America and Indian race — страница 16

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1887. By that time the Indian tribes had been moved out of the mainstreams of traffic and were settled on lands that they had chosen out of the larger areas that they had formerly occupied. Their choice in most cases had been confirmed by treaty, agreement, act of Congress, or executive order of the president. The tribes that lived by hunting over wide areas found reservation confinement a threat to their existence. Generally, they had insisted on annuity payments or rations, or both, and the U.S. peace commissioners had been willing to offer such a price in return for important land cessions. In time the view came to be held that reservation life fostered indolence and perpetuated customs and attitudes that held Indians back from assimilation. The strategy offered by proponents

of this theory was the Allotment Act authorizing the president to divide the reservations into individual parcels and to give every Indian, whether he wanted it or not, a particular piece of the tribally owned land. In order not to make the transition too abrupt, the land would be held in trust for a period of 25 years, after which ownership would devolve upon the individual. With it would go all the rights and duties of citizenship. Reservation land remaining after all living members of the tribes had been provided with allotments was declared surplus, and the president was authorized to open it for entry by non-Indian homesteaders, the Indians being paid the homestead price. A total of 118 reservations was allotted in this manner, but the result was not what had been

anticipated. Through the alienation of surplus lands (making no allowance for children yet unborn) and through patenting of individual holdings, the Indians lost 86,000,000 acres (34,800,000 hectares), or 62 percent, of a total of 138,000,000 acres in Indian ownership prior to 1887. A generation of landless Indians resulted, with no vocational training to relieve them of dependence upon land. The strategy also failed in that ownership of land did not effect an automatic acculturation in those Indians who received individual parcels. Through scattering of individuals and families, moreover, social cohesiveness tended to break down. The result was a weakening of native institutions and cultural practices with nothing offered in substitution. What was intended as transition proved

to be a blind alley. The Indian population had been dwindling through the decades after the mid-19th century. The California Indians alone, it was estimated, dropped from 100,000 in 1853 to not more than 30,000 in 1864 and 19,000 in 1906. Cholera in the central Plains in 1849 struck the Pawnee. As late as 1870-71 an epidemic of smallpox brought disaster to the Blackfeet, Assiniboin, and Cree. These events gave currency to the concept of the Indian as "the vanishing American." The decision of 1871 to discontinue treaty making and the passage of the Allotment Act of 1887 were both founded in the belief that the Indians would not survive, and hence it did not much matter whether their views were sought in advance of legislation or whether lands were provided for coming

generations. When it became obvious after about 1920 that the Indians, whose numbers had remained static for several years, were surely increasing, the United States was without a policy for advancing the interests of a living people. 20th-century reforms of U.S. policy A survey in 1926 brought into clear focus the failings of the previous 40 years. The investigators found most Indians "extremely poor," in bad health, without education, and lacking adjustment to the dominant culture around them. Under the impetus of these findings and other pressures for reform, Congress adopted the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, which contemplated an orderly decrease of federal control and a concomitant increase of Indian self-government and responsibility. The essentials of the

new law were as follows: (1) allotment of tribal lands was prohibited in the future, but tribes might assign use rights to individuals; (2) so-called surplus lands not pre-empted by homesteaders might be returned to the tribes; (3) tribes might adopt written constitutions and charters of incorporation embodying their continuing inherent powers to manage internal affairs; and (4) funds were authorized for the establishment of a revolving credit program, for land purchases, for educational assistance, and for aiding the tribes in forming organizations. Moreover, the act could be rejected on any reservation by referendum. The response to the 1934 act was indicative of the Indians' ability to rise above adversity. About 160 tribes, bands, and Alaska villages adopted written