American Indigenous People's Survival Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1600 words)  |  Bibliography Sources: 5

¶ … Native American Genocide

The topic of this paper is Native Americans and their treatment by Westernized society within the boundaries of the United States. From a historical perspective, Native Americans have always endured resistance and marginalization once Europeans came to North America. In the U.S., Native Americans have endured many types of biological, chemical and conventional warfare, which has left these peoples on the brink of extinction. A significant amount of insight, then, is discerned from elucidating some of the key historical events of these people from 1830 to the present time. Specifically, events such as the landmark decision in the Supreme Court case of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the Trail of tears, the American Indian Movement, and the 20th century Wounded Knee standoff indicate that these people have always been repressed and oppressed by numerous governmental forces in this country.

One of the facts that most readily proves this thesis is the woeful treatment Native Americans endured during the aforementioned court case. What is most significant about this case is that it was ultimately decided in the early part of the 19th century, and it evinced one of the very first times that Native Americans attempted to integrate and assimilate with Western society. Conventional warfare had failed to impede the progress of the Western domination of the land that the Native Americans had traditionally ruled. Thus, the Cherokee tribe attempted to form its own nation in a move of recognized solidarity in accordance to that of Western society. One of the reasons the tribe adopted this method was to preserve its control of its native lands in Georgia, where a number of Cherokee tribesmen have always resided (Drew, 2014). Despite the fact that their efforts in this endeavor were in accordance with Western ways, the state of Georgia still refused to acknowledge the tribe as a homogenous entity within its borders -- mostly because it wanted to oust these people and appropriate their lands. Significantly, the tribe attempted to contest this measure in more conventional Western ways -- by taking the state to court. In doing so it certainly demonstrated its willingness to assimilate and to abide by American laws. Furthermore, its attempts were met with empathy by Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, who initially sided with the tribes and its claims to have become a sovereign entity (Sherman, 2006). However, former president Andrew Jackson balked at the idea that the United States could harbor another nation within its borders, and refused to concede both the lands and any sort of acknowledgement of the purported state. The importance of this failed attempt of the tribe in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia pertains to the fact that despite the best efforts of Native Americans to adopt Western ways, they were still rejected largely due to the fact that these people were not Western in origin. As the next event discussed in this document explicates, the effects of this failed attempt would prove disastrous for Native Americans and the Cherokee tribe in particular.

Perhaps the single most salient historical event that typifies the partisan and cruel treatment that Native Americans have always endured at the hands of Westerners in America is the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears was a forced March during the 1830's that was perhaps at its most brutal in 1838. One of the most prominent repercussions of the failure of the Cherokee Nation to legally exist within the state of Georgia during this decade was that the tribe was eventually forced out of its native lands. There are several factors about this reality that served to underscore how uncaring and harsh various governmental entities -- at both the federal and the state levels -- were to these people. The tribe was forced from its ancestral lands in a decidedly martial fashion in which weapons were drawn and tribesmen did not have a sufficient amount of time to gather their belongings. Moreover, they had to endure a substantial portion of this journey during the winter and early spring months when snow was prevalent and temperatures were far from ideal for such a journey. Also, everyone who was a part of the Cherokee tribe was forced to make this march regardless of their aptitude to do so. Thus, the elderly and the infirm were forced from their homes in freezing weather to make a journey of thousands of miles north out of the state of Georgia. Subsequently, too many Cherokee tribes people died during this journey to enable the state of Georgia to appropriate their land. It is difficult to pinpoint exact data for the number of the deceased during this terrible journey, some estimates indicate that as many as a fourth of the tribe perished while traversing these lands under military supervision (Blackburn, 2012). Nonetheless, it is important to realize the fact that in so many ways, this march represented the nadir of Native American-Western relations. Cherokee Nation v. Georgia was a patent rejection of the assimilation tendencies of Native Americans. The consequences of that rejection was not only a loss of ancient and spiritual tribal lands during the Trail of Tears, but even more needless and wanton loss of life during an arduous journey that not even the most fittest and well equipped of personages could have survived. The Trail of Tears definitely was indicative of the fact that for the repressed and oppressed Native Americans, things had definitely gotten worse.

The next most significant event in the history of Native Americans in the U.S. occurred in the 1960's wit the American Indian Movement. It is important to realize that this movement occurred during the midst of the Civil Rights movement, when there were a number of historic minority groups that were routinely marginalized in American society attempting to demand and even assert their basic Civil Rights. Examples of these groups include African-Americans, Chicanos, women, and Native Americans. The purpose of the American Indian Movement was to issue a return of the native lands of these peoples, as well as to distance themselves from the U.S. In the process. It is critical to realize that such aims are related to those of Native Americans in the Cherokee Nation v. Georgia court case. Still, the influence of the Trail of Tears and of the zeitgeist of the 1960's was evinced in prerogative of the movement of Native Americans in the 1960s. Specifically, the devastating losses incurred during that forced march (of both land and tribesmen) and the radical nature of the times imbued the 1960's Native American movement with much more militaristic overtones. For the first time in the 20th century, Native Americans actively advocated measures of violence to attempt to stave off the repression and the oppression that these peoples had endured at the hands of governmental and social entities in the country. The American Indian Movement was founded in the summer of 1968 by George Mitchell, Dennis Banks, and Clyde Bellecourt. Other notable figures associated with the group included Russell Means (Cook-Lynn, 2014). The militant nature of the group was demonstrated when it marched on Washington, D.C., and temporarily occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a protest gesture. The most singularly important aspect of this creation of the American Indian Movement was the fact that this group of people had seen how decades and decades of accomodationist assimilation did not work. This fact was tangibly demonstrated by the preceding two events denoted in this document. Thus, this group now decided to take a more revolutionary and military approach to achieve the same objectives Native Americans had been seeking: parity in Western society.

The final event to illustrate the plight of Native Americans in this country took place at Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1973. It is critical to realize that Wounded Knee was the site of a 19th century massacre of Native Americans. In the 1970's, however, members of the American Indian Movement had a standoff with federal and local authorities in the Native American community in this city (Wall, 1974). Members of this movement occupied this community in protest of governmental corruption and the continual marginalization of Native Americans at the hands of governmental officials. The results were much less bloody than in the aforementioned massacre, with hundreds of Native Americans getting arrested and others suffering wounds from a standoff that lasted the over two months. This incident event is directly related to the previous one outlined in this document, since it involved the same group. Moreover, it illustrates the fact that the group was willing to rely on more than accommodation and actually preferred action to contend with inequities enacted against Native Americans in America. However, it is pivotal to note that although the methods might have changed, the results were still the same: Native Americans continued, and continue to endure repressive and oppressive treatment at the hands of the government.

In summary, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the Trail of Tears, the American Indian Movement and the Wounded Knee standoff all… [END OF PREVIEW]

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