Native American History
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples from the regions of North America now encompassed by the continental United States, including parts of Alaska. They comprise a large number of distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which still endure as political communities. There is a wide range of terms used, and some controversy surrounding their use: they are variously known as American Indians, Indians, Amerindians, Amerinds, or Indigenous, Aboriginal or Original Americans.
Not all Native Americans come from the contiguous 48 states. Some come from
Alaska and other insular regions. These other indigenous peoples, including Alaskan Native groups such as the Inupiaq, Yupik Eskimos, and Aleuts, are not always counted as Native Americans, although Census 2000 demographics listed "American Indian and Alaskan Native" collectively. Native Hawaiians and various other Pacific Islander American peoples, such as the Chamorros (Chamoru), can also be considered Native American but it is not common to use such a designation.
The European colonization of the Americas nearly obliterated the populations and cultures of the Native Americans. From the 16th through the 19th centuries, the population of Native Americans in what became the United States was ravaged by European colonization in the following ways: violence and possible genocide at the hands of European explorers and colonists, epidemic diseases brought from Europe, displacement from their lands, enslavement, internal warfare as well as high rate of intermarriage. Most mainstream scholars now believe that, among the various contributing factors, epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the American natives.
Epidemics often immediately followed European exploration, sometimes destroying entire villages. While precise figures are difficult to arrive at, some historians estimate that up to 80% of some Native populations died due to European diseases.
During the American Revolution, the newly proclaimed United States competed with the British for the allegiance of Native American nations east of the Mississippi River. Most Native Americans who joined the struggle sided with the British, hoping to use the American Revolutionary War to halt further colonial expansion onto Native American land. Many native communities were divided over which side to support in the war.
The British made peace with the Americans in the Treaty of Paris (1783), ceding vast Native American territories to the
United States without informing the Native Americans. The
United States initially treated the Native Americans who had fought with the British as a conquered people who had lost their land. When this proved impossible to enforce, the policy was abandoned. The
United States was eager to expand, and the national government initially sought to do so only by purchasing Native American land in treaties. The states and settlers were frequently at odds with this policy.
REMOVAL AND RESERVATIONS
In the nineteenth century, the incessant westward expansion of the United States incrementally compelled large numbers of Native Americans to resettle further west, often by force, almost always reluctantly. Under President Andrew Jackson, United States Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized the President to conduct treaties to exchange Native American land east of the Mississippi River for lands west of the river. As many as 100,000 Native Americans eventually relocated in the West as a result of this Indian Removal policy. In theory, relocation was supposed to be voluntary (and many Native Americans did remain in the East such as the Choctaw who were first to be removed), but in practice great pressure was put on Native American leaders to sign removal treaties.
The explicit policy of Indian Removal forced or coerced the relocation of major Native American groups in the Eastern United States, resulting directly and indirectly in the deaths of tens of thousands. The subsequent process of assimilations was no less devastating to Native American peoples. Tribes were generally located to reservations on which they could more easily be separated from traditional life and pushed into European-American society. Some southern states additionally enacted laws in the 19th century forbidding non-Indian settlement on Indian lands, intending to prevent sympathetic white missionaries from aiding the scattered Indian resistance.
American policy toward Native Americans has been an evolving process. In the late nineteenth century, reformers, in efforts to "civilize" or otherwise assimilate Indians (as opposed to relegating them to reservations), adapted the practice of educating native children in Indian Boarding Schools. These schools, which were primarily run by Christian missionaries, often proved traumatic to Native American children, who were forbidden to speak their native languages, taught Christianity instead of their native religions and in numerous other ways forced to abandon their various Native American identities and adopt European-American culture. There are also many documented cases of sexual, physical and mental abuses occurring at these schools.
The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 gave
United States citizenship to Native Americans, in part because of an interest by many to see them merged with the American mainstream, and also because of the service of many Native American veterans in World War I.
There are 561 federally recognized tribal governments in the
United States. These tribes possess the right to form their own government, to enforce laws (both civil and criminal), to tax, to establish membership, to license and regulate activities, to zone and to exclude persons from tribal territories. Limitations on tribal powers of self-government include the same limitations applicable to states; for example, neither tribes nor states have the power to make war, engage in foreign relations, or coin money (this includes paper currency).
According to 2003 United States Census Bureau estimates, a little over one third of the 2,786,652 Native Americans in the United States live in three states: California at 413,382, Arizona at 294,137 and Oklahoma at 279,559.
As of 2000, the largest tribes in the U.S. by population were Navajo, Cherokee, Choctaw, Sioux, Chippewa, Apache, Lumbee, Blackfeet, Iroquois, and Pueblo. In 2000, eight of ten Americans with Native American ancestry were of mixed blood. It is estimated that by 2100 that figure will rise to nine out of ten. In addition, there are a number of tribes that are recognized by individual states, but not by the federal government. The rights and benefits associated with state recognition vary from state to state.
In the early 21st century, Native American communities remain an enduring fixture on the
United States landscape, in the American economy, and in the lives of Native Americans. Communities have consistently formed governments that administer services like firefighting, natural resource management, and law enforcement. Most Native American communities have established court systems to adjudicate matters related to local ordinances, and most also look to various forms of moral and social authority vested in traditional affiliations within the community. To address the housing needs of Native Americans, Congress passed the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA) in 1996. This legislation replaced public housing, and other 1937 Housing Act programs directed towards Indian Housing Authorities, with a block grant program directed towards Tribes.
On May 19, 2005, the Massachusetts legislature finally repealed a disused 330 year-old law that barred Native Americans from entering
In August 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) banned the use of "hostile and abusive" Native American mascots from postseason tournaments. The use of Native American themed team names in
U.S. professional sports is widespread and often controversial, with examples such as Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins.
In 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that about 1.0 percent of the
U.S. population was of American Indian or Alaska Native descent. This population is unevenly distributed across the country: Native Americans formed more than one-tenth of the population of the states of Alaska and
New Mexico, while in five states they constituted only 0.2% of the population.
The information contained in this text was copied from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Americans_in_the_United_States