The Assimilation of Native Americans Into Western Culture Henry Krantz Us History II Mr. Garrick 20 December 2018 Many things used in modern American culture can be traced back many years to the Native Americans. Things you use every day from medical to entertainment. From words to chewing gum. Syringes were first seen used by South American Indian tribes made from small bird bones and small animal bladders. The Seneca crafted baby bottles from bear intestines and bird quill picks. The Mayans were credited with the first cigars, in fact the Mayan word sikkar became the Spanish word cigarro after the Spanish conquest.
The Iroquois Indians are the original creators of the bunk bed, with its usage being seen in the Iroquois notorious longhouse. Benjamin Franklin said that our form of federal government was based of that was borrowed from the system of government of the Iroquois. Lacrosse can be traced back to the Iroquois as well. Also, Mesoamericans are known for chewing an early type of gum in the form of sapodilla tree sap.
Many of the foods we eat were learned to grow and harvest by the Native Americans. These foods include; potatoes, beans, corn, peanuts, pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, peppers, nuts, melons, and sunflower seeds. If the white settlers hadn’t have adopted many of the agricultural practices of the Native Americans would have starved. The Pima tribe of southern Arizona were even known to have a well-developed irrigation system. Many activities we all enjoy to do were first invented by the Native Americans as well, like; canoeing, toboggans, snowshoes, kayaks, tomahawks, cigars, and pipes. Native Americans didn’t only contribute to our society with goods, they assisted us in many other ways. Indians helped us as guides in the early exploration of North America. Many Indian village sites later became large cities and even state capitals, such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Pocatello, Chicago, Detroit, and many others. Many places in the United States have names of Indian origin. Approximately half of our states have Indian names. They even assisted us in the French Indian war. A large amount of the words we use today are native American words, a few examples of this would be, barbecue, cannibal, caribou, chipmunk, chocolate, cougar, hammock, hurricane, mahogany, moose, opossum, potato, skunk, squash, toboggan and woodchuck. Now that we have gone through all of the contributions of the Native Americans let’s take a look at how the Native American culture became integrated with our own. Things didn’t start out well with the Native Americans. When Christopher Columbus first arrived in this new world, he mistook it for the East Indies and decided to call these indigenous people Indians. He then ordered 6 natives to be taken as servants. A few hundred years of sickness and various clashes between these Indians and the new westerners caused the Indian population to drop. It is uncertain what the population of Native Americans was pre-Columbus but some research shoes that it could be as high as 112 million whereas other research shows that it could have been as low as 10 million. Either way the population declined to an estimated 6 million by the year 1650. In 1754 the French Indian war began, and it pinned the colonies of Great Britain against New France. Native Americans fought on both sides. After another 75 or so years of more fighting and Indian land being taken by the white man the Indian removal act was enacted by President Andrew Jackson in 1830. This plan granted land west of the Mississippi river to the Indians in exchange for land that is taken from them. After about 20 years of having their homes taken and relocated to a reservation the Indian Appropriations Act was enacted and that stated that Indians were not allowed to leave their reservation without permission. This process of moving Indians to reservations would continue for many years to come. In the year 1879 we see the first look at an attempt to assimilate these people into our own. Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania was the country’s first off-reservation boarding school. These boarding schools would become more and more popular as the years went on. This boarding school was created by an ex-civil war officer Henry Pratt. Pratt said in a speech in 1892, “A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. These boarding schools forced the American culture onto these Indians, as demonstrated by their motto, Kill the Indian, Save the Man. Life in these schools was not good. Upon arrival the Indians were given short haircuts which was a source of shame for boys of many tribes. These children were taken from their families and sent to schools that weren’t even close to their homes, a total of 180,000 over the span of these schools. Their names were changed and were assigned at random but were sometimes based of their real name. All native languages were forbidden to speak, even between each other. One survivor said, “If you spoke your language, they held you down, put a bar of soap in your mouth.” These Indians were told to abandon their culture and way of life because it is inferior to that of white peoples. Children were beaten, malnourished and forced to do heavy labor. They were forced to attend a Christian church. They were also not allowed to wear their native clothing either. Punishment was very severe if you did not follow the rules, it often included chores, solitary confinement and corporal punishment including beatings with sticks, rulers and belts. 80 year old Edith Young tells us that “We were yelled at and slapped. In the 3rd grade, I asked the teacher why she was teaching that Columbus discovered America when Indians were here first. She came over and slapped me across my face. To be humiliated in front of the class, I’ll never forget that.” There were reports of widespread physical and sexual abuse at the schools. Another tragic consequence to these schools is that generations of Native American children were not raised by their own parents and never learned how to be loving parents themselves. Another survivor Hollow Horn said. “They just drag you out, take you to the back of the pews somewhere, and they slap you up, wake you up, give you water or whatever. …Then they take you back again, put you in your pew” he also said “The older classmates would hold you down, they had to hold you down. That’s an order.” Many of these children were send to these schools and didn’t see their family for another 4-5 years. Bill Wright remembers matrons bathing him in kerosene and shaving his head. One student recalled, “A small bell was tapped, and each of the pupils drew a chair from under the table. Supposing this act meant that they were to be seated, I pulled out mine and at once slipped into it from one side. But when I turned my head, I saw that I was the only