The anything to get it. State governments joined

Trail of Tears has become the symbol in American history that shows the insensitivity
of American politicians towards the Native American people. Native American
lands were taken by the States and the Federal government, and the Native
Americans had to agree to move and lose their uniqueness as tribes. Everything
from native plants and animals to housing to and the weather became a part of
the culture in Native American life. In the early 1800’s Native Americans lived
on millions of acres of land throughout the United States. White settlers often
feared the Native Americans because they were different and could not understand
their languages and cultures. After the American Revolution, Native Americans
were thought of as a separate nation within a sovereign country. According to
David E. Wilkins author of Dismembering
Natives, The Violence Done by Citizenship Fights, “(…) many states were
long reluctant to act kind towards the Indians, only when Utah (1962) allowed
Indians to vote were they considered citizens in some of the states.”.1 To the settlers Native
Americans were unfamiliar people who took up the lands that the settlers wanted
to use. The white settlers wanted this land and would do anything to get it.
State governments joined together in efforts to push the Native Americans off
the lands.

 In 1830 under President Andrew Jackson with
the discovery of gold at hand, congress passed the Indian Removal Act to free
land for the nation’s expanding white population. A recent study done by shows that an estimated 46,000 Native American people made the journey
west following one of the several routes that collectively became known as the
Trail of Tears. Along the way many Native American people died from disease,
malnutrition and exposure. A lot of these people did not have horses or carts
to be pulled by cattle, so they had to walk, heavy with exhaustion. Even as
they were being pushed away from their homes, the Native Americans had pride.
Many Native Americans left nearly naked, and without shoes or refused
government clothing because they felt it would be taken as an acceptance of
being removed from their homes. Some refused government food, others were given
food that were not normally part of their diet such as wheat flour, which they
did not know how to use or that they would react badly to it. Weakened by
hunger, the Native Americans became easy victims of disease, particularly
cholera, smallpox and dysentery. As if fatigue, starvation, and disease weren’t
enough, these people also had to endure horrendous weather conditions. Falling
temperatures caused the roads to freeze. The ice prevented both wagons and
horses from moving. Two thirds of the Native American people that were trapped
beside the frozen Mississippi River had only a blanket provided by the
government to each individual for shelter from cold wind. Stated by Private
John G. Burnett, “They had to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without
fire. And I have known as many as twenty- two of them to die in one night of
pneumonia due to ill treatment and cold exposure.”.2 Heavy rains turned the
primitive roads to mud, and the Native Americans were often forced to manually
drag the wagons out of the mud, and the intense exposure to sunlight and heat
caused dehydration. In his published writings on the mistreatment of the Native
Americans The Never-Ending Trail author
Abel Del Jones stated, “Some were prodded with Bayonets, when they were deemed
to move too slow, to where the sky was their blanket, and the cold earth their

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            The Trail of Tears should have never happened. People at
the time knew that it was morally and ethically wrong, but did it anyways. “(…)
we have done so much to destroy the Indians, and so little to save and that,
before another step is taken, lest we act in such a manner as to expose ourselves
to the judgement of heaven.”4 It is a story about a
group that had power, gained at the expense of a minority unable to defend themselves.
The Trail of Tears was a forced migration of the Native American populations
from the southeastern part of the United States onto reservations. Let’s forget
the unconstitutional part for a moment and talk about how morally this was a
bad mistake made. These people were on this land years upon years before any “Americans”
arrived. The Native Americans called this land home before anyone else. What made
it acceptable for a bill to be signed and push these people to almost
extinction? Forcing these people to move off their land was about equivalent to
slapping them in their faces. The Native Americans helped the settlers when
they first colonized and taught them how to plant, graze, and hunt. Many
colonists survived the harsh winters because of what the Native Americans
taught them. How could Americans be okay knowing they were repaying those who
helped them in such an awful manner.

 Some tribes did voluntary give up their lands
under the Indian Removal Act, only to find that when they relocated to the West,
the land they received in exchange was of poor quality. It was in no way comparable
to the rich, fertile land they had been living on for centuries, once again the
Native Americans were receiving the short end of the stick. This wouldn’t be
the last time the United States tried to take control of the Native American
people, the cultural assimilation of Native Americans was an effort by the
United States government to transform Native American cultures into
European–American “civilized” culture. The United States government realized
that good relations with bordering Native American tribes was important for
political and trading reasons, and continued to use the Native Americans as
allies during the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. As time
progressed, the need for these relations started to decline, and the tribes
started to become an obstacle in the expansion of the United States. According
to the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs “The policy of
assimilation was an attempt to destroy traditional Indian cultural identities.”5. There was an idea that if
Native American people learned United States (American) customs and values,
they would be able to combine their traditions with American culture and join the
American society. The federal government began sending Native American children
to boarding schools in the 1870’s. As the schools continued to grow, so did the
enforcement of teaching these children to be “civilized”. The natives were not
allowed to speak in the language of their tribes and would forget how to speak
their language. Additionally, the schools enforced a strict dress code and the
children were to put in the clothes of the white man. The Native American
tribes suffered a great lost due to the boarding schools. Their culture was
destroyed, and the generations that were supposed to carry on the traditions
were forced to follow other rules. The amount of Native American children that
were required to go to the boarding schools caused the generations to become
separated. The population numbers were already dwindling from the relocation
onto reservations, and many of the tribal nations began to crumble. The Native
American children lost their sense of tribe connectivity and spirituality, they
were forced to focus on a religion that was different from the practices of
their tribes.

