The Reform Movement And The Indian People

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The Reform Movement and the Indian People

The Reform Movement and the Indian People


The Dawes Act is also known as the Enabling Law. It was introduced in Congress by Congressman Henry Dawes of Massachusetts in 1887 and had led to the distribution of land to American Indians in Oklahoma. The law was amended in 1891 and again in 1906 and remained in force until 1934. The Dawes Act allowed reserve land, generally held as common land for an entire tribe, in small parcels to be owned by individuals (Olund, Eric, 2002). The law parceled larger pieces the heads of families and small parcels for single persons, orphans and so on.


How would you feel if the government confiscated the land, sold it to someone else, and tried to force you to change your way of life, all the while telling you it's for your own good? This is what Congress has done to Indian tribes 125 years ago, with devastating results, when it passed the Dawes Act. During 1800, white settlers moved west by the tens of thousands, and the U.S. cavalry went with them, fighting the Indian tribes along the way. One after another, the tribes were forced to leave their home (on which they had lived for centuries) and move to reservations, often hundreds of miles away. By the end of 1800, about three hundred reservations were created. The purpose of the reservation system was, for the most part, to remove land from the Indians, and to separate the Indians from the settlers. Reservations are usually created on land not (yet) from non-Indian areas (Olund, Eric, 2002). By the end of 1800, however, the settlers were almost everywhere, and the Congress to develop a new strategy to avoid further bloodshed.

The government has decided that instead of separating the Indians from white society, Indians should be assimilated into white society. The assimilation of the Indians and the destruction of their reserves has become the new federal objective. Two very different social forces helped to shape this new policy: Greed and humanitarianism. Many whites wanted Indian land and they knew that life would get easier if the Indian tribes disappeared. This greed led Congress to pass the Dawes Act, also known as the General Allotment Act in February 1887. The Dawes Act was also favored by many non-Indian social reformers who were aware of the fact that the Indians were suffering without mercy ...
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