wars). To explain the poverty of the reservations, People usually turn to alcoholism, corruption not to mention the long distances to jobs and the dusty underdeveloped land that seems no good for growing much. These are just symptoms. It’s all about property rights, and American Indians don’t have that. The Native American population of the United States faces serious cultural and social dilemmas that threaten their society.
Among all of these issues are their poverty problems, alienation and a high rate of alcoholism. Also they fear the loss of their culture identity due to interracial marriages and the enormous amount of young Native Americans who are leaving the territories of the Indian Nations and becoming fully integrated into American culture (USATODAY. com). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie says it best: “But I can’t blame my parents for our poverty because my mother and father are the twin suns around which I orbit and my world would EXPLODE without them.
And it’s not like my mother and father were born into wealth. It’s not like they gambled away their family fortunes. My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people (SA. Absolutely True Diary. pg. 11). Reading this book in particular really struck my curiosity and left me wanting to divulge some Native American culture and answer some questions. I want to really get a grasp on this whole Native American stereotype. Why hey drink so heavily, why they are so poor and hungry, with little to no education, alarming suicide rates, and diabetes and other health problems. After my research I have come across several things. The most important of which is, the Trail of Tears, where everything began. The Indian Removal Act was signed by Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, authorizing the president to grant any unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands with existing state borders. A few tribes went peacefully, but many resisted the relocation policy.
During the fall and winter of 1838 and 1839, the Cherokees were moved west forcibly by the United States government. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on this march, which became known as the “Trail of Tears” (History and Culture: Indian Removal Act). Native American resevations are constantly plagued by alcoholism, domestic violence, and teen suicide. Apparently living in poverty that is bad like this with all of the stress and lack of proper food, links Native Americans to diabetes as well.
According to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, “the ‘thrifty gene’ theory proposes that Aferican Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans inherited a gene from their ancestors which enabled them to use food more efficiently during ‘feast and famine’ cycles; this causes certain populations to be more susceptible to obesity and to developing type 2 diabetes” (Poverty, Stress and Diabetes among Native Americans).
Consider these sobering statistics from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service: . 2 times higher — Likelihood of American Indians and Alaska Natives to have diabetes compared with non-Hispanic whites 68% — Percent increase in diabetes from 1994 to 2004 in American Indian and Alaska Native youth aged 15-19 years 95% — Percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives with diabetes who have type 2 diabetes (as opposed to type 1 diabetes) 30% — Estimated percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives who have pre-diabetes American Indians and Alaska Natives are clearly at greater risk (Living with Diabetes). Native American Stats: 50-85% Unemployment * 30% Live below the federal poverty line * 15-20% Don’t have running water or electricity * Suicide and cancer rate three times national average * Infant mortality rate three times national average * Life expectancy 40-55 years old (Native American poverty continues under Obama). American Indians and Native Americans number 4. 5 million. Of these numbers, according to the Census Bureau, earn a median annual income $33,627. One in every four lives in poverty and nearly a third are without health insurance.
Congress had failed to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act since 1992. Initially passed in 1976, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act was designed to bring the declining health of Native American communities up to the standard enjoyed by all Americans. (Economic Research Service). A major cause of poverty in Native American communities is the persistent lack of opportunity. Native Americans are known alcoholics. Alcohol found its way to the Native American population by North America during early contacts between Native people and European visitors.
It’s still a huge way of life for Native Americans due to genetics and problems dealing with a lot of trauma living life on reservations. One good reason for Indians being caught up in the ongoing downward spiral of the reservation life is, being looked at like a traitor. Most Native American families pride themselves on their background and heritage. They frown upon the kids moving off of the reservation and joining the “white mans” life. It is happening more frequently in today’s society. `Native Americans were forced and pressured to move off of their lands.
They had to rebuild their homes, and their lives. They had to start all over again, It seems like the obvious cause of oppression for Native Americans comes from life on the reservations. They have been run out of their homes, off of their own lands and move to lands that are not rich in any kind of game for them to hunt and keep, or good waters for them to drink. They have horrible health insurance, high unemployment rates, high teen suicide and school drop-out rates, and are a high risk for diabetes and alcoholism.
It is interesting to me that I had to really research this to become more aware of it. I had no idea that Native Americans were having that hard of a time. It needs to be brought up so more people can become aware of it. It seems to me like the Native Americans are getting a bad hand in the game of life. They were forced off of their lands on to basically prison camps they call “reservations. ” They have higher rates of school drop-out, teen suicide, domestic violence, unemployment, alcoholism and type II diabetes. I feel like just being born on a reservation is a crappy deal.
We really need to bring awareness on this subject and help these Native Americans that we got our land from. Make their health care coverage better, build stores and commercial buildings for employment, give the school a bit more money, and give them better programs for families, and food pantry’s. If we do not start doing our part to help them out, their race could go extinct. They have such a beautiful spiritual culture. Spending the day drinking alcohol would not sound so horrible to me in circumstances such as these.
- “History and Culture: Indian Removal Act – 1830 American Indian Relief Council. ” History and Culture: Indian Removal Act – 1830 American Indian Relief Council. N. p. , n. d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www. nrcprograms. org/site/PageServer? pagename=airc_hist_indianremovalact>.
- “10. 1 The Cherokee and the Trail of Tears. ” The Cherokee and the Trail of Tears. N. p. , n. d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www. learnnc. org/lp/editions/nchist-newnation/4548>.
- “Plains Indian Wars. ” Plains Indian Wars. N. p. , n. d. Web. 24 Nov. 012. <http://www. us7thcavcof. com/GCompany. html>.
- “USATODAY. com – Poverty Compounds Tough Reservation Life for Indian Youths. ” USATODAY. com – Poverty Compounds Tough Reservation Life for Indian Youths. N. p. , 27 Mar. 2005. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://usatoday30. usatoday. com/news/nation/2005-03-27-reservation-life_x. htm>.
- “Result Filters. ” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U. S. National Library of Medicine, n. d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/pubmed/3068262>.