Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental USA, parts of Alaska, and the state of Hawaii. History of moving of Europeans to America from the end of 15th century.
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Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as intact political communities. The terms used to refer to Native Americans have been controversial. According to a 1995 US Census Bureau set of home interviews, most of the respondents with an expressed preference refer to themselves as American Indians or Indians, and this term has been adopted by major newspapers and some academic groups. native american history state
Since the end of the 15th century, the migration of Europeans to the Americas, and their importation of Africans as slaves, has led to centuries of conflict and adjustment between Old and New World societies. Europeans created most of the early written historical record about Native Americans after the colonists' immigration to the Americas. Many Native Americans lived as hunter-gatherer societies and told their histories by oral traditions. In many groups, women carried out sophisticated cultivation of numerous varieties of staple crops: maize, beans and squash. The indigenous cultures were quite different from those of the agrarian, proto-industrial, mostly Christian immigrants from western Eurasia. Many Native cultures were matrilineal; the people occupied lands for use of the entire community, for hunting or agriculture. Europeans had patriarchal cultures and had developed concepts of individual property rights in land that were extremely different.
The differences in culture between the established native Americans and immigrant Europeans, as well as shifting alliances among different nations of each culture through the centuries, caused extensive political tension, ethnic violence and social disruption. The American Indians suffered high fatalities from the contact with infectious Eurasian diseases, to which they had no acquired immunity. Epidemics after European contact caused the greatest loss of life for indigenous populations. Estimates of the pre-Columbian population of what today constitutes the U.S. vary significantly, ranging from 1 million to 18 million.
After the colonies revolted against Great Britain and established the United States of America, President George Washington and Henry Knox conceived of the idea of "civilizing" Native Americans in preparation for assimilation as United States citizens. Assimilation (whether voluntary as with the Choctaw, or forced) became a consistent policy through American administrations. During the 19th century, the ideology of Manifest destiny became integral to the American nationalist movement. Expansion of European-American populations to the west after the American Revolution resulted in increasing pressure on Native American lands, warfare between the groups, and rising tensions. In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, authorizing the government to relocate most Native Americans of the Deep South from their homelands east of the Mississippi River to the West, to accommodate European-American expansion from the coastal United States. Government officials thought that by decreasing the conflict between the groups, they could help the Indians survive. American Indians have continued to live throughout the South. They have organized and been recognized as tribes since the late 20th century by several states and, in some cases, by the federal government.
The first European Americans to encounter the western tribes were generally fur traders and trappers. There were also Jesuit missionaries active in the Northern Tier. As United States expansion reached into the American West, settler and miner migrants came into increasing conflict with the Great Plains tribes. These were complex nomadic cultures based on using horses and traveling seasonally to hunt bison. They carried out strong resistance to United States incursions in the decades after the American Civil War, in a series of "Indian Wars", which were frequent up until the 1890s. The coming of the transcontinental railroad increased pressures on the western tribes. Over time, the U.S. forced a series of treaties and land cessions by the tribes, and established reservations for them in many western states. U.S. agents encouraged Native Americans to adopt European-style farming and similar pursuits, but the reservation lands were often too poor and dry to support such uses.
Contemporary Native Americans have a unique relationship with the United States because they may be members of nations, tribes, or bands of Native Americans who have sovereignty or independence from the government of the United States. Since the late 1960s, American Indian activism has led to the building of cultural infrastructure and wider recognition of their unique identities and contributions throughout United States society: they have founded independent newspapers, community schools, tribal colleges, and tribal museums and language programs; academic institutions across the country have created Native American studies programs; national and state museums have been founded to recognize American Indians' historic and current contributions. American Indian authors have been increasingly published (with the vast majority writing in the colonial language, English); other American Indians work as historians and in a wide variety of occupations. Traditional and contemporary artists and craftsmen express their identities. Cultural activism has led to an expansion of efforts to teach and preserve indigenous languages for younger generations. Their societies and cultures flourish within a larger population of descendants of immigrants (both voluntary and involuntary): African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and European peoples. At one time, the US required Native Americans to give up tribal membership in order to be accepted as citizens. This policy changed and in 1924, Native Americans who were not already U.S. citizens were granted citizenship by Congress.Contents [show]
Further information: Settlement of the Americas, Paleo-Indians, and Pre-Columbian era
Map showing the approximate location of the ice-free corridor and specific Paleoindian sites (Clovis theory).
