Friday, December 2, 2011

Another Bullet in the Government’s Gun

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Here's a little something I wrote for a class. I think it's appropriate in sight of the recent passing holiday.

(Tom Toslino, Navajo, as he arrived at Carlisle and-after 3 years)

The House Concurrent Resolution 108: Another Bullet in the Government’s Gun

When one thinks of America they often think of the “American dream” and the “land of opportunity” where individuals young and old, and of every shape, color, and creed can make a name for themselves. They envision a wonderful life with all the joys and perks of a middle class standard family in a proper first world setting, but what many individuals have quickly learned throughout the existence of this mixed up melting pot of a country we call the United States is that this dream doesn’t happen for everyone, and that equality in this young country isn’t always seen. The House Concurrent Resolution 108, is really just one example of the years of scrutiny that one minority group in particular are subjected to, and it’s only one piece of the puzzle that almost killed an entire diverse culture and loaded another bullet in the government’s gun.

The House Concurrent Resolution 108 was actually passed August 1, 1953, and it declared that the U.S. Congress should enact a policy that would abolish Federal supervision over American Indian tribes. The American Indians were subjected to the same laws, privileges, and responsibilities as other U.S. citizens. The crucial point of the matter is that it actually led to the beginning of an era of termination policy, in which the federally recognized status of many Native American tribes was revoked. This “resolution” ended government responsibility to tribe members and withdrew legal protection to territory, culture, and religion. The decision opened the flood gates for states with large Indigenous populations like California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Nebraska, to do whatever they wanted to the Native Americans. But the sad fact is that this wasn’t the first time the Native Americans were mistreated and pushed around by government.

This all actually stated when the first early English settlers landed on the big hunk of rock that we now call America. The “Americanization” of the Native Americans from 1790 to 1920 was the era where these new non-native people tried to “civilize” the Indians. Unfortunately though, during the process, the helping hands from the missionaries destroyed their culture by subjecting the native people to attend their churches, study and only speak English (and on the other side of the continent, Spanish) and leave their tribal traditions behind. And it was the Dawes Act of 1887 that officially offered less of the land that they already owned to the Native Americans if they became U.S. citizens and gave up their traditions.

After the Act, ninety-three million acres of land was hashed up and redistributed, mostly going to single individuals and not the original tribes, but losing their land wasn’t their biggest problem. From the year 1857 to the year 1920, assimilation had taken children from their families, killed individuals, and nearly destroyed the Native American culture. Tribes fought in the Supreme Court during the assimilation era of 1890 to 1928, but were instead just ignored, forced to relocate in smaller sections of land, and the children taken away and locked up in boarding schools where they were taught English and were not allowed to ever use or teach their native tongue.

The assimilation continued throughout the centuries and later led to the Indian Termination policy that lasted from the mid 1940’s to the 1960’s. The termination policy was the government’s belief that the Native Americans were better off further assimilated into mainstream America. The Native American Indians ultimately were no longer exempt from federal or state taxes and, as a result, the education, health care, and economy suffered tremendously due to the lack of government funding. By 1972 there was a seventy-five percent dropout rate for the Menominee Tribe, and students who did graduate and wanted to go to college couldn’t receive any scholarships under the new laws. There was really no health care and many of the Native American people fell into poverty before constant protest and cases fought in court finally allowed the Native Americans to regain their sovereignty. But after centuries of the incessant raping of the Native American Indians culture and land no amount of sovereignty could piece back together all that they had lost after the American government shot its gun.

Works Cited
Americanization of Native Americans, Wikipedia. November 27, 2011.

Indian Termination Policy, Wikipedia. November 11, 2011.

The House Concurrent Resolution 108, Wikipedia. July 22, 2011.

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