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Presentation U.S. History Primary Source Timeline

Government Policy Toward Native Americans

A map of the United States of America, 1783
The American Revolution and Its Era, 1750-1789

In 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee to develop a plan for a central government. Shortly thereafter, the Articles of Confederation were written and a union of states, called the United States of America, came into being.

Under the Articles of Confederation, the newly developed central government was required to share power with the states. Among the powers given over to the central government were making war and peace, conducting diplomatic relations, requisitioning men and money from the states, coining and borrowing money, and regulating Indian affairs. The states were responsible for enforcing laws, regulating commerce, administering justice, and levying taxes.

During the mid 1780s, the Confederation Congress was particularly attentive to problems in the Northwest Territory, an area of land located between the thirteen states and the Mississippi River. Thousands of settlers had moved into the area by 1780. However, they were not the first settlers. Living on the land were numerous nations of Native Americans. The Congress spent a good deal of time and effort developing policies to keep peace between the white settlers and the Native Americans. Treaties, the appointment of government agents and superintendents to serve as intermediaries between Native Americans and the government, and raising and arming troops to put down insurrections, are examples of strategies the Confederation Congress used to maintain peace, meet the needs of the Native Americans, and open the area for further settlement.

To find additional documents relating to these topics in, use such key words as Indians of North AmericaIndian TreatiesLaws--United States, and the names of specific Indian tribes (e.g., CherokeeCreek, or Choctaw).