Indian Problem

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2. From a range of Native American perspectives that we have studied in these last four weeks of class, how did Indians respond to the government’s agenda to solve “the Indian Problem”? Where did they cooperate—and why—and where did they resist—and why?

The “Indian Problem” was the “burden” that the United States Government faced throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Government considered the Indians to be a “problem” due to the fact that native tribes were halting the expansionist policy popular in the 1800’s. The main aspects targeted and defined as the “Indian Problem” by the Government were the Indian’s religious practices, household structure and land ownership, and educational differences. The variety of responses that the Indians had in regards to the United States’ policy included a wide range of actions consisting of: working with the United States, a reluctant acceptance of the policy, and flat out resistance.

Before looking into how the Native Americans tribes responded to United States policy, it is first important to look into the “Indian Problem” origins. The “Indian Problem” came to surface after the Revolutionary War, once America had established its own government. Before this the Indians were left to the responsibility of the Crown and the Americans, although worked with the Indians, did not have a lot of control over British Treaties even if most colonists chose to ignore them. After losing the war, the British ceded its land claims to the United States including the land belonging to the Indians. This is where the problem begins: various plots of land were recognized by the various tribes all under the United States which believed it had rights to the land. The Americans, faced with the dilemma of a “savage” people living within their border, attempted to solve this “problem” with Jeffersonian Policy. Starting in the early 19th century, Jeffersonian Policy aimed to assimilate, in lieu of conquering, the Indians, arguing “civilization was destined to triumph over savagery.” Unfortunately for the Indians, the goals of civilizing the Indians helped the Americans gain more land. Indians were encouraged to become farmers who would stay on a single plot of land and were encouraged to participate in the Market Economy allowing Native Peoples to sell their lands. The legislation of Jeffersonian Policy most prominent to what was seen in future years was the attitude concerning the Louisiana Purchase territory and its relationship to the Indians located east of the Mississippi. Jefferson viewed the territory west of the Mississippi as a place to send Natives in the East. This idea of moving Indians to a more “convenient” location was not a new concept but became the foundation of the idea for a Reservation system that played a greater role later in the 19th century and early 20th centuries as Americans began to settle the west.

The United States expansion into the west triggered a need to focus more on Indians and what to “do” with them. Americans were torn between preserving the native people, an important symbol to American culture, and their desire for more land. The early reservation system that the government established primarily focused on getting Indians out of the way of American Citizens, as a means to provide food and supplies due to the fact that the Indians subsistence base was being depleted by the U.S expansion, and as an attempt to “civilize” them using government officials and churches. As Americans moved west, however, Western Indians continued to pose a larger threat due to the fact they were mounted and armed. Between 1853 and 1856 a series of reservations were established but due to the loss of land and buffalo, poor quality provisions, and further influx of Americans Indians were forced to continue raiding which led to much bloodshed. To stop the bloodshed many reformers believed that they needed to intensify the “civilization”...
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