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COMPLETE Sociology of Race and Ethnicity Notes: Part 9 [got 4.0 in the course]

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Boston University
CAS SO 207

Pages 228-246 American Indians: From Conquest to Tribal Survival in a Postindustrial Society • Introduction discusses meaning of names to a person and what the names represent (Christian names, Indian name, and “my crime’s being an Indian, what’s yours?”)— Leonard Peltier from Prison Writings (been in federal prison since 1977 for murdering two federal agents during a shootout on Sioux reservation) • American Indians were less affected by forces of social and political evolution but rather government maintenance (more ignored in headlines, except for mascots for sports teams) • Last decade has improved since they gained more autonomy, addressed problems in education, joblessness, health, etc. • Size of the Group o This is subject to the consensus (people used to be able to only identify with one race)—5 million people who claimed to be in part but only half of them claimed onlyAmerican Indian ancestry (1% of total population of US) o Lost 75% or more of population during contact period, recent population increase has perhaps restored this loss by now o More recent growth is result of changing definitions of race in larger society and greater willingness of people to claim Indian ancestry (underscores how socially- determined race really is) • American Indian Cultures o Differences in American Indians and WASP culture has hindered communication o Most NativeAmerican tribes relied on hunting and gathering, which is important because [Lenski says] societies are profoundly shaped by their subsistence technology o Live on thin edge of hunger and stress sharing and cooperation/cohesion and solidarity o Ideas about relationship between human beings and natural world is what sets them apart from Western Culture: live in harmony with natural world (not “improve it”) and not value humans more important than any other form of life of Earth itself—act as if the Earth is their mother (would not destroy it) o Concept of private property/ownership was not prominent inAmerican Indians like it was WASP (i.e. land ownership)—did not think of land as something to trade/buy/sell/etc. o American Indian culture was more group-oriented rather than individual-oriented  “Students go hungry rather than ask their parents for lunch money, for in asking they would be putting their needs in front of the group’s needs” o American Indian tribes organized around egalitarian values that stressed dignity and worth of every man, woman, and child (women controlled land). o Differences in values betweenA.I and WASP culture, compounded by power differentials that emerged, placedA.I. at disadvantage.A.I. lack of experience with dealing with contracts made it difficult for them to defend resources Relations with the Federal Government after the 1890s • American Indians had very few resources left by this time, lived in western two-thirds, split apart by cultural and linguistic differences, and could not participate politically as most were not US citizens • Economically,A.I. among most impoverished groups in US (resources had been destroyed)—dependent on federal gov’t for food, shelter, clothing, etc. • Reservations were in remote areas, far from industrialization/modernization—alsoA.I. had few of these skills to work there (like knowledge of English, familiarity with Western culture) • Prejudice and intolerance, abided by policies designed to maintain powerlessness and poverty or forcing them toAmericanize • Reservation Life o Paternalism and the Bureau of Indian Affairs  Reservations run by agency of federal gov’t (U.S. Bureau of IndianAffairs (BIA)—controlled all aspect of day life, like budget, justice system, and schools, BIAeven determined tribal membership  Traditional leadership/political institutions-no regard for input from members of reservation; even controlled communication to world outside reservation o CoerciveAcculturation: The DawesAct and Boarding Schools  ForcedAmericanization: languages and religions were forbidden, institutions circumvented and undermined  Centerpiece of US Indian policy was Dawes AllotmentAct of 1887, a deeply flawed attempt to impose white definitions of land ownership and to transformAmerican Indians into independent farmers by dividing their land among the families of each tribe. Intention of the act was to give each family the means to survive like their white neighbors • Flawed by gross lack of understanding of their culture and needs; direct attack on those cultures—legislation sought to destroy broader kinship, clan and tribal social structures and replace with Western systems  140 million acres were allocated to tribes in 1887 and 90 million were lost by 1930s  The Dawes AllotmentAct was a disaster and decreased their resources even more and forced acculturation • SentAmerican Indian children to boarding schools (required to speak English) • Consistent with Blauner hypothesis, they could not mention native culture  A.I. virtually powerless to change reservation system or avoid acculturation—they resented and resisted • The Indian Reorganization Act o Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Collier (man he appointed to run BIA) were sympathetic to A.I. poor reservation conditions—they secured passage of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) in 1934 o Rescinded the Dawes Act of 1887 and policy of individualizing tribal lands; mechanisms of school system were dismantled and financial aid was made available; also proposed increase inA.I. self-governance and a reduction in paternalistic role of BIA o IRAhad its limits and governing still had white political forms to it (popular vote instead of choosing leader by counsel of elders)—illustrates the basically assimilationist intent of the IRA o AffectedA.I. women—in tribes male-dominated, IRAgave women new rights to participate in elections, run for office, etc. o IRAof 1934 was significant improvement but was more sympathetic in intent than execution o Some tribes were victimized (Hopi tribe, generated wealth for white firms and allies, not for the tribe itself); other tribes prospered such as Cherokee group that developed debt-free farming community o Many tribes remained suspicious of IRAand by 1948 fewer than 100 tribes had voted to accept its provisions • The Termination Policy o IRA’s stress on legitimacy of tribal identity seemed “un-American” to many; constant pressure of federal gov’t to return to individualistic policy encouraging Americanization o Some elements of dominant society still wanted ownership of the remaining Indian lands o *1953—assimilationist forces won victory when Congress passed resolution calling for end to reservation system called termination, intended to get the federal gov’t “out of the Indian business”—rejected IRAand proposed a return to the system of private land ownership imposed on tribes by Dawes act o Tribes opposed policy strongly; tribes would no longer exist as legally recognized entities and resourced would be placed in private hands o ~100 tribes were terminated (hastily); forced to sell land and suffer economic losses; turned to welfare—even requested restoration of their reservation status (Menominee and Klamath reservation) • Relocation and Urbanization o Various programs (around termination time) encouragedA.I. to move to urban areas (already begun in 1940’s; spurred by availability of factory jobs during WW2) o Centers forAmerican Indians were established in many cities, and various services were offered to assist in adjustment to urban life o Rapid increase in movement to city began in 1950—urbanized faster than general population, yet A.I. are still the least urbanized minority group (A.A. are the most) —both encountered high rates of unemployment o A.I. women migrated to city in large numbers—men could not be breadwinners
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