Western Expansion Assimilation and Cultural Genocide, The dawes act

The indigenous people of America, commonly known as the Native Americans, first came to America thousands of years before the European settlers. They made America their home, and occupy the land with sub divided tribal groups. The Native Americans thrived off of the land, using it for survival. But when the Europeans settled in America, they were enslaved, dispossessed, and annihilated. The Native Americans experienced a genocide that took tons of lives and violated their cultural and social life.

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There was a cultural genocide that took place among the Native Americans. The American government tried to destroy the Native American culture by capturing and brainwashing the children. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Bureau of Indian Affairs founded American Indian boarding schools(Class Discussion, Notes). The schools would kidnap the children from their families and force them to attend these schools which ideally are suppose to teach the the true American culture, instead these boarding schools were white washing the children's culture and history. They were physically, sexually, and mentally abused in order to force the whites ideas into their perspective of Americanism.

A collective statement written by native American prisoners and former prisoners article named; The American Indian in the White Man's Prisons: A Story of Genocide mentioned that "The children could not to talk in their native languages, they could not wear their tribal clothing but they had to wear uniforms, and they were harshly disciplined" ( Reed 7). When these children returned home from boarding schools they were confused and they lost their cultural identity. That lead to suicide and violence. Robbing Native American children of their culture was a form of genocide because once they were done with school, they either no longer wanted to be a Native because in school they were taught that Natives are savages or they wanted to be a Native American again, but couldn’t because they didn’t fit in (Class Discussion Notes). This form of cultural genocide engendered a progressive diminishment of the Native Americans culture and heritage.

General Allotment Act or Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 was created by Senator Henry Laurens Dawes of Massachusetts. The objectives of the Dawes Act were to lift the Native Americans out of poverty and to stimulate assimilation of them into mainstream American society. The 'Indian Question' book written by Ronald Takaki mentioned that "The Dawes Commission, set up under an Indian Office appropriation bill in 1893, was created to try to persuade the Five Civilized Tribes to agree to allotment plans." ( Takaki 220-231), in this it explains how the act was purposely planned by the whites to assign acers of lands to the Native Americans. After the act was passed a lot of Native Americans lost their native lands and did not have sufficient land for farming. This division technique planned by the whites was only re-introducing the ideology of "share cropping" to the Native Americans in a more appealing manner. Though this act only initiated disagreements and unnecessary displacement among the tribes.

Native Americans have faced a lot of maltreatment and oppression. The US government was constantly trying to force the idea of true Americanism and diminish the Native Americans culture and heritage for many years.


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