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Reply #20: Coercive Assimilation, 1900s to 1960s [View All]

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seemslikeadream Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-02-04 10:24 AM
Response to Reply #19
20. Coercive Assimilation, 1900s to 1960s

Throughout both their histories, the U.S. and Canadian governments have used their dealings with Native Americans to increase federal power. During removal and the Indian Wars, the U.S. government, especially the federal army, grew not only in manpower but also in bureaucracy. Provisioning federal troops, supplying them, and establishing the governing agencies for Native Americans increased the size and power of the national government. Similarly in Canada, the Indian Act and the numbered treaties created large governing agencies. Such bureaucraciesknown eventually in the United States as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and as the Department of Indian Affairs (later the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, or DIAND) in Canadaexerted powerful influences over the everyday lives of Native Americans, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Beginning mainly in the 1880s in the United States and shortly thereafter in Canada, these government agencies instituted programs that aimed to reconfigure the fabric of Native American life. Known as the assimilation campaigns, these policies attempted to transform Native Americans into citizens by stripping them of their lands, cultures, languages, religions, and other markers of their ethnic identity. Assimilation brought continued challenges to Native Americans, many of whom had only recently been confined to reservations and reserves.

For many Native Americans, such cultural attacks were as painful and difficult as the previous generations of war. Native American communities lost their children, who were sent to U.S. boarding schools and Canadian residential schools where families were prohibited from visiting and children were punished for speaking their languages. Some Native American religious rituals, such as the Ghost Dance and Sun Dance, were outlawed. Native American men were forced to abandon previous forms of economic subsistence, such as buffalo hunting, for the distant hope of becoming farmers. Many communities were resettled onto reservation lands in the least desirable and fertile parts of their former territories. Everywhere, government control and surveillance of Native American life increased.
The bitter irony of so many of these coercive policies was that those who developed them believed they were acting in the best interests of Native Americans. Many of Americas leading religious leaders and progressive reformers helped lead this assault to kill the Indian, but save the man. Senator Henry Dawes, for example, sincerely believed that he was helping Native Americans when he sponsored the Dawes Severalty Act, or the General Allotment Act of 1887. That act divided Native American reservations, which were owned communally, into separate plots of land owned by individual tribal members. Supporters thought the act would civilize Native Americans by making them ranchers and farmers and instill individualism.
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