According to the still-debated theory of the Settlement of the Americas, migrations of humans from Eurasia to the Americas took place via Beringia, a land bridge which formerly connected the two continents across what is now the Bering Strait. Falling sea levels created the Bering land bridge that joined Siberia to Alaska, which began about 60,000-25,000 years ago. The minimum time depth by which this migration had taken place is confirmed at 12,000 years ago, with the upper bound (or earliest period) remaining a matter of some unresolved contention. Three major migrations occurred, as traced by linguistic and genetic data; the early Paleoamericans soon spread throughout the Americas, diversifying into many hundreds of culturally distinct nations and tribes. The North American climate finally stabilized by 8000 BCE; climatic conditions were very similar to today's. This led to widespread migration, cultivation of crops, and subsequently a dramatic rise in population all over the Americas.
The big-game hunting culture, labeled as the Clovis culture, is primarily identified with its production of fluted projectile points. The culture received its name from artifacts found near Clovis, New Mexico; the first evidence of this tool complex was excavated in 1932. The Clovis culture ranged over much of North America and also appeared in South America. The culture is identified by the distinctive Clovis point, a flaked flint spear-point with a notched flute, by which it was inserted into a shaft. Dating of Clovis materials has been by association with animal bones and by the use of carbon dating methods. Recent reexaminations of Clovis materials using improved carbon-dating methods produced results of 11,050 and 10,800 radiocarbon years B.P. (roughly 9100 to 8850 BC).
Numerous Paleoindian cultures occupied North America, with some arrayed around the Great Plains and Great Lakes of the modern United States of America and Canada, as well as adjacent areas to the West and Southwest. According to the oral histories of many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, they have been living on this continent since their genesis, described by a wide range of traditional creation stories. Other tribes have stories that recount migrations across long tracts of land and a great river, believed to be the Mississippi. Genetic and linguistic data connect the indigenous people of this continent with ancient northeast Asians. Archeological and linguistic data has enabled scholars to discover some of the migrations within the Americas.
The Folsom Tradition was characterized by use of Folsom points as projectile tips, and activities known from kill sites, where slaughter and butchering of bison took place. Folsom tools were left behind between 9000 BCE and 8000 BCE.
A Folsom point for a spear
The Na-Dene people entered North America starting around 8000 BC, reaching the Pacific Northwest by 5000 BCE, and from there migrating along the Pacific Coast and into the interior. Linguists, anthropologists and archeologists believe their ancestors comprised a separate migration into North America, later than the first Paleo-Indians. They settled first around present-day Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, from where they migrated into Alaska and northern Canada, south along the Pacific Coast, and into the interior. They were the earliest ancestors of the Athabascan- speaking peoples, including the present-day and historical Navajo and Apache. They constructed large multi-family dwellings in their villages, which were used seasonally. People did not live there year round, but for the summer to hunt and fish, and to gather food supplies for the winter. The Oshara Tradition people lived from 5500 BCE to 600 CE. The Southwestern Archaic Tradition was centered in north-central New Mexico, the San Juan Basin, the Rio Grande Valley, southern Colorado, and southeastern Utah.
The Poverty Point culture is an archaeological culture whose people inhabited the area of the lower Mississippi Valley and surrounding Gulf Coast. The culture thrived from 2200 BC- 700 BC, during the late Archaic period. Evidence of this culture has been found at more than 100 sites, from Poverty Point, Louisiana across a 100-mile (160 km) range to the Jaketown Site near Belzoni, Mississippi.
The Woodland period of North American pre-Columbian cultures refers to the time period from roughly 1000 BCE to 1000 CE in the eastern part of North America. The term "Woodland" was coined in the 1930s and refers to prehistoric sites dated between the Archaic period and the Mississippian cultures. The Hopewell tradition is the term used to describe common aspects of the Native American culture that flourished along rivers in the northeastern and midwestern United States from 200 BC to 500 CE.
Cultural areas of pre-Columbian North America, according to Alfred Kroeber
The Hopewell tradition was not a single culture or society, but a widely dispersed set of related populations, who were connected by a common network of trade routes, known as the Hopewell Exchange System. At its greatest extent, the Hopewell exchange system ran from the Southeastern United States into the southeastern Canadian shores of Lake Ontario. Within this area, societies participated in a high degree of exchange, most activity was conducted along the waterways that served as their major transportation routes. The Hopewell exchange system traded materials from all over the United States.
Coles Creek culture is an archaeological culture from the Lower Mississippi valley in the southern present-day United States. The period marked a significant change in the cultural history of the area. Population increased dramatically. There is strong evidence of a growing cultural and political complexity, especially by the end of the Coles Creek sequence. Although many of the classic traits of chiefdom societies were not yet manifested, by 1000 CE the formation of simple elite polities had begun. Coles Creek sites are found in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. It is considered ancestral to the Plaquemine culture.