one seated, and all the rest at our table remained standing. Just as I began to rise, looking shyly around to see how chairs were to be used, a second bell was sounded. All were seated at last, and I had to crawl back into my chair again. I heard a man’s voice at one end of the hall, and I looked around to see him. But all the others hung their heads over their plates. As I glanced at the long chain of tables, I cause the eyes of a paleface woman upon me. Immediately I dropped my eyes, wondering why I was so keenly watched by the strange woman. The man ceased his mutterings, and then a third bell was tapped. Everyone picked up his knife and fork and began eating. I began crying instead, for by this time I was afraid to venture anything more.” These schools were very overcrowded, and disease spread easily. Tuberculosis was a common disease among boarding schools and in order to control the number of students, boarding schools would often send students who contracted tuberculosis home. Even the measles broke out at the Phoenix Indian School, reaching epidemic proportions by January. In its wake, 325 cases of measles, 60 cases of pneumonia, and 9 deaths were recorded in a 10-day period. Another very upsetting story comes from another female survivor, “Intimidation and fear were very much present in our daily lives. For instance, we would cower from the abusive disciplinary practices of some superiors, such as the one who yanked my cousin’s ear hard enough to tear it. After a nine-year-old girl was raped in her dormitory bed during the night, we girls would be so scared that we would jump into each other’s bed as soon as the lights went out. The sustained terror in our hearts further tested our endurance, as it was better to suffer with a full bladder and be safe than to walk through the dark, seemingly endless hallway to the bathroom. When we were older, we girls anguished each time we entered the classroom of a certain male teacher who stalked and molested girls” In February of 1887 president Grover Cleveland signed the Dawes act. The Dawes act wanted to accomplish 5 things; break up of tribes, encouraging individual initiatives, further the progress of native farmers, secure parts of the reservations as Indian land, and opening the remainder of the land to white settlers for profit. What the Dawes act did was it granted 160 acres to the head of a family, only 80 if you were single. The Dawes Act wanted all these Native Americans to move to a plot of land separate from a tribe so they could form a sense of individuality. It also hoped to abandon the Native American ways of hunting and gathering and turn to a self-sufficient agrarian lifestyle. However, the Dawes Act did not apply to the territory of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Miami, and Peoria. The Dawes Act did as it was intended and for the most part ended their communal owning of property. The Dawes Act also decreased Native American land from 138 million acres in 1887 to 48 million acres in 1934. Senator Henry Teller said that the aim was to “to get at the Indian lands and open them up to settlement. The provisions for the apparent benefit of the Native Americans are but the pretext to get at his lands and occupy them. … If this were done in the name of Greed, it would be bad enough; but to do it in the name of Humanity … is infinitely worse. He was one of the people against the allocation of the Indians. A large amount of the land that was given to the Native Americans rapidly depleted from some 150 million acres to a measly 78 million acres by 1900. The leftover land from this was declared surplus and was sold to non-native settlers as well as railroad and other large corporations. Other sections were converted into federal parks and military compounds. By doing this the government was able to profit off of more than 90 million acres of land that was once treaty land. In 1934 the Indian Reorganization Act began. This worked to do the exact opposite that the Americans had been doing for the last hundred+ years. It laid out new rights for Native Americans, and encouraged tribal sovereignty and land management by tribes its focus was to reverse the goal of assimilation of Indians into American society and to strengthen, encourage and preserve the remaining tribes and their historic traditions and culture. This act also restored management of their land and resources back to them. It also wanted to create a solid economic base for the reservations and the people living on them. The census counted 332,000 Indians in 1930 and 334,000 in 1940, including those on and off reservations in the 48 states. In the late 1920’s government spending on Indians dropped to an all-time low at 23 million dollars per year. However, it rose back up to 38 million by 1940. By this time the Native American culture was mostly assimilated into our culture. It had been a long and hard journey. The different ways the Indians had been assimilated ranged from killing the Indians and forcing them into reservations to sending their children to boarding schools so they could be taught how to properly be white. Then all the way back to being supported by the government. In the end these people have played a massive role in America’s history and without them our country wouldn’t be the way it is. America is known for being a mixing pot of ethnicities and a massive role in our nation’s identity was filled by them. Works Cited Boarding Schools. Native American History and Culture: Boarding Schools – American Indian Relief Council Is Now Northern Plains Reservation Aid, www.nativepartnership.org/site/PageServer?pagename=airc_hist_boardingschools. Boarding Schools: A Black Hole of Native American History. National Catholic Reporter, 1 Sept. 2015, www.ncronline.org/news/justice/boarding-schools-black-hole-native-american-history. Federal Acts & Assimilation Policies. The Trials & Hanging | The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, usdakotawar.org/history/newcomers-us-government-and-military/acts-policy. Little, Becky. How Boarding Schools Tried to ‘Kill the Indian’ Through Assimilation. History.com, A&E Television Networks, 16 Aug. 2017, www.history.com/news/how-boarding-schools-tried-to-kill-the-indian-through-assimilation. Native American Timeline. Legends of America, www.legendsofamerica.com/na-timeline/. Picotte. The True Impact of the Dawes Act of 1887 ” Native American / American Indian Blog by Partnership With Native Americans. Native American / American Indian Blog by Partnership With Native Americans, blog.nativepartnership.org/the-true-impact-of-the-dawes-act-of-1887/. Survivors of Indian Boarding Schools Tell Their Stories. WKAR, www.wkar.org/post/survivors-indian-boarding-schools-tell-their-stories#stream/0. What Was the Effect of the Dawes Act of 1887? | Socratic. Socratic.org, socratic.org/questions/what-was-the-effect-of-the-dawes-act-of-1887.