During the 1880s, the U.S. policy of Indian removal was in jeopardy; there simply wasnít much land left to remove the Indians to. In response, American policy makers passed the Dawes Act, an attempt to turn the Native Americans into yeomen farmers. In addition to the provisions of this act, an accompanying act created Indian schools most of which emphasized agricultural and technical skills.
As you read, think about how the Dawes Act might be seen as an attempt
to civilize Native Americans. What does the Dawes Act indicate about
how Americans define "civilized"? Also consider, in what sense does
the Dawes Act represent an extension of previous American policies towards
the Indians and to what extent does the Dawes Act represent a departure
from those policies?
An Act to provide for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on the various reservations, and to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the [U.S.] Territories over the Indians....
[The President of the United States is hereby authorized] to allot the lands in said [Indian] reservations in severalty to any Indian located thereon in quantities as follows:
To each head of a family, one quarter of a section; To each single person
over eighteen years of age, one-eighth of a section.... To each other single
person under eighteen years... one-sixteenth of a section.
The United States does and will hold the land thus allotted, for the period of twenty-five years, in trust for the sole use and benefit of the Indian to whom such allotment have been made... and that at the expiration of said period the United States will convey the same by patent to said Indian....
Each and every member of the respective bands or tribes of Indians to whom allotments have been made shall have the benefit of and be subject to the laws of the state or territory in which they may reside.... And every Indian born within the territorial limits of the United States to whom allotments shall have been made... [or] who has voluntarily taken up... his residence separate and apart from any tribe of Indians therein, and has adopted the habits of civilized life is hereby declared to be a citizen of the United States, and is entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of such citizens....
In this speech, President Arthur outlines what he sees as the historic
failure of federal policy towards Native Americans, and he outlines the
foundations of a new way of dealing with the "Indian problem." Arthur
essentially seeks to justify measures that are included in the Dawes Act.
This question [of managing "Indian affairs"] has been a cause of trouble
and embarrassment from the infancy of the Government....
It has been easier to resort to convenient makeshifts for tiding over temporary difficulties than to grapple with the great permanent problem.... It was natural, at a time when the national territory seemed almost illimitable and contained many millions of acres far outside the bounds of civilized settlements, that a policy should have been initiated... of relegating them by treaty stipulations to the occupancy of immense reservations in the West, and of encouraging them to live the savage life, undisturbed by any earnest and well-directed efforts to bring them under the influences of civilization.
The unsatisfactory results which have sprung from this policy are becoming apparent to all.
As the white settlements have crowded the borders of the reservations, the Indians, sometimes contentedly and sometimes against their will, have been transferred to other hunting grounds, from which they have again been dislodged whenever their newfound homes have been desired by the adventurous settlers.
These removals and the frontier collisions by which they have often been preceded have led to frequent and disastrous conflicts between the races. It is profitless to discuss here which of them has been chiefly responsible for the disturbances....
We have to deal with the appalling fact that though thousands of lives have been sacrificed and hundreds of millions of dollars expended in the attempt to solve the Indian problem, it has until within the past few years seemed scarcely nearer a solution that it was half a century ago....
[To alleviate the "Indian problem," I propose]... to introduce among
the Indians the customs and pursuits of civilized life and gradually to
absorb them into the mass of our citizens, sharing their rights and holden
to their responsibilities....
First. I recommend the passage of an act making the laws of the various states and Territories applicable to Indian reservations within their borders.... The Indian should receive the protection of the law. He should be allowed to maintain in court the rights of person and property. He has repeatedly begged for this privilege. Its exercise would be very valuable to him in his progress towards civilization.
Second.... Permitting the allotment in severalty to... [Indians] of a reasonable quantity of land secured to them by patent, and for their own protection made inalienable for twenty or twenty five years, is demanded for their present welfare and their permanent advancement.
In return for such considerate action on the part of Government, there is reason to believe that the Indians in large numbers would be persuaded to sever their tribal relations and to engage a once in agricultural pursuits. Many of them realize that their hunting days are over and that it is now for their best interests to conform their manner of life to the new order of things....
[Allotting Indians personal title to land] would have a direct and powerful influence in dissolving the tribal bond, which is so prominent a feature of savage life, and which tends so strongly to perpetuate it.
Third. I advise a liberal appropriation for the support of Indian schools, because of my confident belief that such a course is consistent with the wisest economy....
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