Hohokam is one of the four major prehistoric archaeological traditions of the present-day American Southwest. Living as simple farmers, they raised corn and beans. The early Hohokam founded a series of small villages along the middle Gila River. The communities were located near good arable land, with dry farming common in the earlier years of this period. Wells, usually less than 10 feet (3 m) deep, were dug for domestic water supplies by 300 CE to 500 CE. Early Hohokam homes were constructed of branches bent in a semi-circular fashion and covered with twigs and reeds. The last layer was heavily applied mud and other materials at hand.
Sophisticated pre-Columbian sedentary societies evolved in North America, although they were not as technologically advanced as the Mesoamerican civilizations further south. The Southeastern Ceremonial Complex is the name archeologists have given to the regional stylistic similarity of artifacts, iconography, ceremonies and mythology of the Mississippian culture, which coincided with the people's adoption of maize agriculture and chiefdom-level complex social organization from 1200 CE to 1650 CE. Contrary to popular belief, this development appears to have had no direct links to Mesoamerica. The peoples developed an independent, sophisticated and stratified society, after the cultivation of maize allowed the accumulation of crop surpluses to support a higher density of population. This is turn led to the development of specialized skills among some of the peoples. The Ceremonial Complex represents a major component of the religion of the Mississippian peoples, and is one of the primary means by which their religion is understood.
The Mississippian culture created the largest earthworks in North America north of Mexico, most notably at Cahokia, based on a tributary of the Mississippi River in present-day Illinois. Its 10-story Monks Mound has a larger circumference than the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan or the Great Pyramid of Egypt. The six-square mile city complex was based on the culture's cosmology; it included more than 100 mounds, positioned to support their sophisticated knowledge of astronomy. It included a Woodhenge, whose sacred cedar poles were placed to mark the summer and winter solstices and fall and spring equinoxes. Its peak population in 1250 AD of 30,000-40,000 people was not equalled by any city in the present-day United States until after 1800. Cahokia was a major regional chiefdom, with trade and tributary chiefdoms located in areas bordering the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Iroquois League of Nations or "People of the Long House" had a confederacy model. It has been claimed as contributing to the political thinking during the later development of the democratic United States government. Their system of affiliation was a kind of federation, different than the strong, centralized European monarchies. Leadership was restricted to a group of 50 sachem chiefs, each representing one clan within a tribe; the Oneida and Mohawk people had nine seats each; the Onondagas held fourteen; the Cayuga had ten seats; and the Seneca had eight. Representation was not based on population numbers, as the Seneca tribe greatly outnumbered the others. When a sachem chief died, his successor was chosen by the senior woman of his tribe in consultation with other female members of the clan; descent was traced matrilineally. Decisions were not made through voting but through consensus decision making, with each sachem chief holding theoretical veto power. The Onondaga were the "firekeepers", responsible for raising topics to be discussed. They occupied one side of a three-sided fire (the Mohawk and Seneca sat on one side of the fire, the Oneida and Cayuga sat on the third side.) Elizabeth Tooker, an anthropologist at Temple University, has said that it was unlikely the US founding fathers were inspired by the confederacy as it bears little resemblance to the system of governance adopted in the United States. For example, it is based on inherited rather than elected leadership selected by female members of the tribes, consensus decision-making regardless of population size of the tribes, and only a single group capable of bringing matters before the legislative body.
Long-distance trading did not prevent warfare among the indigenous peoples. For instance, archaeology and the tribes' oral histories have revealed that about 1200 CE, the Iroquois invaded and attacked tribes in the Ohio River area of present-day Kentucky. Through warfare, the Iroquois drove several tribes to migrate west to what became known as their historically traditional lands west of the Mississippi River. Tribes originating in the Ohio Valley who moved west included the Osage, Kaw, Ponca and Omaha people. By the mid-17th century, they had resettled in their historical lands in present-day Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The Osage warred with native Caddo-speaking Native Americans, displacing them in turn by the mid-18th century and dominating their new historical territories.
European exploration and colonization
Main articles: Age of Discovery and European colonization of the Americas
Discovery of the Mississippi by William Henry Powell (1823-1879) is a Romantic depiction of de Soto's seeing the Mississippi River for the first time. It hangs in the United States Capitol rotunda.
After 1492, European exploration and colonization of the Americas revolutionized how the Old and New Worlds perceived themselves. One of the first major contacts, in what would be called the American Deep South, occurred when the conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon landed in La Florida in April of 1513. Ponce de Leon was later followed by other Spanish explorers, such as Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528 and Hernando de Soto in 1539. The subsequent European colonists in North America often rationalized their expansion of empire with the assumption that they were saving a barbaric, pagan world by spreading Christian civilization. In the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the policy of Indian Reductions resulted in the forced conversions to Catholicism of the indigenous people in northern Nueva Espana. They had long-established spiritual and religious traditions and theological beliefs. What developed during the colonial years and since has been a syncretic Catholicism that absorbed and reflected indigenous beliefs; the religion changed in New Spain.
