In the late 19th and early 20th century, the Unite

d Statesmode of conduct in the area of the Native American was that of a
domineering step-father. The consequences of Manifest Destiny
were manifested. The question was, What to do with the Native
American? There was no simple answer to this, but there was a
predominate feeling of the necessity of destroying everything
that was remotely Indian. Once on the reservations, the Indians
were in a state of dependency. All things were given them by the
federal government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs made decisions
on the quality of life of the Native American, and policies
pertaining to them. Their major effort was that of assimilation.
United States policy, however, was marked with ethnocentrism
therefore causing the governments experiment at assimilation to

The policies of the BIA were not only to remove Native
Americans from the land granted them by treaties, it was also to
get rid of their Indianness. Indianness was defined as the
possession of certain cultural traits, blood relationships,
beliefs and values, or a membership on a tribes roll(Josephy
78). The pervading sentiments toward this Indian problem was
expressed by Thomas Jefferson Morgan, Commissioner of Indian
Affairs in 1889, The Indian must conform to the white mans
ways, peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must(78).
Politicians and missionaries alike took up the call to make the
Indian into civilized human beings.
Military attitudes of this time was marked with paradox.
Many of the officers who wrote about their adventures with
policing the Indians, and their wives, some of whom went on to
write books also, were in a since humane toward the Indian. They
understood the Indians anger in their being driven off their
land. There was however, a feeling of superiority in their
patronage of the Native American. They felt that their beliefs,
culture and religion were an interesting topic of study. They
also believed that they were humans, but of a inferior race(Smith
140). By no means were they as intelligent as white society.
Their feelings were echoed by politicians and missionaries of
that time.

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In 1869, President Grant began giving full power over the
Indian agencies to American churches and missionary bodies. It
was believed that their honesty and charity would give them more
success in the pacification and assimilation of the tribes. In a
short period of time, 73 agencies were apportioned to the
Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Quakers,
Congregationalist, Reformed Dutch and other agencies.
Missionaries believed that by converting the Native Americans to
Christianity, this would encourage the adjustment process from
virtual nomads to sedentary farmers. These missionaries
understood that the cornerstone of Native American society was
their religion. They believed that since the once strong chief
and warriors were all dead or resigned to their fate, the
medicine men were the only obstacle left in the way of the full
cooperation of the heathens. Thus by the mid-1800s, the US had
banned most forms of Indian religion on the reservations(Reed
48). Those who attempted to maintain tribal customs and
traditions were subjected to severe punishment including:
imprisonment, forced labor and even starvation. Traditional
dress, ceremony, dances, and singing were forbidden by law.
Every overt manifestation of the spiritual content that had held
Indian society together was banned by an encompassing Religious
Crimes Code(Josephy,85). This code effectively ended freedom of
religion for the Native Americans. Though thought to be
incorruptible, many churchmen became greedy and dispossessed
Indians of their land and resources.

The first major political action that facilitated the effort
of assimilation was the Dawes General Allotment (Severalty) Act
of 1887. This act attempted to convert all tribal lands into
individual ownership. In exchange for renouncing their tribal
holdings, Indians could become citizens and get individual land
grants; 160 acres to family heads, 80 acres to single
adults(Fuchs 8). Ownership would come only after the expiration
of a 25 year federal trust. The Burke Act of 1906 waived the
remaining trust for all Indians judged competent to farm(Readers
companion 268). All surplus land was opened for sale to
non-Indians. The goal of this edict was to expedite the
assimilation of the Indians, and hurry the process of turning
them into good Christian tillers of the soil. The Annual Report
of the Department of the Interior 1901, supports this, ..if
steadfastly adhered to will not only relieve the government of an
enormous burden, but will practically settle the Indian question
within the space generally allotted to a generation(Fuchs 8).

The land where they were moved, however, was basically
unable to produce any crop, and the Indian had beliefs that
hindered them from scarring the face of their mother earth. Says
anthropologist Gordon Macgregor:
The small size of allotments in areas of limited rainfall, the poor quality of the soil,
the erosion that followed plowing up natural grassland ranges, the timbered
allotments too small for productive operation, the rocky, infertile soil, and even in
California allotted lava beds, led to non- or inefficient use. Rental of allotments
proved the only feasible solution for the aged, women, and child allottees. The
federal practice of granting rights to, but not ownership of, inherited lands further
stalemated the allotment for the assimilation policy.
The strongest barrier, however was the cultural resistance shown among the great
number of non- agricultural tribes(Fuchs 8).

