American Indians

American Indians thrived with the land. They shared their resources and likewise fought for them too. American Indians bring to mind an image of strong, proud people with a deep faith in nature and its awesome power. They lived in self-made homes, such as the Plains Indian's Tipi, and made wise use of animals they hunted and killed. The American Indians were eventually stripped of their land and resources by the Euro-Americans, but held onto their cultures and indomitable spirit.

Euro-American acquisition of land under the title "Manifest Destiny" was the basis for conflict between American Indians and settlers. The people pushing west presumed that the land of the West was theirs to claim. The settlers found American Indian people occupying "their" land and petitioned the federal government to move them.

The federal government approached Indian negotiation to remove them by way of treaties. When treaties were not clearly understood by either side battles frequently ensued. Miscommunication persisted between the two groups.

Generally, the cultures of American Indians were not monetary and they bartered for their needs. They utilized the land and did not understand the European concept of land ownership. They secured what they needed and traveled elsewhere if necessary. American Indians valued the traditions and practices they established for hundreds of years. The conflicting values of Euro-Americans clashed with their deeply ingrained thinking.

Buffalo hunters slaughtered thousands of animals to capitalize upon eastern and European demand for meat and fur. Treaties were negotiated that limited the land use of American Indian people. Any chance of continuing their former life ways vanished. The United States moved the tribes to designated reservation areas that originally allowed for hunting. As settlers demanded more land, the reservations were reduced in size. American Indian people were expected to learn self sufficiency and a Euro-American agricultural lifestyle.

The United States tried to impose European culture upon the American Indians. Originally, Thomas Jefferson hoped to remove all American Indians from the East to lands West of the Mississippi. The United States Congress of 1819 authorized a "Civilization Fund" which promoted literacy and adaptation of American Indians to white culture. With the Euro-Americans came Christianity and the need to proselytize and convert American Indian people. Once in the Reservation system, Euro-Americans held a captive audience for their dictates. To this day, American Indians walk a line between their traditional cultures and the one that dominates the land.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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