Federal Indian Agent And their association with native americans

Tension Between Two Civilizations

Tension has always existed between Americans and Indians ever since the British sailed settled in America. As time progressed, more and more issues between the two groups formed until finally war broke out between them in the 19th century. In 1858, Minnesota gained statehood within America, and in order to have peace with the Indians, the two groups made a deal. The Indians agreed to live on the land given to them by the American government as long as they received regular payments and supplies. The Americans unfortunately didn't hold up the end of their deal. During the summer of 1862, many Dakotan Indians were enraged by the indifference of the Americans, so in retaliation, they surprise attacked the people of the state killing many Americans. As a response to their attack, the government sentenced 307 Dakotans to death. They also decided to end all treaties with Indians, and kicked them all out of Minnesota causing them to join up with their allies. Because of the Dakotan attack, mass hysteria formed in the hearts of white men and women causing an incident where Colorado natives attacked the Cheyenne tribe without reason. Blake Kettle, tribe leader of the Cheyenne's, moved his tribe to Sand Creek after receiving advice from U.S. agents so a treaty could be formed to prevent further death. This lead to the Sand Creek Massacre, where the Colorado militia slaughtered the women and children of the tribe, and hung up their genitalia and scalps on the Apollo Theatre. Enraged by their attack, the Cheyenne traveled to different tribes and engaged in a war with America known as the Indian Wars. At the end, the tribes were able to end their war with a truce, but that didn't put an end to the brutality towards the Native Americans. More and more massacres occurred and the white people viewed Indians as savages and killers. In order to put an end to all the hostility, President Ulysses S. Grant used different federal branches to create a better relationship between Americans and Indians. One of these organizations was called the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A Depiction of the Sand Creek Massacre painted by Robert Lindneaux

The Bureau of Indian Affairs

In order to better the relationship between the Native Americans and the Americans, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was formed. This organization was founded by John C. Calhoun in 1824 originally as a part of the Department of War but then later as a branch of the Department of the Interior. They were inactive during the Civil War, but the organization began again after the tension between Indians and Americans grew. Their original job was to negotiate treaties and trade with Indian Tribes. Because of their work, the BIA has negotiated several treaties between Indian Tribes and the American Government throughout the 19th century preventing further bloodshed. The BIA later focused on doing everything possible to help Indians better their lives through schooling programs, social services, job employment, and land management. The BIA also helped with the implementation of many federal laws that have affected the lives of Indians and Americans. Many other organizations formed with a similar mission due to the hard work of the BIA. The BIA was meant to be a force for good, but it turned into another reason for tension and problems for Americans and Indians.

Portrait of John C. Calhoun

Tension Becomes Stronger Than Ever

Tension between Indians and Americans grew more since creation of the BIA because of the American government and their beliefs. After the Civil War, Congress created a panel of men known as the Joint Special Committee. Their job was "to inquire about the current conditions of Indian Tribes." The committee created the idea in white Christian minds that Indians needed the help of white men to evolve. This belief stemmed the idea of assimilating Indians into modern culture and forcing them to give up their traditions. The BIA believed that by assimilating Indians into American culture, they were helping them, but they were actually hurting them. One way the government attempted to assimilate Indians was through education. The BIA helped create off-reservation schools for Native American children. While at these schools, Indian boys learned modern farming techniques and Indian girls learned how to housekeep and cook. These children were learning new ways of doing activities that completely went against their heritage and the traditions of their people. The children were also forced to speak English. If they spoke in their native tongues, they would be severely punished by their teachers. Stories from Native American children described their time in their boarding schools as a living nightmare and that they lost their sense of self and their culture. The BIA also was meant to protect the land of Indians, but instead they sold the precious resources of the Indians causing the Native Americans to lose billions of dollars. On a broader scope, when Indians also formed deals with the Americans, they made one deal with the leaders face-to-face, but the agreement was altered by Congress later on due to the American government having too many leaders and representatives. The American government also passed laws that made it seem like they wanted to help the Indians, but in truth, they were meant to assimilate Indians. For example, the Dawes Severalty Act in 1887 destroyed reservations and made them into individual landholdings and homesteads for individual Indians. The government believed that Indians owning their own land and taking care of their own agriculture was an essential step to their assimilation to American culture. By accepting the land, Indians would also immediately become American citizens. Many Indians did not accept this deal, so many Indians were homeless because they could not go back to the reservations. The Curtis Act of 1898 was an amendment to the Dawes Act which was meant to convince Indian tribes to use the individual landholdings. But by agreeing to the Curtis Act, Indian were forced to give up their governments as well as their right to the lands. America then began selling the leftover unused land to non-Indians. Due to this law, countless Indian lost their land and the Americans turned the leftover unused lots into the state of Oklahoma. Conflicts like these didn't just end in the 19th century; they continued to happen throughout history. Riots formed against these organizations during the 20th century because they did not live up to their supposed missions. Indians and American may no longer fight each other to the death, but the tension between these two factions still exist after all that has happened between them.

Mural by Carol Highsmith in the Bureau of Indian Affairs displaying the tension between the two civilizations
Created By
Giancarlo Castillo

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