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Native American/ Indigenous People Heritage: History

1754: French and Indian War: The French and Indian War was a result of France and Britain both trying to expand in the United States. Many natives fought alongside France and their colonies, but the Iroquois Confederacy fought with Britain and their colonists. After several years and the signing of the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain and their American colonies won. But= the war had major costs resulting in taxation, and by gaining more land, tribes would be provoked. 

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1785: Treaty of Hopewell: The Treaty of Hopewell consisted to treaties with three tribes- Cherokee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw. US government officials appointed commissioners to create an Indian policy at the federal level for the south, and to get rid of any Spanish influence tribes had. Articles in all the treaties included plan to restore people and land taken during the revolutionary war, and forbid colonizers from settling on their land. But they also included articles forbidding tribes from retaliation, and articles including sending criminals to the government to have them punished. An article in the treaty given to only the Cherokee’s stated they were also allowed to send a representative to Congress. On November 28, 37 Cherokee chiefs and warriors signed the treaty.

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1804/5: Lewis and Clark Expedition In 1804 Thomas Jefferson ordered explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to go on an expedition to “unknown” territories, including Louisiana, recently purchased from France. Jefferson’s goal was to not only find new routes across America, but to establish good relationships with Native tribes. In mid-October, they reached what is currently North Dakota (then the Mandan village) which had a settle of about 5,000 people. This village was crucial for trade, and those on the expedition decided to spend their winter there. Living among Natives in the village included Frenchmen, who helped the expedition by being translator and resources. After the winter, Lewis and Clark recruited people living in the village to help guide and translate. Among those chosen was a 15-year-old from the Shoshone tribe, known as Sacajawea. She was crucial for not only her knowledge but became a symbol of peace. Sacajawea brought her baby on this journey, and her presence when encountering other tribes was a sign of coexistence rather than war. 

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1830: Indian Removal Act Treaties became one of the easiest and legal ways to displace Native Americans, and the Indian Removal Act proved this. As the need for more land and resources grew, colonizers find expansion hard due to tribes. Under Andrew Jackson, the Indian Removal Act would aim to grant land west of the Mississippi River to tribes who agreed to give up their current land. Once the act was in place, it allowed (and in some ways encouraged) Jackson and white settlers to persuade, bribe, and even threaten Native tribes into moving. By the time his presidency was over, he had nearly 70 removal treaties become law, causing the removal of nearly 50,000 Natives. 

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1838: Trail of Tears During the time of the Indian Removal Act, the Cherokee Nation resisted. In 1932, the Supreme Court ruled that tribes were not part of the colonies, therefore did not have to abide by any laws placed upon them. Ignoring the Court, President Jackson created a new treaty, and got the signature of a Cherokee chief. Then, in 1838, Cherokee tribes were forced by Georgia state militia to live in the plains of Mississippi. Between 3 and 4 thousand Cherokee out of the 14/15,000 died during what came to be known as the Trail of Tears. 

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1879: Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was the first boarding school for Native Americans. Funded by the government, the goal was to force assimilation upon Native children. Students got their hair cut (in Native cultures, hair is believed to be an extension of spirit and ancestors), were forced to change their names, could no longer speak their Native languages, and were converted to Christianity. If they resisted, there would be harsh punishments and, in some cases, children were placed in solitary confinement. These same tactics inspired other Indian schools ran by the government, and many were ran by churches. Government officials would recruit children by telling tribes the schools were a great opportunity to learn English, and thus would help the tribe in future conflicts. Eventually, disease mixed with awful living conditions lead to the death of these children. Though many were lucky enough to return to their tribes (though not unharmed), there are currently 186 children buried on the current site. 

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1890: Wounded Knee Massacre The Wounded Knee Massacre had been a result of the government’s fear of the Ghost Dance spiritual movement. The movement resulted in Native Americans believing they were on reservations and continuing to be removed because they had angered their Gods.  Sioux believed by performing the Ghost Dance and rejecting influence of whites, they could connect to the Gods, who would in return recreate the world and destroy all of those who don’t believe in them, and those who aren’t Native American. On December 15, police had tried to arrest Sioux Chief Sitting Bull because he thought he practiced the Ghost Dance and killed him while doing so. Two weeks later, the US Army surrounded a group of Sioux Ghost Dancers and demanded their weapons. Thus, a fight broke out between a Native American and Army man. This led to the soldiers massacring these Sioux, killing about 150 of them, almost half being women and children. 

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1924: Indian Citizenship Act The Indian Citizenship Act confirmed citizenship of  Native Americans born in US territories. Before the Civil War, citizenship was only granted to those who were ½ Native American or less. During the Reconstruction period, Congress had the idea to grant citizenship to “friendly” tribes, but not many states supported this. After 1888 Native women who married US citizens gained citizenship, and after World War 1, Native veterans were offered citizenship. Finally, The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 was passed by Congress, granting all Native Americans citizenship. 

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1962: Voting Rights Act Native Americans had to gain the right to vote on a state by state basis. The last state to grant Natives the right to vote was Utah in 1962. Though they could vote in every state, Native Americans still had to go through obstacles to vote, including poll taxes and literacy tests. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is mostly known for giving African Americans the right to vote, but it also helped push Native’s right as well. This Act is no longer in full effect for Natives, and many still find it hard to vote based on their state’s laws. 

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2010: “Apology to Native Peoples of the United States” An official apology to Native Americans did not come until 2009 and was tucked away in a bill. In a 67-page act of 2010, on page 45 there is an “Apology to Native Peoples of the United States.” The short paragraph apologizes, then quickly makes it clear the government is not admitting liability for any lawsuits from Native American tribes, nor will there be any settlement claim. After the bill was passed, President Obama made a public apology on behalf of Americans.