Destroying the Native American Cultures
When European settlers arrived on the
North American continent at the end of the fifteenth century,
they encountered diverse Native American culturesas
many as 900,000 inhabitants with over 300 different languages.
These people, whose ancestors crossed the land bridge from
Asia in what may be considered the first North American
immigration, were virtually destroyed by the subsequent
immigration that created the United States. This tragedy
is the direct result of treaties, written and broken by
foreign governments, of warfare, and of forced assimilation.
Today, people see the policies of the past with 21st century eyes. One might
wonder how the nation's indigenous population became "inferior"
cultures in their own land, or how a nation could have committed
such atrocities in the name of "progress". One might
question whether it is acceptable to make national decisions
without involving in the decision making process those who
will be most drastically affected.
In 1786, the United States established
its first Native American reservation and approached each
tribe as an independent nation. This policy remained intact
for more than one hundred years. But as President James
Monroe noted in his second
inaugural address in 1821, treating Native Americans
this way flattered their pride, retarded their improvement,
and in many instances paved the way to their destruction.
In addition, Monroe observed that Americas
westward growth has constantly driven them back, with
almost the total sacrifice of the lands which they have
been compelled to abandon. They have claims on the magnanimity
and . . . on the justice of this nation which we must all
feel. Despite Monroes concern for the plight
of Native Americans, his administration successfully removed
them from states north of the Ohio River.