Impact on native populations
From the 16th through the 19th centuries, the population of Native Americans declined in the following ways: epidemic diseases brought from Europe; genocide and warfare  at the hands of European explorers and colonists, as well as between tribes; displacement from their lands; internal warfare, enslavement; and a high rate of intermarriage. Most mainstream scholars believe that, among the various contributing factors, epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the American natives because of their lack of immunity to new diseases brought from Europe. With the rapid declines of some populations and continuing rivalries among their nations, Native Americans sometimes re-organized to form new cultural groups, such as the Seminoles of Florida in the eighteenth century and the Mission Indians of Alta California.
Estimating the number of Native Americans living in what is today the United States of America before the arrival of the European explorers and settlers has been the subject of much debate. While it is difficult to determine exactly how many Natives lived in North America before Columbus, estimates range from a low of 2.1 million (Ubelaker 1976) to 7 million people (Russell Thornton) to a high of 18 million (Dobyns 1983). A low estimate of around 1 million was first posited by the anthropologist James Mooney in the 1890s, by calculating population density of each culture area based on its carrying capacity. In 1965, the American anthropologist Henry Dobyns published studies estimating the original population to have been 10 to 12 million. By 1983, he increased his estimates to 18 million. He took into account the mortality rates caused by infectious diseases of European explorers and settlers, against which Native Americans had no immunity. Dobyns combined the known mortality rates of these diseases among native people with reliable population records of the 19th century, to calculate the probable size of the original populations. By 1800, the Native population of the present-day United States had declined to approximately 600,000, and only 250,000 Native Americans remained in the 1890s.
Conference between French and Indian leaders around a ceremonial fire
Chicken pox and measles, although by this time endemic and rarely fatal among Europeans (long after being introduced from Asia), often proved deadly to Native Americans. Smallpox proved particularly fatal to Native American populations. Epidemics often immediately followed European exploration and sometimes destroyed entire village populations. While precise figures are difficult to determine, some historians estimate that at least 30% (and sometimes 50% to 70%) of some Native populations died after first contact due to Eurasian smallpox. One element of the Columbian exchange suggests explorers from the Christopher Columbus expedition contracted syphilis from indigenous peoples and carried it back to Europe, where it spread widely. Other researchers believe that the disease existed in Europe and Asia before Columbus and his men returned from exposure to indigenous peoples of the Americas, but that they brought back a more virulent form. (See Syphilis.)
In 1618-1619, smallpox killed 90% of the Native Americans in the area of the Massachusetts Bay. Historians believe many Mohawk in present-day New York became infected after contact with children of Dutch traders in Albany in 1634. The disease swept through Mohawk villages, reaching the Onondaga at Lake Ontario by 1636, and the lands of the western Iroquois by 1679, as it was carried by Mohawk and other Native Americans who traveled the trading routes. The high rate of fatalities caused breakdowns in Native American societies and disrupted generational exchanges of culture.
Between 1754 and 1763, many Native American tribes were involved in the French and Indian War/Seven Years War. Those involved in the fur trade in the northern areas tended to ally with French forces against British colonial militias. Native Americans fought on both sides of the conflict. The greater number of tribes fought with the French in the hopes of checking British expansion. The British had made fewer allies, but it was joined by some tribes that wanted to prove assimilation and loyalty in support of treaties to preserve their territories. They were often disappointed when such treaties were later overturned. The tribes had their own purposes, using their alliances with the European powers to battle traditional Native enemies.
Native California Population, according to Cook 1978
After European explorers reached the West Coast in the 1770s, smallpox rapidly killed at least 30% of Northwest Coast Native Americans. For the next 80 to 100 years, smallpox and other diseases devastated native populations in the region. Puget Sound area populations, once estimated as high as 37,000 people, were reduced to only 9,000 survivors by the time settlers arrived en masse in the mid-19th century. The e Spanish missions in California did not significantly affect the population of Native Americans, but the numbers of the latter decreased rapidly after California ceased to be a Spanish colony, especially during the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th (see chart on the right).
Smallpox epidemics in 1780-1782 and 1837-1838 brought devastation and drastic depopulation among the Plains Indians. By 1832, the federal government established a smallpox vaccination program for Native Americans (The Indian Vaccination Act of 1832). It was the first federal program created to address a health problem of Native Americans.
