The Dawes Act

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Background:
During the 1880s, the United States federal government was fearful that the Native Americans would soon control the West. Many Americans came to a conclusion that destroying the Indian's reservations, traditions, their tribal landholding and basically their identity was crucial and necessary in maintaining an American society. The federal government needed some sort of law or act that would assimilate the Native Americans into white civilization so that the Native Americans way's wouldn't be dominating the Western culture.


Dawes Act:
In 1887, Congress issued the Dawes Severalty Act (also known as the Dawes Act) to slowly eliminate the population of Indian tribes in the West. The Dawes Act provided the allotment of land to individual owners. It allowed 160 acres of of land to the head of the family, 80 acres to a single adult or orphan and 40 acres to each dependent child. The adult owners were given United States citizenship, however they were not allowed to gain full title to their property until maintaing their land for twenty-five years.

The main goal of the Dawes Act was to coerce Indians in becoming landowners and famers and to annihilate the cultural society and traditions of Indians so that these Indian traditions become part of white civilization. The government ultimately launched the Dawes Act to open Indian lands to settlement by non-Indians and to continue advancing the development of railroads. In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an agency run by the United States federal government, strongly believed in the idea of assimilating Native Americans into a white society. The Bureau of Indian Affairs started to take Indian children away from their families and send them to boarding schools run by whites, so that the young Indians could forget their Indian cultures. The BIA attempted to stop Indian religious rituals and they even encouraged the spread of Christianity among the reservations. Not only was this program corrupt, but it also wasn't that successful. As a result, the government simply abandoned it. Congress tried to amend the Dawes Act in 1906 by launching the Burke Act, but the Indians continued to oppose integration with the Americans and their traditions.


As time passed, the Indians slowly found themselves practicing views that were against their beliefs and paying endless amount of loans to the Americans. They could not seem to coincide with the Americans in any way. The Indians were forced to follow the beliefs that the Americans were pressuring upon them because it was the only way left to survive. The whites eventually took over the land of the West, which ultimately led to the Indian's bane of existence.