American Government and Indians

The relationship between Native Indians and the American government has been marked by warfare, strife and conflict. The American colonists, in pursuit of land and assets, instituted various policies which were either aimed at assimilating the Indians or exterminating them. Consequently, various treaties were formulated since the 15th Century.

The Colonial Period (1492-1774)

The New World was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 when he first set foot in Haiti, Caribbean. Soon afterwards, immigrants from England arrived and began exploring, surveying and settling on the land. Although there were indigenous communities who previously occupied the land, their numbers vastly declined due to European diseases, slavery and warfare.  A number of wars broke out during this period. However, the Crown preferred forming treaties with the Indians. The King emphasized on diplomacy, which was demonstrated by the numerous gifts to the Indians so as to secure peace and friendship.

The Confederation Period (1774-1788)

During this period, the American colonies revolted against England. Under the Articles of Confederation, these new state governments chose to handle Indian affairs diplomatically. This was due to the fact that these governments did not have sufficient manpower and money to fight the Indians.

The Fair Trade Era (1789-1825)

The new unified federal government, under the Congress, instituted laws that controlled Indian land purchases and prevented states and individuals from dealing directly with the Indians. This fostered peace and fair trade.

The Removal Era (1825-1850s)

During this era, the United States population had grown, and so had its economy. The federal government was in a position to force the Indians to cede land for development and agriculture.  Consequently, Indian tribes were moved into Indian Territories west of the Mississippi river through a series of modifications of existing treaties.

Reservation Era (1850-1887)

During this period, the United States government forced all Indians into small reserves spread out throughout the country so as to civilize and educate them. Indian religious and cultural practices were outlawed. Rather than deal with Indians through treaties, Congress was charged with formulating all foreign policies regarding Indians. The administration of reserves was at first handed to officials, who proved to be very corrupt. Consequently, Congress assigned reserves to religious groups, which set up schools and social services.

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