With the meeting of two worlds, animals, insects, and plants were carried from one to the other, both deliberately and by chance, in what is called the Columbian Exchange. Sheep, pigs, and cattle were all Old World animals that were introduced to contemporary Native Americans who never knew such animals.
In the 16th century, Spaniards and other Europeans brought horses to the Americas. The early American horse had been game for the earliest humans on the continent. It was hunted to extinction about 7000 BC, just after the end of the last glacial period. Native Americans benefited by reintroduction of horses. As they adopted use of the animals, they began to change their cultures in substantial ways, especially by extending their nomadic ranges for hunting. Some of the horses escaped and began to breed and increase their numbers in the wild.
The reintroduction of the horse to North America had a profound impact on Native American culture of the Great Plains. The tribes trained and used horses to ride and to carry packs or pull travois. The people fully incorporated the use of horses into their societies and expanded their territories. They used horses to carry goods for exchange with neighboring tribes, to hunt game, especially bison, and to conduct wars and horse raids.
King Philip's War
King Philip's War sometimes called Metacom's War or Metacom's Rebellion, was an armed conflict between Native American inhabitants of present-day southern New England and English colonists and their Native American allies from 1675-1676. It continued in northern New England (primarily on the Maine frontier) even after King Philip was killed, until a treaty was signed at Casco Bay in April 1678. According to a combined estimate of loss of life in Schultz and Tougias' "King Philip's War, The History and Legacy of America's Forgotten Conflict" (based on sources from the Department of Defense, the Bureau of Census, and the work of Colonial historian Francis Jennings), 800 out of 52,000 English colonists of New England (1 out of every 65) and 3,000 out of 20,000 natives (3 out of every 20) lost their lives due to the war, which makes it proportionately one of the bloodiest and costliest in the history of America. More than half of New England's ninety towns were assaulted by Native American warriors. One in ten soldiers on both sides were wounded or killed.
The war is named after the main leader of the Native American side, Metacomet, Metacom, or Pometacom, known to the English as "King Philip." He was the last Massasoit (Great Leader) of the Pokanoket Tribe/Pokanoket Federation & Wampanoag Nation. Upon their loss to the Colonists and the attempted genocide of the Pokanoket Tribe and Royal Line, many managed to flee to the North to continue their fight against the British (Massachusetts Bay Colony) by joining with the Abanaki Tribes and Wabanaki Federation.
Foundations for freedom
Further information: Great Law of Peace
Treaty of Penn with Indians by Benjamin West painted in 1827
Some Europeans considered Native American societies to be representative of a golden age known to them only in folk history. The political theorist Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote that the idea of freedom and democratic ideals was born in the Americas because "it was only in America" that Europeans from 1500 to 1776 knew of societies that were "truly free."“ Natural freedom is the only object of the policy of the [Native Americans]; with this freedom do nature and climate rule alone amongst them ... [Native Americans] maintain their freedom and find abundant nourishment... [and are] people who live without laws, without police, without religion. ”
--Jean Jacques Rousseau, Jesuit and Savage in New France
The Iroquois nations' political confederacy and democratic government have been credited as influences on the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution. Historians debate how much the colonists borrowed from existing Native American governmental models. Several founding fathers had contact with Native American leaders and had learned about their styles of government. Prominent figures such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were more involved with leaders of the Iroquois Confederacy, based in New York. John Rutledge of South Carolina in particular is said to have read lengthy tracts of Iroquoian law to the other framers, beginning with the words, "We, the people, to form a union, to establish peace, equity, and order..."“ As powerful, dense [Mound Builder] populations were reduced to weakened, scattered remnants, political readjustments were necessary. New confederacies were formed. One such was to become a pattern called up by Benjamin Franklin when the thirteen colonies struggled to confederate: 'If the Iroquois can do it so can we,' he said in substance.”
--Bob Ferguson, Choctaw Government to 1830
In October 1988, the U.S. Congress passed Concurrent Resolution 331 to recognize the influence of the Iroquois Constitution upon the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Those who argue against Iroquoian influence point to lack of evidence in U.S. constitutional debate records, and democratic U.S. institutions having ample antecedents in European ideas.
Yamacraw Creek Native Americans meet with the Trustee of the colony of Georgia in England, July 1734. The painting shows a Native American boy (in a blue coat) and woman (in a red dress) in European clothing.
During the American Revolution, the newly proclaimed United States competed with the British for the allegiance of Native American nations east of the Mississippi River. Most Native Americans who joined the struggle sided with the British, hoping to use the American Revolutionary War to halt further colonial expansion onto Native American land. Many native communities were divided over which side to support in the war. The first native community to sign a treaty with the new United States Government was the Lenape. For the Iroquois Confederacy, the American Revolution resulted in civil war. The only Iroquois tribes to ally with the colonials were the Oneida and Tuscarora.
