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Treatment of Native Americans

Get sources on the treatment and conditions of Native Americans.

Native Americans and Colonization

Native Americans have in common a record of catastrophe from the arrival of white colonists. Diseases against which they had no immunity swept the continent, killing vast numbers. In North America these were spread repeatedly when whites introduced the fur trade. Game depletion caused territorial wars, made bloodier by guns and horses. Generally having no concept of private land ownership, they were easily cheated of their lands. Some groups such as the LAKOTA attempted to resist, while others, such as the FIVE CIVILIZED TRIBES, tried to assimilate. The AMERICAN government, however, claimed a Manifest Destiny to conquer and settle the entire continent, and swept them aside.

Popular Social Darwinist theories convinced many whites that the extinction of the Native Americans was inevitable. Common white practice was to confine them in reservations until they died out or were assimilated. When, at the end of the 19th century, many groups survived, reservation lands were allotted to individuals, in order to undermine the unity of the nations and to allow most remaining land to be expropriated. Intense efforts were made to use education as a means of undermining traditional cultures.

Many Native American nations survived, however, and in the 20th century they became more vocal and politically active in their own defence. In 2000 their combined populations in North America numbered nearly 2.5 million. Poverty, lack of sovereignty and cultural survival still, however, remain major issues to most of them. While many have come to terms with the USA and Canada, and identify themselves with these states, there remains a bitter sense of grievance at past and present injustices. To many of these nations only true sovereignty and an adequate economic base could reconcile them with the modern states they inhabit.


Learn more on CREDO Native Americans (login with your COM account for off campus access).

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