Assess the view that Native Americans did little to campaign for the improvement of their civil rights 1865-1992.

Essay plan concerning Native americans themselves.

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Assess the view that Native Americans did little t

Before 1900

  • Native Americans generally passive/ dependent on the Federal Government
  • Land lost in Dawes Act 1887, boarding schools (eg Carlisle Boarding School)
  • Reservation conditions- role of the BIA in giving Native Americans help, lived on poor land, inadequate education/ health facitlites.
  • general assimilation policies that were intended to be progressive but in reality were not.

However- there was some resistance from Native Americans in this period

  • The Indian Wars (1862-1867)
  • Battle of Little Bighorn 1876
  • The Ghost Dance Movement/ Massacre at Wounded Knee
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However- this resistance to assimilation and reservation policy was short lived and had little impact (didn't cause any major change) The Ghost Dance movement was the last real form of resistance until the 60s/70s when Native Americans became more organised in protest.

!900-1945- "In to the Melting Pot"

  • Native Americans contiued to be passive and largely dependent on the Federal Government/ those sympathetic to their cause.
  • Changing attitudes of the 1920s, people begin to want to understand NA culture and tradition.
  • Federal Gov continued their policy of assimilation
  • Indian Citizenship Act 1924
  • The Meriam Report 1928
  • Roosevelt&Collier's New Deal policies
  • The Inidan Reorganization Act 1934
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However, there were some attempts and organised campaigns for civil rights in this period:

  • Establ;ishment of the SAI (Society of American Indians) 1911
  • Fisrt attempt at creating an inter-tribal pressure group campaigning for better education and healthcare.
  • Impact limited: unable to get funding for court cases,lack of mass support and nity between tribes in vision for progression.

Resistance via the Supreme Court from the Cherokee tribes-

  • Lonewoif v. Hitchcock
  • Cherokee Nation v. Hitchcock

Both of these cases however schieved littled- the court described Native Americans as "wards of the nation" and "an ignorant and dependent race"

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However, the passivty of the Native Americans must be considered from their point of view: they were not camgaining for their civil rights as such but their right to self determination. Perhaps this was not necessisarily acknowledged or campaigned for until the later eras of the period.


  • Native Americans begin to organise and effectively campaign for their rights.
  • The Federal Government still had the agenda of assimilation with urbanisation and termination policy, but the detrimental effects of such polcies in combination with the aftermath of the second world war sparked new attitudes within Native Americans who began to grow more assertive (particularly younf NAs.)
  • Establishement of NCAI 1944
  • tried to campaign via the supreme court (like the NAACP)
  • represented a realisation that if there were to be any long lastnig change Native Americans would have to unite in protest.
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Influence of the Civil Rights movement 1960s

  • Native Americans growing more assertive: combination of personal frustration and the inspiration of the civil rights movement
  • 1964 War on Poverty March
  • NCAI obtain pledge from JFK to develop human and natural resources of the reservation lands

Growing militancy and Red Power

  • Media coverage and militant protest
  • Fish ins in the Columbia River 1968
  • Establishment of AIM 1968
  • Pursuit of return of native sovereignty
  • Siege of Alcatraz 1969- huge media attention, highlighted plight of Native Americans and many Natives themselves began to support the protest for self determination
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Active Protest of the 1970s/ 80s

  • Native Americans actively sought their right to self determination, fought poverty rather than sought civil rights.
  • 1971 Occupation of Mount Rushmore
  • 1972 AIM take over BIA in Washington D.C (Trail of Broken Treaties)
  • 1973 Occupation of Wounded Knee
  • Influenced the legislative measures/ progression introduced by Nixon

Highly publicised protests raised awareness of injustices- weren't using the vote for campaingning polictically (though it could be argued that events such as the above negaively impacted, causing slow responses for the implementation of legislation by Fed Gov)

Divisons began to emerge so rights were sought via NARF and the Supreme Court

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Supreme Court Cases brought forward by NARF: 

  • 1974 Oneida V. Oneida and Madison Counties (reclaimation of land)
  • 1976- Fisher v. Montana (right of tribal courts to decide on cases relating to adoption of Indian children)
  • 1980 USA v. Sioux Nation (Attempt to reclaim Black Hills of Dakota, given compensation but refused money, wanted land)
  • 1982 Seminole Tribe v. Butterworth (right to establish gambling enterprises on reservation land)
  • 1986 Charrier v. Bell (secured rights to Indian burial grounds lead to 1990 Native American graves protection and reparation act).

However, it could be argued that the impact  of the Nixon Presidency and help from the Fed Gov still remained central to progress and to a certain extent dependecy still existed. Opportunity of employment in BIA, education act, Indian Self Determination Act, Indian education Assistance Act, appointment of Louis R. Bruce, returning of Indian lands

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