Frontier warfare during the American Revolution was particularly brutal, and numerous atrocities were committed by settlers and native tribes alike. Noncombatants suffered greatly during the war. Military expeditions on each side destroyed villages and food supplies to reduce the ability of people to fight, as in frequent raids in the Mohawk Valley and western New York. The largest of these expeditions was the Sullivan Expedition of 1779, in which American colonial troops destroyed more than 40 Iroquois villages to neutralize Iroquois raids in upstate New York. The expedition failed to have the desired effect: Native American activity became even more determined.
American Indians have played a central role in shaping the history of the nation, and they are deeply woven into the social fabric of much of American life.... During the last three decades of the twentieth century, scholars of ethnohistory, of the "new Indian history," and of Native American studies forcefully demonstrated that to understand American history and the American experience, one must include American Indians.
--Robbie Ethridge, Creek Country.
Bronze medals struck at behest of Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson and carried by Joseph Martin to give to Cherokee allies of colonial forces. Notice peace pipe atop the medal
The British made peace with the Americans in the Treaty of Paris (1783), through which they ceded vast Native American territories to the United States without informing the Native Americans, leading immediately to the Northwest Indian War. The United States initially treated the Native Americans who had fought with the British as a conquered people who had lost their lands. Although many of the Iroquois tribes went to Canada with the Loyalists, others tried to stay in New York and western territories and tried to maintain their lands. Nonetheless, the state of New York made a separate treaty with Iroquois and put up for sale 5,000,000 acres (20,000 km2) of land that had previously been their territory. The state established a reservation near Syracuse for the Onondagas who had been allies of the colonists.“ The Indians presented a reverse image of European civilization which helped America establish a national identity that was neither savage nor civilized.”
--Charles Sanford, The Quest for Paradise
The United States was eager to expand, to develop farming and settlements in new areas, and to satisfy land hunger of settlers from New England and new immigrants. The national government initially sought to purchase Native American land by treaties. The states and settlers were frequently at odds with this policy.
George Washington advocated the advancement of Native American society and he "harbored some measure of goodwill towards the Indians."
European nations sent Native Americans (sometimes against their will) to the Old World as objects of curiosity. They often entertained royalty and were sometimes prey to commercial purposes. Christianization of Native Americans was a charted purpose for some European colonies.“ Whereas it hath at this time become peculiarly necessary to warn the citizens of the United States against a violation of the treaties.... I do by these presents require, all officers of the United States, as well civil as military, and all other citizens and inhabitants thereof, to govern themselves according to the treaties and act aforesaid, as they will answer the contrary at their peril.”
---George Washington, Proclamation Regarding Treaties, 1790.
United States policy toward Native Americans had continued to evolve after the American Revolution. George Washington and Henry Knox believed that Native Americans were equals but that their society was inferior. Washington formulated a policy to encourage the "civilizing" process. Washington had a six-point plan for civilization which included,
1. impartial justice toward Native Americans
2. regulated buying of Native American lands
3. promotion of commerce
4. promotion of experiments to civilize or improve Native American society
5. presidential authority to give presents
6. punishing those who violated Native American rights.
Robert Remini, a historian, wrote that "once the Indians adopted the practice of private property, built homes, farmed, educated their children, and embraced Christianity, these Native Americans would win acceptance from white Americans." The United States appointed agents, like Benjamin Hawkins, to live among the Native Americans and to teach them how to live like whites.“
How different would be the sensation of a philosophic mind to reflect that instead of exterminating a part of the human race by our modes of population that we had persevered through all difficulties and at last had imparted our Knowledge of cultivating and the arts, to the Aboriginals of the Country by which the source of future life and happiness had been preserved and extended. But it has been conceived to be impracticable to civilize the Indians of North America -- This opinion is probably more convenient than just. ”
---Henry Knox to George Washington, 1790s.
In the late 18th century, reformers starting with Washington and Knox, supported educating native children and adults, in efforts to "civilize" or otherwise assimilate Native Americans to the larger society (as opposed to relegating them to reservations). The Civilization Fund Act of 1819 promoted this civilization policy by providing funding to societies (mostly religious) who worked on Native American improvement.“ I rejoice, brothers, to hear you propose to become cultivators of the earth for the maintenance of your families. Be assured you will support them better and with less labor, by raising stock and bread, and by spinning and weaving clothes, than by hunting. A little land cultivated, and a little labor, will procure more provisions than the most successful hunt; and a woman will clothe more by spinning and weaving, than a man by hunting. Compared with you, we are but as of yesterday in this land. Yet see how much more we have multiplied by industry, and the exercise of that reason which you possess in common with us. Follow then our example, brethren, and we will aid you with great pleasure.... ”
--President Thomas Jefferson, Brothers of the Choctaw Nation, December 17, 1803
Benjamin Hawkins, seen here on his plantation, teaches Creek Native Americans how to use European technology. Painted in 1805.