Because the majority of Native Americans had never farmed, this
adaptation was cumbersome. Thus, the lands the tribes held was
severely reduced; in 1887, the tribes owned about 138 million
acres, by 1900, the acreage was reduced to 78 million. About 90
million acres of land total changed from Indian to white
hands(Josephy 132). This act was not reversed until 1934 in the
Indian Reorganization Act which permitted the surplus land to be
returned to tribal ownership.
In all of their attempts to reform the Native American, the
federal government focused many times on the children.
Childrens removal from their home and tribe was viewed as
necessary for the elimination of the native identity and
therefore the Indian problem(Fuchs 224). This ideology was
helped by the view that confinement and education cost less than
military control. In 1865, a congressional committee
investigating conditions among the western tribes recommended
boarding schools remote from the Indian communities(225). The
first of such schools was the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle,
Pennsylvania. This school was founded in 1878 by General Richard
Henry Pratt. This school took children from Mid-Western and
Western tribes and taught them to read and write English, math,
and a vocational skill. It taught them how to dress, act, and
live like white people. The most engaging part of his program,
was the outing system. This was were the children would live
with a white family for three years after finishing school. The
child would have to earn their keep using the trade they learned
in school. Pratt called this the supreme Americanizer(225).
Pratt failed to realize that though the children were allowed
into the homes, they were never recognized as white persons.
There were many methods employed to try and make the Indians
white. Yet its ironic that both religious, benevolent, and
supposedly disinterested and the insensitive politicians and
westerners interested in Indian lands supported removal and
allotment(Smith 80). This similarity is due to the attitude of
cultural superiority and ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism in the
since of being so rooted in ones own culture, that they had a
disdain for others(Fuchs 247). Many thought that for the
procedure of assimilation to prevail, that there were steps that
had to be completed. First there was cultural assimilation; this
was the task of teaching the Native Americans to play the role of
a white person, through education, and removal. This was the
virtue of giving the papoose a chance, also a conviction of
T.J. Morgan. Second, would come social assimilation, that is,
accepting Indians into society. This would include patronizing
their businesses. Third, would be marital assimilation, or
intermarriage. Although this was somewhat prevalent in some
parts of American society, it was not accepted in main stream
America. For assimilation to work, the dominant society must
accept the lesser society, or basically absorb the lesser
society. There must be an absence of discrimination, an absence
of prejudice, and the value and power conflict must be
eliminated. This is otherwise known as civic assimilation(Smith
82). These rules were never followed and the Native American
remained in outsider in their own land.

The life of the Native American began to change in the years
surrounding 1934. Although Indians were granted citizenship in
1924 including, the vote in local, state and national elections,
many were denied these rights. President Franklin D. Roosevelt
initiated a change with his appointment of Jon Collier to chief
of the BIA in 1933. Colliers task was to design a New Deal
for the Native American. Collier produced a legislative package
that called for the revolutionizing of US policy toward the
Indian. The Indian Reorganization Act proposed six main points
for the change in policy: 1) the reorganization of tribes for
self-government; 2) the immediate end to allotment; 3) the
increased recruitment of Indians for jobs in the BIA; 4) a
multi-million dollar credit fund for farms and businesses of
Native Americans; 6) the mechanism for Indians to pool allotted
lands and resources(Nabokov 306). Colliers ideas were that of
cultural freedom. Finally the Native Americans could feel that
they were being represented, and that things were beginning to

The thinking and the actions of the federal government, in
the late 19th and early 20th century concerning the Native
Americans, was marred with the attitude of cultural superiority,
causing the policy of assimilation to fail. The humanitarian
efforts military missionary and political figures were weighed
down by their ethnocentrism. In their best interest, Native
Americans were placed in a state of perpetual dependency on the
federal government. Unable to practice their traditions, they
were left feeling like step-children. Their relief began only
after people began changing their attitudes towards Indians. The
Native Americans still have problems with government policies
which are questionable. Yet, progress has been made. Hopefully,
there will come a day when there are no questionable policies.