Howard Zinn’s Interpretation of the Homestead Act

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, American Old West, Homestead Act Pages: 2 (472 words) Published: February 20, 2011
Howard Zinn’s interesting interpretation on how the Homestead Act effected the west is a very compelling argument. He speaks from the people’s point of view and his controversial ideas, stemming from Marxism, seem to be supported in part by “An Indian’s View of Indian Affairs” where Chief Young Joseph illustrates the deception of the U.S. government in taking the lands of the Native American people. He talks about the friendships established in trust and the spoken treaties made between the Natives and the Government. These spoken treaties however were grossly broken leaving the Native Americans without substantial land and forced to live in camps and on lands that are not suited to provide for the vast number of people. (Joseph 330-332) I am not saying Zinn is a champion for indigenous rights by any means, actually he is quite the opposite, but I am saying that Zinn and this article do agree on a larger overarching idea. The idea that the U.S government took something that did not belong to them, they took land away from the people and gave it to railroads and banks, developing a system of intolerable monopolies.

Howard Zinn’s argument that in the U.S. government’s efforts to create an economic and land empire from the Atlantic to Pacific the government made a huge economic flop by taking away the mass of farmland in the west and privatizing it. The problem with the Homestead Act is that it caused the everyday farmer to have no choice but take out loans from the banks to buy the tools to have mechanized farming. The privatized and corporate landowners started mechanizing the entire farming process on vast acres of land, making it impossible for the family farm to survive using traditional means. Unfortunately the banks easily controlled prices of crops making them very low and in turn impossible for the farmers keep up. Zinn would say the Populist movement is the hero of the move to the west, not the Homestead Act. (Zinn 275-295)

The view most commonly...
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