American expansion justification
Native Americans flee from the allegorical representation of Manifest Destiny, Columbia, painted in 1872 by John Gast
In July 1845, the New York newspaper editor John L. O'Sullivan coined the phrase “Manifest Destiny,” to explain how the "design of Providence" supported the territorial expansion of the United States. Manifest Destiny had serious consequences for Native Americans since continental expansion implicitly meant the occupation of Native American land. Manifest Destiny was an explanation or justification for expansion and westward movement, or, in some interpretations, an ideology or doctrine which helped to promote the process of civilization. Advocates of Manifest Destiny believed that expansion was not only good, but that it was obvious and certain. The term was first used primarily by Jacksonian Democrats in the 1840s to promote the annexation of much of what is now the Western United States (the Oregon Territory, the Texas Annexation, and the Mexican Cession).“ What a prodigious growth this English race, especially the American branch of it, is having! How soon will it subdue and occupy all the wild parts of this continent and of the islands adjacent. No prophecy, however seemingly extravagant, as to future achievements in this way [is] likely to equal the reality.”
--Rutherford Birchard Hayes, U.S. President, January 1, 1857, Personal Diary.
The age of Manifest Destiny, which came to be known as "Indian Removal", gained ground. Although some humanitarian advocates of removal believed that Native Americans would be better off moving away from whites, an increasing number of Americans regarded the natives as nothing more than "savages" who stood in the way of American expansion. Thomas Jefferson believed that while Native Americans were the intellectual equals of whites, they had to live like the whites or inevitably be pushed aside by them. Jefferson's belief, rooted in Enlightenment thinking, that whites and Native Americans would merge to create a single nation did not last, and he began to believe that the natives should emigrate across the Mississippi River and maintain a separate society.
Indian Appropriations Act of 1871
In 1871 Congress added a rider to the Indian Appropriations Act ending United States recognition of additional Native American tribes or independent nations, and prohibiting additional treaties.“ That hereafter no Indian nation or tribe within the territory of the United States shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe, or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty: Provided, further, that nothing herein contained shall be construed to invalidate or impair the obligation of any treaty heretofore lawfully made and ratified with any such Indian nation or tribe. ”
--Indian Appropriations Act of 1871
Tecumseh was the Shawnee leader of Tecumseh's War who attempted to organize an alliance of Native American tribes throughout North America.
U.S. government authorities entered into numerous treaties during this period but later violated many for various reasons. Other treaties were considered "living" documents whose terms could be altered. Major conflicts east of the Mississippi River include the Pequot War, Creek War, and Seminole Wars. Notably, a multi-tribal army led by Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief, fought a number of engagements during the period 1811-12, known as Tecumseh's War. In the latter stages, Tecumseh's group allied with the British forces in the War of 1812 and was instrumental in the conquest of Detroit. The Battle of the Wabash (1791) was the worst U.S. Army defeat by Native Americans in U.S. history.
Native American Nations west of the Mississippi were numerous and were the last to submit to U.S. authority. Conflicts generally known as "Indian Wars" broke out between American government and Native American societies. The Battle of Little Bighorn (1876) was one of the greatest Native American victories. Defeats included the Sioux Uprising of 1862, the Sand Creek Massacre (1864) and Wounded Knee in 1890. These conflicts were catalysts to the decline of dominant Native American culture.“ The Indian [was thought] as less than human and worthy only of extermination. We did shoot down defenseless men, and women and children at places like Camp Grant, Sand Creek, and Wounded Knee. We did feed strychnine to red warriors. We did set whole villages of people out naked to freeze in the iron cold of Montana winters. And we did confine thousands in what amounted to concentration camps. ”
--Paul Wellman, The Indian Wars of the West, 1934
For more details on this topic, see Native Americans in the American Civil War.
Ely S. Parker was a Union Civil War General who wrote the terms of surrender between the United States and the Confederate States of America. Parker was one of two Native Americans to reach the rank of Brigadier General during the Civil War.
Many Native Americans served in the military during the Civil War., the vast majority of whom siding with the Union. By fighting with the whites, Native Americans hoped to gain favor with the prevailing government by supporting the war effort. They also believed war service might mean an end to discrimination and relocation from ancestral lands to western territories. While the war raged and African Americans were proclaimed free, the U.S. government continued its policies of assimilation, submission, removal, or extermination of Native Americans.
Cherokee confederates reunion in New Orleans, 1903.