limitations of these schools were yet another way the United States attempted
to break and control the pride and identity of the Native Americans. For the
Native Americans leaving their sacred lands and starting over was heartbreaking
and very difficult. Native Americans believe they are closely connected with
the land and everything that grows on the land or lives on the land eventually dies
on the land and is reincarnated back into the earth. Because of this belief,
owning land did not exist among the Native Americans. Meanwhile the people who
had marched the Trail of Tears were stuck with the challenge of creating new
farms on new ground, with new weather conditions, and new soils. The Native
Americans had to rebuild their society, once re-settled, the Native Americans attempted
to reestablish elected officials, schools, and legal systems. Many Native
Americans found themselves in urban slums with a lack of basic needs.

effects of the Trail of Tears can still be felt today. Many of the younger
generations have forgotten their native languages, and traditions have died out
within the reservations. The Trail of Tears has rooted a deep distrust of
outsiders and government in particular. Issues like suicide and poverty are
affecting over a million Native Americans at this very moment – a direct result
of decades of failed policies and generations of mistreatment toward the tribes.
The theory of historical trauma was developed to explain the problems many
Native Americans are facing. In her research at the University of South Dakota
Division of Counseling and Psychology Professor Kathleen Brown Rice studies how
Native Americans still experiencing historical loss are correlated with
depression, substance and alcohol abuse, dysfunctional parenting, and
unemployment, as a result of the generational trauma. She writes “Suicide rates
for Native American adults and youth are higher than the national average, with
suicide being the second leading cause of death for Native Americans from 10–34
years of age.”.6
Compared to whites, Native Americans lack health insurance – 33% compared to
11%( University of South Dakota, Kathleen Brown Rice). Native Americans use and
abuse alcohol and other drugs at younger ages, and at higher rates, than all
other ethnic groups. Access to mental health services is severely limited due
to the mistrust and isolation locations of many Native American communities.
She also states that ” Trauma exposure has long-term effects on the brain and
behavior in individuals, experiencing trauma can impact a person’s neurological
The Huffington Post (2015) released a study showing  that Native Americans use and abuse alcohol
and other drugs at higher rates than all other ethnic groups, Native Americans
experience serious psychological distress 1.5 times more than the general
population, and that due to high levels of poverty, many Native Americans face
economic barriers that prevent them from receiving treatment. Two of the five
poorest of the United States’ counties are located on Indian Reservations.
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).   Existing
jobs are found mainly within the tribe way of life or tribal government. The
United States Bureau of Indian Affairs also reports that the majority of jobs
on the reservation are underdeveloped. State social services, the school
systems, and the Indian Health Service Hospitals are struggling to stay open,
funded by the United States government. Additionally, years of failed
government policies have left reservations with limited economic opportunity.  The government placed many of the
reservations in areas away from fertile lands, shopping centers, and water
supplies intensifying geographic isolation.

