~~October 17, 2016~~
~Native Americans and the Federal Government~
At the start of the twentieth century there were approximately 250,000 Native Americans in the USA – just 0.3 per cent of the population – most living on reservations where they exercised a limited degree of self-government.
During the course of the nineteenth century they had been deprived of much of their land by forced removal westwards, by a succession of treaties (which were often not honored by the white authorities) and by military defeat by the USA as it expanded its control over the American West.
In 1831 the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, had attempted to define their status. He declared that Indian tribes were ‘domestic dependent nations’ whose ‘relation to the United States resembles that of a ward to his guardian’. Marshall was, in effect, recognizing that America’s Indians are unique in that, unlike any other minority, they are both separate nations and part of the United States.
This helps to explain why relations between the federal government and the Native Americans have been so troubled.
A guardian prepares his ward for adult independence, and so Marshall’s judgement implies that US policy should aim to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream US culture. But a guardian also protects and nurtures a ward until adulthood is achieved, and therefore Marshall also suggests that the federal government has a special obligation to care for its Native American population.
As a result, federal policy towards Native Americans has lurched back and forth, sometimes aiming for assimilation and, at other times, recognizing its responsibility for assisting Indian development.
… and it continues to this day!!
“As it appears in … full read/full credit”
Philip Joseph Mendoza Jr.
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