Assimilation of Native Americans Into Society

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, United States, Indigenous peoples of the Americas Pages: 8 (2583 words) Published: May 9, 2012
“How different would be the sensation of a philosophic mind to reflect that instead of exterminating a part of the human race by our modes of population that we had persevered through all difficulties and at last had imparted our Knowledge of cultivating and the arts, to the Aboriginals of the Country by which the source of future life and happiness had been preserved and extended. But it has been conceived to be impracticable to civilize the Indians of North America – This opinion is probably more convenient than just.” (Henry Knox to George Washington 1970’s) Since the founding of The United States of America, the complication of dealing with the indigenous Native Americans has been prevalent. The opening quotation emphasizes the idea that our fathers grappled over what to do with the Indians since the founding of our country. Post colonial era Native Americans were discriminated against in a battle defined by “the white man versus the red man”. As American settlers and institutions expanded westward, the Indians were pushed aside not only by containing them in reservations but were often disregarded as Americans from the “civilized” and educated white American. These prejudices even came from far up the totem pole in Washington. The politics in the 19th century American Government regarding the indigenous people were defined by an era of the “Americanization of the Native American people”. This analytical research paper will address the issue of Native American assimilation and display how the efforts made by the American Government failed to shed a positive light on the indigenous people. It will also explore the founding of specific schools for Indian children, namely the Carlisle Indian Industrial School for Native Americans. The school was intended to integrate Indian children into western society by educating them and transforming their cultural beliefs. Although founder Richard Henry Pratt had good intentions for the school, it ended up doing more destruction to the Indians than success assimilating them into American society. Before the assimilation of Indians can be fully understood, the history of the segregation of the red man must be established. “Before the Civil War it had been possible to imagine that Indians and whites could remain permanently separate from on another” The national census of this time was that the minority ethnic groups did not belong in the same category as the “Americans”, and that they should remain a separate existence. The general idea was that separation was the easier and “safe” way to deal with the ethnic differences rather than entering into a group conflict. Native Americans were easier to separate into cultural groupings, because they were the ones who chose to do so. Blacks, Irish, and Native Americans alike, Hoxie asserts, “In this compartmentalized society, minority groups welcomed the opportunity to be socially isolated and culturally autonomous.” As the whites expanded westward eventually towards California and Oregon, the separation between the two ethnic groups would no longer be possible. The natives, who once claimed the North American continent as their own, were different from the generality of Americans. They were known as the “others”. Eventually, with the help of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Indians were pushed back to the west and there was a line known as the “Indian frontier”. This land came with a promise that the white man would not desire this land for generations. But as the nation expanded, the indigenous people were forced onto smaller and smaller reservations, which restricted them economically. They were mostly restricted from food and other resources. Brenda J. Child emphasizes this in her book Boarding School Seasons as she makes claims that the Ojibwe once made a lucrative profit farming rice, but “were left with a fair amount of swampland after their allotments had been made…Few Nett Lakers were able to maintain adequate gardens, but...
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