for example the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation is a Native American reservation located in the southwest corner of
South Dakota near the Nebraska border. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is the
second largest reservation in the United States, and suffers from extreme
poverty, in fact it is the poorest county in the United States. (U.S. Census
Bureau) The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has attempted to bring up its economy
through the gambling-casino industry, however their attempts have failed. The
casino created a a struggling of 80 jobs, which did absolutely nothing given
that the unemployment rate on the reservation is up to 95%. (Stevens, Jr.,
Ernest L. Indian Gaming Association. 2006.) According to the Pine Ridge CDP
Profile of Selected Economic Characteristics U.S. Census Bureau, the reservation
has higher unemployment, diabetes, infant mortality, teen suicide, dropout, and
alcoholism rates than any other Native American reservation as a whole. Many
homes are overcrowded and without water, plumbing, and electricity. It is
incredible that The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has failed and lacked in
these basic necessities and casino tourism given that the closest major city Denver
Colorado, is roughly about 350 miles away. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is
also experiencing a dangerously alarming conflict with the youth getting
involved in gang violence, and gang activity. Many of the gangs on the Pine
Ridge Indian Reservation were started by tribal members who encountered gang
activity in prison or while living off the reservation, others started right on
the reservation. According to Christopher M. Grant, head of the Anti-gang
police unit in Rapid City South Dakota, the threat of Native American gang
violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation isn’t really about crooks and criminals
disrupting the minds of the youth and tribal people, this violence and anger is
homebred. “It’s about how historical trauma, federal policy and tribal pride
have created a new Indian problem: organized crime.”8 These people are tired and
frustrated, there’s a lot of negative influence within the community, and the
Native American reservations lack of resources is causing a lot of damage to
its own people. On a reservation where approximately 95% of residents are
unemployed, 49% live below the federal poverty line, and the per capita income
is a little less than $6,000, Grant says the lack of opportunity is the reason
so many Native youth turn to gang activities and gang violence. Gangs offer a
sense of belonging or family. Where there is a lack of cultural identity and knowledge,
gangs fill in the role. This is a society where most Native Americans were
pushed off of their tribal lands and strategically cut off from any sort of
cultural identity, Grant says reservation life today creates a perfect
environment for gangs to thrive.  The
reality is, that there is nothing on the Reservation for the youth to do. The Native
American youth hasn’t been taught any cultural traditions, they don’t know
their native languages, there isn’t any money or much jobs, and there really
isn’t much after school activities for the youth to engage in. There are nine operating
public elementary schools and four public high schools on the reservation. Yet the
school drop-out rate on the reservation is over 60% and many students have an
attendance record that is well below 90%. (U.S. News and World Reports 2015)  Much of the youth lack inspiration to finish
high school because many of those around them have not and an education does
not ensure getting off of the reservation. Not only the lack of inspiration,
but often the Native American people may see schooling as a tool of
assimilation into a non-Native American way of life.

even more astonishing about Native American history is the fact how the United
States continues take advantage of sacred Native American soils, its incredible
to think that Native Americans are still having to fight to protect lands that
belong to them. The Dakota Access Pipeline protests are movements that began in
early April 2016 in reaction to the rapidly approved construction of Energy
Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline was said to run from
oil fields in western North Dakota to southern Illinois, crossing beneath the
Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, as well as under part of Lake Oahe near the
Standing Rock Indian Reservation.( BBC News 2016) Many of the Native Americans
in the Standing Rock tribe considered the pipeline and its intended crossing of
the Missouri River to be a threat to the region’s clean water, the pipeline was
to be built within a half mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation,
traveling across treaty-guaranteed lands, under the tribe’s main source of
drinking water and  ancient burial
grounds. “The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and
spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as
a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that
simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right
to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is
through connection to our lands and our history.”9. For many Native Americans,
stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline has become yet another fight to protect
Native American manifestations. The United States was supposed to hold their
word accountable both legally and morally. The reservation established by the
Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1851 protected these lands that would have been interrupted
by the pipeline. The Treaty of Fort Laramie was an agreement between the United
States and the many different tribes of Native American peoples, guaranteeing
the Native Americans ownership of the Black Hills, and the further lands in the
Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana. (Archives of the West: Fort Laramie Treaty,
1851) According to BBC News 2016 the federal consultation process requires
mutual consent between both the federal and tribal governments regarding the
construction, and being of a pipeline that could impact tribal resources.
Social media has helped fuel the tribe’s fight, the Native American people
recorded and shared videos of the company bulldozing ancient stone prayer sites
near the pipeline. These protests were ignored and on January 24th,
2017 history repeated itself, President Donald Trump signed the Executive order
to advance the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
(BBC World News 2016) ” if there is one thing that characterizes Native
American life today, it is poverty of the spirit (…)because we are not
free—free in the most basic sense of the world, our choices were made for
us(…)”10.  Even though yet again the Native American people’s
rights were violated, the protests around the Dakota pipeline did achieve
something historic. The protests have inspired Native Americans across the states
to unite in efforts to preserve natural, religious, and resources important for
the survival of the Native American culture. The Native Americans have suffered
and are still suffering from the mistreat and abuse of the United States
government. The fight is not over yet.


David E. Wilkins: Dismembering Natives, The Violence
Done by Citizenship Fights

Private John G. Burnett 2nd Regiment, Mounted Infantry

The Never-Ending Trail, Abe Del Jones

Jeremiah Evarts, Essays on the present crisis in the condition of the American
Indians, 1829

5 U.S.
Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, paragraph one

6 Kathleen Brown Rice, University of South Dakota, Theory of
Historical Trauma Among Native Americans

7 Kathleen
Brown Rice, University of South Dakota, Theory of Historical Trauma Among
Native Americans

Christopher M. Grant Antigang police unit, Rapid City South Dakota

9 Bravebull
Allard, LaDonna 2016 “Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t
Forget the Whitestone Massacre”.

Klaus P. Fischer: America in White, Black, and Gray


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