Native American History II - IDST 2315

End of Frontier à Multicultural America

Source (for some statistics): Takaki, Ronald. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.

Much of this information also gleaned from many years of studying Native American history, anthropology, and folklore.

1891-  ·        US Census Bureau declares frontier no longer exists (=entire continent settled)                      ·        US manufact. production surpassed combined total of Engl. & Germ.

1840 – 70% Americans = farmers, 15% manufacturing jobs

1900 - 37%  Americans = farmers, 35% manufacturing jobs (& transportation/public utilities)

“FREE” land à American Character with inventive turn of mind valued

Europeans are Americanized by wilderness (& Indians) à new virile people

As multiculturalism increases, fear of class conflicts means BORDERS more necessary to maintain hierarchy


Indian Removal, strengthened during Andrew Jackson's presidency, had stripped most Native Americans in the Eastern half of the United States of their lands and traditional life ways.  Even the "five civilized tribes"--Cherokees, Chocktaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles--who made every effort to get along with their neighbors--had been removed through trickery and at gunpoint and were forced, for instance on the "trail of tears," to relocate to "Indian Territory," a thousand miles or more from their homelands, an alien and profitless place for them. Some Cherokee managed to battle and through secrecy and ingenuity, obtained land that is today the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina.

Those Indians originally from the West did fare better. As American expansionism continued, the government sought increasingly to contain and control Native people.

Boarding Schools were one such attempt. Children were taken from their homes and families, sometimes against their will and against their families' wishes, and sent sometimes great distances, to places like the Carlisle Institute in Pennsylvania, the brainchild of former soldier Richard Henry Pratt. His philosophy was "kill the Indian, save the man." For more information about boarding schools, see my work, the video from class (PBS's American Experience "In the White Man's Image"), or many websites, including one connecting to our reading by Zitkala Sa (see also Zitkala Sa).. Many Native people have discussed their boarding school experiences.


During the late 19th century, when the government was trying to completely open up the West for White settlement, some Native Americans tried to hold on to the old traditions and hoped for salvation from the relentless onslaught of of Anglo Americans. This movement was initiated by a Paiute Indian, but quickly spread throughout the Western United States.

Wovoka (Paiute) – leader of the Ghost dance -- has a vision in1889, in which he receives instructions to help bring about a promised restoration of the buffalo (which were killed near to extinction deliberately by Americans), a resurrection of Christ as an Indian, and a restoration of the old ways. All this was to be brought about by dancing, prayer, and faith.

Ghost dancers—often elders—wear muslin shirts—blue & yellow lines=hope of reborn world without whites

Washington perceives this religious movement as a threat, pursues leaders (arrests some like Sitting Bull)

WOUNDED KNEE – massacre of a peaceful group of Sioux / Lakota Indians at their encampment

In 1973, at Wounded Knee II, A.I.M. protestors use the massacre at Wounded Knee as a symbol for their civil rights activism. They occupy the site of the massacre (now a memorial) and demand equal rights for Indians in the 20th century (who were often raised in boarding schools, were victims of racism, and were not allowed to practice their own religious traditions)

After Wounded Knee (1890), most Indians in the West were subdued and, without the buffalo on which their nomadic life depended, settled onto government controlled reservations.

INDIAN AGENTS were in charge of various reservations & were supposed to distribute food and supplies from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (a government agency)

à “The Indian Question” (some sympathy for Indians; also some corruption among agents)

Remember that Americans either romanticized or vilified Indians throughout our history (see more on this topic)

Dawes act—1880 (way to take away land previously promised and ceded to Indians)

1902 – new law requires all allotted land, “upon the death of owner” be sold at public auction

1903 Supreme Court decided Indian consent not necessary to dispose of Indian land; sell it to whites

1934 Indian Reorganization Act (John Collier—admired in Indian community)

·        “new deal” à abolition of allotment; establish Indian governments & preserve Indian civilization, arts, crafts, traditions; supported by FDR

·        Local rez govts allowed; but only applied in tribes where majority members voted to accept it:

o     1935 – 172 tribes (132,426 people) vote in

o     73 tribes (63,467) vote against (including Navajos)

§       Navajos didn’t want to be told what is good for them

1863 – Navajos surrender to Kit Carson (“The only good Indian is a dead Indian”)–Long Walk (resettlement in Southern N. Mex.)

1868 – they’re returned & given reservation & sheep Carson destroyed are replaced

Boulder Dam (& worry over erosion) lead govt to require sheep stock reduction

·        promoted by Collier

·        resisted by Navajo

·        actually erosion caused more by dry weather

By 1935 – stock reduced by 400,00 sheep & goats but govt wants further 56% reduction à many Navajos dependent on govt / wage income

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