The Dawes Act Started the U.S. Land-Grab of Native Territory

Imperialism worked like this for we Indians: take land. If land can’t be taken or Indians exterminated, reorganize tribes into institutions that serve the empire. Break up commonly owned tribal land and convert it to either private property (allotments for individuals and families or thousands of acres for Alaska Native Corporations) or turn it into public property managed by a tribal bureaucracy. Either way will destroy traditional tribal structures and the disintegration of tribal communities into drug use, alcohol abuse, and crime will soon follow.

The solution is to reverse this trend. Rebuild our traditional tribes, bands and clans. Dispose of imperial institutions on our lands. The United States is already a failed state in much of Indian Country. We need to grow a shadow system of governance, services, economy and defense to replace it.


Indian Country Today

Today, February 8, marks the 125th anniversary of the notorious Dawes Act. This is part one of a three-part series on this devastating bit of legislation. Check back here Thursday, February 10, and Monday, February 14, for parts two and three.

Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts (1816–1903) was a firm believer in the civilizing power of private property. He once said that to be civilized one must “wear civilized clothes, cultivate the ground, live in houses, ride in Studebaker wagons, send children to school, drink whiskey [and] own property.”

His faith in that premise was so strong that he sponsored federal legislation in the 1880s to “civilize” Indians by giving them individual allotments of land. The consequences were disastrous. His legislation broke up communally owned tribal land that had guaranteed every tribal member a home and almost destroyed Indian communities, traditions and culture. It dispossessed Indian nations of almost a million acres of the land that had sustained them since time immemorial. It also opened up Indian land for white European settlers eager to fulfill the mandates of Manifest Destiny—a 19th century belief rooted in the Christian Doctrine of Discovery that American citizens had a God-given right (and obligation) to possess all the land between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Read the rest at Indian Country Today

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About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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