Reservations and American Expansion West

Map of Indian Reservations in 1888

The Indian Appropriations Act systematically provided the groundwork for the United States government to force assimilation of indigenous people into Euro-American culture. 

In 1851 the "U.S. Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act, creating the reservation system."In doing so the United States placed the first limits of land claims on indigenous people. By establishing the reservation system the United States also opened the opportunity for people to move West and settle land previously held by Indians. With the passing of this first legislative act American indigenous poeple were now limited in their lives. They were faced with limitations on their hunting grounds, had a greater difficulty in securing food stuffs, and because of food rations provided by the United States now had the beginnings of a reliance on the Federal govenment.

A vital aspet of policy-making which reflects American views of indigenous people is The Civil Rights Bill of 1866. Following the mass freeing of African slaves and the Union's victory in the Civil War "the House overrode Presdient Andrew Johnson's veto of the Civil Rights Bill...the bill mandated that 'all persons born in the United States,' with the exception of American Indians, were 'herby declared to be citizens of the United States.'"It was established from here that Native Americans were not citizens and therefore not part of the United States. Americans view of Indians was shaped heavily by the views of their government and representatives. This is no different for senator Jacob Howard of Michigan who notes: "I am not quite so liberal in my views. I am not yet prepared to pass a sweeping act of naturalization by which all the Indian savages, wild or tame, belonging to a tribe relation, are to become my fellow-ctiziens and go to the polls and vote with me and hold lands and dela in every other way that a citizen of the United States has a right to do."3

1871 Rider to Indian Appropriations Act

The rider added to the Indian Appropriations Act established the United States government as the supreme law of the land including territories inhabited by indigenous people. With the establishment of reservations and tribes no longer recognized as soverign, federal entities the American government justified actions which would disenfranchise Native American populations. 

Then in 1871 the "House of Representatives added a rider to the appropriations bill, ceasing to recognize individual tribes within the United States as an independent nations."4The common practice of establishing treaties between Americans and native tribes ended with this rider. The government effectively labelled Indian tribes as subjects under direct control of the federal government. With this established power the United States government would break treaties previously established for self-servicing interests. Previously held land under Indian control could now be effectively settled, farmed, and protected by Federal support.  

Reservations and American Expansion West