Written Assignment 4
March 22, 2014
Native Americans were the first people living in the United States until Europeans arrived, sought to colonize and take over. During this time, Native Americans were subjugated to warfare, new government and losing their lands. Forced to submit to White settlers, many Native Americans have had to choose between assimilating into a White culture or preserving their heritage and ancestry. This essay will discuss public policy regarding Native Americans and provide some examples pertaining to ethnocentrism and cultural relativity.
Public Policy and Ethnocentrism
From early on, Native American culture has been on a collision with White society. During the colonial period, the government did not want to have any issues with settlers and Native Americans. Schaefer mentions that Whites were to take precedence regardless of the needs or interference by tribes (150). The secretary of war was put in charge of the Native Americans with regard to any Federal communications. Later in 1824 the Bureau of Indian Affairs was created as an intermediary between the Native Americans and the government (Schaefer 150). As White settlers started to move west, they had felt that Native Americans were blocking their progress. This led to the Indian Removal Act that was passed in 1824 which forced several tribes to leave their ancestral lands. Schaefer also mentions, “the federal government enacted legislation that affected them with minimal consultation” (151). The government’s goal was to weaken tribal institutions so that Native Americans would assimilate.
The government still tried to make Native Americans become more like White homesteaders. In 1887 the government passed the Allotment Act which would turn tribal members into land owners. While each family was given 160 acres, there were some stipulations. Schaefer mentions that “the act prohibited Native Americans from selling the land for 25 years” (153). The other issue was with the Native Americans not knowing how to farm or utilize the land. They also did not receive assistance or training from the government and as a result, did not do well with homesteading. Since the land could not be legally sold, the Bureau of Indian Affairs ended up leasing the land to White landowners (Schaefer 153). During this time, it was believed that Native Americans should put aside tribal identities and assimilate into White culture.
As time progressed, the Indian Reorganization Act which was also known as the Wheeler-Howard Act was passed in 1934 (Schaefer 153). This act was supposed to recognize tribal identity but still pushed for assimilation. Tribes would be allowed to create a constitution and elect leaders within reservations. The Reorganization Act did allow Native Americans to have more control over actions taken on their behalf. Schaefer mentions that this act had tried to unite government agencies with tribal dealings by immersing Native Americans in procedures common to White society (153). However, the act still allowed for non-Native Americans to control issues regarding reservations. Schaefer states that, “The Reorganization Act sought to assimilate Native Americans into the dominant society on the dominant group’s terms” (153).
Moving Towards Cultural Relativity
After years of the United States government trying to force Native Americans to Assimilate, they have started to realize that their efforts were not facilitating pluralism. Schaefer mentions the Termination Act of 1953 “which was considered a controversial government policy towards Native Americans” (156). This act cancelled federal services such as medical care, schools, and road equipment that took effect immediately. There was no coordination between tribes or government agencies which affected the tribes in a disastrous manner. They were not able to perform some basic services such as road repair or fire protection without the...
References: Schaefer, R. (2012). Native Americans: The First Americans (13th ed), Chapter 6 (pp. 147-171). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.
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