Native Americans: Separate and Unequal Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2433 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Native Americans  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] 3). In a manner that mirrors the attitude of the Quechans, the Cherokee also sought federal protection, but wanted to maintain their sovereignty. In other words, Native Americans were trying to negotiate a place within the expanding European society in North America, but without sacrificing their values, beliefs, and sovereignty. The colonial powers, whether British, Spanish, French, or U.S., responded sometimes brutally by segregating them physically and culturally.

An essential component of the colonial response was to establish boarding schools through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) (Oliver, 1996, p. 10-13). The goal was to indoctrinate Native American children in Christian values, the English language, property ownership, and the American work ethic, while stripping them of their native culture and language. Twenty-five boarding schools were in operation by 1902, which were attended by close to 10,000 students. Despite these efforts, boarding schools were largely viewed as a failure by 1912. For example, close to 95% of the Navajo children who completed their education simply returned to the reservation to live with their relatives.

The colonial attitude towards Native American children in public schools was not much better than the boarding schools (Oliver, 1996, p. 14-16). Shortly after the end of WWII, Congress attempted to address this problem and the perception that Native Americans were being oppressed by mainstream culture, by considering the elimination of the reservation system. This approach was suggested to be a way to force assimilation, but the required legislation never materialized. Instead, the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education ended the imposition of colonial attitudes in education by freeing tribal governments to establish their own schools and colleges.

In the 1960s, the BIA began the Indian Relocation Program designed to encourage Native Americans to move from reservations to urban areas (Bell and Lim, 2005, p. 626-629). The expectation was that access to public schools, institutions of higher education, social services, and improved job opportunities would lift them out of an endless cycle of poverty. Unfortunately, racist attitudes persist and youth growing up away from the reservation sometimes turn to gang membership to relieve the sense of isolation and alienation. In response, concerned parents attempt to separate their children from gang violence by sending them back to the reservation to live with their grandparents; however, all too often the attitudes acquired through gang membership are transported along with the adolescents to the reservation. The long-term effect of this trend is aggravating the already disproportionate number of Native Americans under the control of the corrections system.

For the few Native American students who pursue the American dream of college and career, they continue to face social alienation, indifferent faculty, isolation, racism, and an irrelevant curriculum (vanLent, 1999, p. 10-11). For this reason, only 17% of Native American students seek a college education and of these, only 25% finish. Yet, many Native American elders place a high premium on successful completion of a primary and secondary education (Steinhauer, 1998). The apparent goal is to attain the skills necessary for navigating mainstream American culture, thus helping reservation communities become self-sufficient. Rather than seeking to join the mainstream culture, contemporary tribal elders are instead seeking ways that would allow them to remain apart and thus preserve their values and beliefs.

According to Steinhauer (1998), the main issue that prospective college students from reservations face is one of identity. Will they be required to forsake their traditional values and beliefs in order to survive on a university campus and a racist, White society? Such questions, in the absence of a nearby support network, probably undermine their commitment to completing a college education. In addition, some students can expect to experience alienation upon return to the reservation. For an ethnic group that values connectedness, the fear of being caught in this no-win situation would act as a significant deterrent against seeking a college education.

Discussion

The indigenous people of North America have suffered over 400 years of social isolation, due to the colonial attitudes of the dominant European cultures. The Quechans, despite their efforts to interact with the Spaniards as equals, discovered that second-class citizenship awaited them and revolted violently. A similar scenario played out repeatedly across North America as Europeans expanded their settlements and military power coast to coast. After the dust settled, Native Americans found themselves segregated both culturally and physically.

The alienation continues today, both in terms of cultural differences and racist assumptions. This is readily apparent in how Native American children progress through non-tribal schools and colleges. Given the information presented above, it seems self-evident that Native Americans continue to represent a marginalized group and the United States a colonial power. In the absence of an opportunity to participate in mainstream American as equals, Native Americans have thus chosen to self-segregate to protect their ethnic identities and value system.

References

Bell, James and Lim, Nicole. (2005). Young once, Indian forever: Youth gangs in Indian Country. American Indian Quarterly, 29, 626-650.

Cumfer, Cynthia. (2007). Separate peoples, one land: The minds of Cherokees, Blacks, and Whites on the Tennessee frontier. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Guerrero, Vladimir. (Winter 2010-2011). Lost in the translation: Chief Palma of the Quechan. Southern California Quarterly, 92, 327-350.

Oliver, Christopher. (1996). The internal colonialism model: What the model has to done to the education of Native Americans. ERIC, ED396883, 1-27.

Santiago, Mark. (1998). Massacre at the Yuma Crossing: Spanish relations with the Quechans, 1779-1782. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

Steinhauer, Noella.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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