Lesson 8: Reservations and Allotment

Today, we’ll be discussing the the reservation system, conditions on early reservations, and the allotment policy and its impacts on Native American societies and individuals. The basis for our discussion is the firsthand Native American accounts in Peter Nabokov’s Native American Testimonies. These passages to a very nice job of portraying what life was like for Native peoples on reservations during the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is also important to hear their thoughts on allotment because to many Westerners private land is an assumed part of life. Many do not see how privatizing land could be detrimental to people, their society, and their culture. Case in point: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoppisch/2011/12/13/why-are-indian-reservations-so-poor-a-look-at-the-bottom-1/. (We’ll be discussing this article a bit and some of the students may choose to write about it in their next ePortfolio entry.) We’re also going to discuss the changing attitudes toward Native Americans by Euro-Americans and the role that the then burgeoning field of anthropology played in all of this.

I think it is easier for us to relate to this time period and the people who write about this time. Earlier accounts of contact and even removal feel like a very different time. It is tough to pull those accounts from a historical time and place and relate to the people that experienced those things. When we start to enter into the late 1800s, however, modern America is being born, and we can relate to people and situations a bit more readily. It is about the reservation system and allotment and the people and theories behind them that most non-Indians need to be educated. It is much harder to claim that Native Americans should pay taxes or should just “pull themselves up” when you realize the extreme oppression they’ve dealt with for centuries.

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