Sunday, April 17, 2011

Possible Solutions for Resolving the Situation

          What options did the American government of the time possess in order to deal with the problem of two culturally diverse nations within a single territory? Sadly, the options that the government could implement remained few and difficult to impose. Total extermination, or rather genocide, concluded one options because the U.S. government remained militarily dominant and the Native Americans maintained little power in their own land, yet to some degree the U.S. allowed the Natives Americans to remain sovereign. While this variable seemed unusually cruel, many political leaders preserved the option.
Optimists looked to rapid assimilation which was the dream of idealistic humanitarians who thought it could be accomplished in one generation, although it soon became apparent this was not going to happen. The cultural differences divided the two nations extraordinarily. Politically, the white settlers believed if one did not cultivate and develop the land then the ‘owner’ had no right to keep the territory. The Native Americans understood land to be an extension of their deity and their ancestors, through natural inherent placement the land became part of the Indians’ identity. The state also passed laws against polygamy, the Indians practiced this to some extent, and the men should support their children, while Native American law dictated the children as a natural and complete extension of the mother, maintaining a matrilineal society as opposed to a patrilineal society. The two nations contradicted each other in the basic unit of civilization and property rights. Additionally, religious ideologies drove an impassable stake through the sparing nations. The U.S. government exiled idolatrous practices as brutish and barbaric.  The Native Americans used several wooden carvings in ceremonies and festivals to represent the presence of their gods. Women also maintained a large role in Indian authority and governance which countered the U.S. practices of women’s roles to be isolated to the domestic sphere. Assimilation proved to be naïve option for realists.
One option that many favored, although in practice never prospered. The U.S. would agree to protect their sovereignty if they remained isolated in their ancestral lands, although trade and commerce would be allowed on a nation level. This proposal never flourished due to several proponents. The question of their status became a question in that the government ruled them to be domestic independent nations, similar to a protectorate, but the Indian nations could not maintain that independence without federal assistance. The U.S. never acquiesced to creating a standing army to defend them.
The catalyst came when the state of Georgia required the U.S. to act on a previously agreed upon treaty to irradiate the Indians from Georgia in exchange for lands west of the Mississippi. In 1826 and 1827, the state legislature passed resolutions asserting state sovereignty over Indian lands within Georgia on the basis of their colonial charter. The state legislation proclaimed that all the federal government did was to regulate commerce and failed to initiate the Indian Removal Act as promised in 1802. Under this shortcoming, the state had the right to possess the Indian lands. The federal government, not willing to go to war with Georgia, felt that the Indian Removal Act posed the best option.
Sadly, the Indian Removal Act appeared to be the best option in that the Native Americans could regulate their own laws without hindrance from federal or state jurisdiction to interfere. The Indians could assimilate at their own pace if they desired and they could maintain a semblance of their own culture without contentious, social pressures to conform. President Jackson implemented the Indian Removal Act in 1830 when it finally passed in U.S. Congress. Jackson made several statements to the native nations in order to make sure the Indians understood that they would be well compensated for their lands, and the government would provide for all the cost of removal and relocation. He wrote that only in the west could “the general government exercise a parental control over their interests and possibly perpetuate their race.”[1] While the Indian Removal Act became a devastatingly fatal march of intolerance, the U.S. government had few other realistic options without inciting a civil war.

[1] Dr. Katherine Osburn, Andrew Jackson and Indian Removal, notes from ilearn in HIST 4440 (11 Nov. 2010).


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