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Ch. 10: Native Americans Most ethnohistorians place the number of Native Americans who lived in what later became known as the U.S. before European colonization at between 6 and 10 million. In 1492 approximately 300 different Native American languages were spoken

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Ch. 10: Native Americans

  • Most ethnohistorians place the number of Native Americans who lived in what later became known as the U.S. before European colonization at between 6 and 10 million.

  • In 1492 approximately 300 different Native American languages were spoken

  • Today, there are 275 Native American reservations and the BIA recognizes 562 different tribal entities


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Early Relations

  • The Proclamation of 1763 followed Pontiac’s uprising and declared that:

  • All land west of the crest of the Appalachian mountains was “Indian country;” and

  • Any settlers west of the Appalachians who had not acquired a legal title to their land from the Indians must return to the colonies; and

  • All future land purchases from the Indians must be conducted in public meetings attended by representatives from the king.


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  • The 1787 Northwest Territory Ordinance promised that:

  • 1) “Utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent: and their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress.”


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Indian Removal

  • In 1802, efforts were made to remove Cherokee Indians from their rich Georgia lands. In spite of the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Cherokee, and in spite of the fact that the Cherokee had made the most remarkable efforts to assimilate into the European-dominated way of life, President Andrew Jackson sponsored and supported the 1830 Indian Removal Act. He totally disregarded the Supreme Court’s ruling and over a period of six years concluded 94 treaties, facilitating the removal of Indians to the territory now called Oklahoma


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Trail of Tears

  • Primarily removed Indians from the east of the Mississippi to the west of the Mississippi

  • Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws, and Cherokees moved into territory already inhabited by Comanches, Osages, and Pawnees, which led to numerous disputes over cattle and game

  • Most pre-removal treaties were not honored as the westward expansion encroached even more upon the new “Indian” wilderness

  • The Seminoles refused to move


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Sovereign Nations

  • Sovereign Nations = the Indian tribes have a government-to-government relationship with the U.S. government. Possessing sovereignty gives Indian tribes special privileges, such as making tribal laws, not paying federal or state taxes, establishing their own schools, and forming their own governments. Court rulings have limited tribal powers, and conflicts have arisen over relationships between tribal governments and state governments


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  • Combining two Supreme Court Cases (1832), the court ruled that the Cherokee were a “domestic dependent nation”

  • Appropriations Act of 1871 stated that Indian tribes would no longer be recognized “powers” with whom the U.S. may contract by treaty and made them wards of the government


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A Shameful History Continues that the Cherokee were a “domestic dependent nation”

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs was created (1824)

  • The Battle of Little Bighorn and the Treaty of 1868

  • The Dawes Act (1887)- divide land into tracts to be allotted to members of the tribes; surplus can be sold

  • Between 1887-1934, the Indians lose over 87 million acres of land


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  • Indian Education – BIA reservation boarding school system and the “outing system”

  • Efforts to “Christianize” while educating Indian youths

  • The Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee

  • Sitting Bull arrested and killed

  • 1911 the Society for American Indians (SAI) adopted a constitution to promote the advancement of Indian enlightenment and citizenship among the Indians


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  • Indian Reorganization Act (1934) and the “outing system”

    • This act ended the land-allotment program, encouraged tribal self-government, extended financial credit to the tribes, gave preference in BIA employment to Native Americans, and permitted consolidation of Native American lands split up through inheritance

  • 1944 the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) formed by WWII Veterans


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  • Termination- From 1953-1954 a series of bills sought to end federal responsibility for welfare and administration of Native Americans

  • 1961 the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC) formed by young, urban Indians who were activists

  • The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968

  • 1970 the American Indian Movement (AIM) formed as a militant organization


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Red Power federal responsibility for welfare and administration of Native Americans

  • Pan-Indianism

    • A social movement attempting to establish a Native American ethnic identity instead of just a tribal identity

  • The Pan-Indianism movement has not been completely accepted as many Native Americans prefer to preserve their own tribal identity

  • Action occurred at Alcatraz (1969) and at Wounded Knee, SD (1973)


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Present-Day Native American Life federal responsibility for welfare and administration of Native Americans

  • By 2002 the Native American and Alaska native population was 2.8 million

    • The Native American birth rate is almost twice the national average

    • Many Native Americans live on reservations that provide inadequate economic support

  • Chronic unemployment is a serious problem

  • Some tribes have succeeded through their own efforts

  • Gaming- More than 240 tribes have gaming


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  • The average life span in some tribes is 45 years federal responsibility for welfare and administration of Native Americans

    • Nationally, the average life span is about 10 years less than the average

  • Deaths by suicide among Native American males aged 15 to 24 is 50% greater than among the general population’s youth

  • The most serious problem facing Native Americans today is alcohol abuse


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  • The Educational Amendments Act of 1978 gave substantial control over school programs to the Native American communities

  • Bilingual Native American language programs in 17 states help preserve ancestral language and teach English to children who were raised in homes where only their tribal language was spoken

  • One of the most visible signs of Native Americans’ economic deprivation is reservation house


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  • Most Native Americans live in urban regions of the country and are moving rapidly toward cultural assimilation

  • Twice as many urban Native Americans live in poverty compared to all other racial and ethnic groups combined

  • Although urban Native Americans are more likely to be employed than those who remain on the reservation, they do not achieve any improved income earnings, on average, until after five years of residence in the city


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  • Income inequality and are moving rapidly toward cultural assimilation

  • Infant mortality rates

  • Marital assimilation

  • By 1990, 59% of married Indians were married to non-Indians nationally

  • Is intermarriage really that high?


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Who can claim to be Native American? and are moving rapidly toward cultural assimilation

  • Blood Quantum = indicates the degree to which a person is of Indian ancestry and is a key concept used historically as well as currently in administrative definitions of who is an American Indian

  • Self-identification- current method of classification by U.S. Bureau of the Census


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2003 Census Facts on Native Americans and are moving rapidly toward cultural assimilation

  • 3.1 million claim a tribal membership

  • Large % are children <18 years of age

  • 292,000 are elderly >65 years of age

  • 1 million families consisting of 63% are married & 57% with children

  • 14% earned a bachelor’s degree and 75% earned a high school diploma

  • CA and NY have largest populations


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