Native Americans’ Responses on US Nation-building and Westward Expansion

The hundred years that came after the United States obtained its independence had brought many changes to the lives of the Native Americans of the country (MSN Encarta, 2007). The United States established a democratic land wherein the people have rights and can actively take part in the democracy. However, these rights were not given to the Native Americans of the country. The US government did not really view the Native Americans as their citizens. These Native Americans basically have only two choices. If they wanted to live in the US, they had to let go of their tribal practices in order to co-exist with the Anglo-Americans.

If they choose otherwise, the government will send them to territories built in the Mississippi River. Native Americans who made the first choice were thus labeled as “civilized”. Most of these “civilized” Native Americans were Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles (SparkNotes, 2006). In order to co-exist with the Anglo-Americans, “civilized” Native Americans had to abandon their old lives and old ways. Some of them received the teachings of Christianity and welcomed the white missionaries. However, most of them still cannot let go of their old customs.

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This was why some religious leaders combined Native Americans customs to Christianity practices. But religious adaptation was not enough. The Native Americans had to adopt social and political American ways. Farming, which was initially women’s work were done by men as an answer to their economic needs. Also, they had to accept white inventions in order to catch up with the white society that they were living in. All these, the Native Americans did in order to the Anglo-Americans not to look at them as barbarians (MSN Encarta, 2007).

While some of the Native Americans had recognized that their survival was in the hands of the Anglo-Americans, some of them still opposed to the assimilation attempts. Some of them were really tough on sticking of their old ways. Because of these, some Anglo-Americans had impelled the government to drive them away. But these same Indians were the most unwilling to leave their ancestral homes (SparkNotes, 2006). When the US government acquired a large region on the west of the Mississippi River, this region became the target for the relocation of the Native Americans.

Since then, Anglo-Americans had been thrusting the native westward. Differences in opinions among Native Americans caused a gap between them. It was actually a clash of opinions between the mixed bloods, Native Americans with Anglo-American blood and the full-blooded Native Americans. The mixed bloods were the one who most likely agreed with the assimilation to the Anglo-Americans, while the full-blooded Native Americans wanted to maintain their identities (SparkNotes, 2006). Because of this, resentment was shared by this two parties against each other.

Still the Anglo-Americans pushed to remove the natives to the west. In, 1824, an administrative unit was created in the Department of War to manage Native American relations. The government would send agent to talk and negotiate with the native tribes. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed authorizing and legalizing the removal of the Native Americans in eastern parts to send them to the Mississippi River. Though laws were passed for the removal of the natives, there ere still some of them who greatly resisted this.

The Cherokees went as far as declaring themselves and their lands as one independent nation. They thought that by doing this, they will not be subject anymore to the authorities of the US government (SparkNotes, 2006). However, the government would still not recognize them as one. But one chief justice in the name of John Marshall pointed out that indeed the native tribes are considered as nations. He said that the were not under the authority of the state but just under the federal government jurisdiction.

In connection to this, he added that the native tribes are protected under the federal laws. Treaties were passed for this effect. But, these treaties did not in any way made the positions of the natives any better. An example would be the Treaty of New Echota. (SparkNotes, 2006). In this treaty, the Cherokee chief was swayed to hand over their lands to the Anglo-Americans for a price of 5. 6 million US dollars and free transportation to the west. However, the price they were given did not amount to the lives of 2,000 to 4,000 Cherokees who died as they journeyed their way to the west.

One Native American leader, Black Hawk had stood up against the US government. In the early 1830s, the Sauk and Fox Native Americans were said to agree on giving yp their lands for an annuity of a thousand US dollars. But Black Hawk believed that the agreement because the Native Americans were drunk when they signed it. And so, he led Sauk and Fox Native Americans to resist removal actions of the government. In effect, a war broke out between them and the US military. But the war still became their loss. Due to lack of food, forces of Black Hawk’s company weakened.

Eventually, they were killed near the Res Axe River in August 1831. Because of this defeat, Native Americans lost rights to their lands in the eastern part of Mississippi (High Beam Encyclopedia, 2000). Clearly, the Native Americans had been racially discriminated as the United States started its nation-building. Oppression of their rights to their homelands had aroused different responses from the Native Americans. Some of them thought only of survival, but some thought of fighting for what they thought were rightfully theirs.

It is probably a natural reaction. But the conflict between Native Americans and Anglo-Americans had brought death on both sides. But the greater loss is clearly on the part of the Native Americans. These people are so attached to their ancestral roots, that it would have been hard for them to be forcefully removed from their homes. But this changes in the lives of the Native Americans and Anglo-Americans could have been necessary in order to put the United States in its current position right now.

Reference

http://www.sparknotes.com/history/american/westwardexpansion/section4.rhtml