General Ely S. Parker, a member of the Seneca tribe, created the articles of surrender which General Robert E. Lee signed at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Gen. Parker, who served as Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's military secretary and was a trained attorney, was once rejected for Union military service because of his race. At Appomattox, Lee is said to have remarked to Parker, "I am glad to see one real American here," to which Parker replied, "We are all Americans."
Removals and reservations
Main article: Americanization of Native Americans
Further information: List of Native American reservations in the United States
Portrait of Native Americans from the Cherokee, Cheyenne, Choctaw, Comanche, Iroquois, and Muscogee tribes in American attire. Photos date from 1868 to 1924.
In the 19th century, the incessant westward expansion of the United States incrementally compelled large numbers of Native Americans to resettle further west, often by force, almost always reluctantly. Native Americans believed this forced relocation illegal, given the Hopewell Treaty of 1785. Under President Andrew Jackson, United States Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized the President to conduct treaties to exchange Native American land east of the Mississippi River for lands west of the river. As many as 100,000 Native Americans relocated to the West as a result of this Indian Removal policy. In theory, relocation was supposed to be voluntary and many Native Americans did remain in the East. In practice, great pressure was put on Native American leaders to sign removal treaties.
The most egregious violation of the stated intention of the removal policy took place under the Treaty of New Echota, which was signed by a dissident faction of Cherokees but not the elected leadership. President Jackson rigidly enforced the treaty, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 4,000 Cherokees on the Trail of Tears. About 17,000 Cherokees, along with approximately 2,000 enslaved blacks held by Cherokees, were removed from their homes.
Tribes were generally located to reservations where they could more easily be separated from traditional life and pushed into European-American society. Some southern states additionally enacted laws in the 19th century forbidding non-Native American settlement on Native American lands, with the intention to prevent sympathetic white missionaries from aiding the scattered Native American resistance.
The earliest recorded date of Native Americans' becoming U.S. citizens was in 1831 when the Mississippi Choctaw became citizens after the United States Legislature ratified the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. Article 22 sought to put a Choctaw representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. Under article XIV of that treaty, any Choctaw who elected not to move with the Choctaw Nation could become an American citizen when he registered and if he stayed on designated lands for five years after treaty ratification. Through the years, Native Americans became U.S. citizens by:
1. Treaty provision (as with the Mississippi Choctaw)
2. Registration and land allotment under the Dawes Act of February 8, 1887
3. Issuance of Patent in Fee Simple
4. Adopting Habits of Civilized Life
5. Minor Children
6. Citizenship by Birth
7. Becoming Soldiers and Sailors in the U.S. Armed Forces
8. Marriage to a U.S. citizen
9. Special Act of Congress.“ The Choctaws would ultimately form a territory by themselves, which should be taken under the care of the general government; or that they should become citizens of the State of Mississippi, and thus citizens of the United States. ”
---Cherokee Phoenix, and Indians' Advocate, Vol. II, No. 37., 1829.
In 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney expressed that since Native Americans were "free and independent people" that they could become U.S. citizens. Taney asserted that Native Americans could be naturalized and join the "political community" of the United States.“ [Native Americans], without doubt, like the subjects of any other foreign Government, be naturalized by the authority of Congress, and become citizens of a State, and of the United States; and if an individual should leave his nation or tribe, and take up his abode among the white population, he would be entitled to all the rights and privileges which would belong to an emigrant from any other foreign people. ”
--Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, 1857, What was Taney thinking? American Indian Citizenship in the era of Dred Scott, Frederick e. Hoxie, April 2007.
After the American Civil War and Indian wars in the late 19th century, Native American boarding schools were established, which were often run primarily by or affiliated with Christian missionaries. At this time American society thought that Native American children needed to be acculturated to the general society. The boarding school experience often proved traumatic to Native American children, who were forbidden to speak their native languages, taught Christianity and denied the right to practice their native religions, and in numerous other ways forced to abandon their Native American identities and adopt European-American culture. There were documented cases of sexual, physical and mental abuse occurring at these schools.
Charles Curtis is of Kaw, Osage and Potawatomi ancestry, 31st Vice President of the United States, 1929-1933.
On June 2, 1924 U.S. Republican President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act making all Native Americans, who were not already citizens, born in the United States and its territories citizens of the United States. Prior to the passage of the act, nearly two-thirds of Native Americans were already U.S. citizens.
American Indians today in the U.S. have all the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, can vote in elections, and run for political office. There has been controversy over how much the federal government has jurisdiction over tribal affairs, sovereignty, and cultural practices.“ Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all noncitizen Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided, That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Native American to tribal or other property. ”
--Indian Citizenship Act of 1924
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