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Example research essay topic: Relationship Between Indian Reservations And Their Neighbors - 2,310 words

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Relationship between Indian Reservations and their Neighbors During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the public lands were managed primarily on behalf of those interested in using and extracting the timber, minerals, and grass. Native Americans were removed from the lands in favor of farmers, grazers, loggers, and miners. During the last half-century, the American West has been undergoing a dramatic transformation with significant consequences for our approach to the public lands. The West's population has been growing rapidly and forming a number of what demographers. We have to examine history of the reservation founding in order to describe the relations between Indians and their neighbors. It is suggests that although those of us who have flocked to the West's urban archipelagoes have a different view of how the West's natural resources are best used, many of us seem to share with our nineteenth century counterparts the view that those who were here before we arrived are an obstacle to achieving our desired uses of the West's resources.

The essay also suggests that participation of rural communities in public lands decision-making is a critical component of a principled public lands policy. It concludes by discussing several ways of enhancing rural participation and offers a brief critique of the neighbor adherence to the participation norm. (Goddard 138 - 41). In the nineteenth century, Americans looked out upon the vast West and its abundant natural resources and saw the possibility of great wealth and opportunity. One obstacle presented itself to national aspirations: the Indian tribes.

The tribes were little match for the resource hunger of the growing country. Their numbers were relatively few; their military resources were relatively paltry; their political power was almost non-existent; and their ties to the land had little legal recognition, consisting only of the right of use and occupancy, which Congress could terminate at will and without compensation. (Hare 25). As fast as homesteaders, miners, grazers, railroads, timber companies, and others came west, laws and policies were adopted to prevent Indian interference with the aspirations of these newcomers. Whether the United States's policy was relocating tribes farther west, isolating them on reservations, or attempting to assimilate them into American society, federal Indian policy was characterized by one primary goal: pushing aside Indian tribes to facilitate the exploitation of the West's bountiful natural resources. (Hundley 455 - 82). The Indian people represent a viable community and culture. Still, their future, like their past, is invariably tied to their neighbors.

Although physical encroachment and forced assimilation no longer pose significant threats to the community, there remains a constant struggle to assert their identity as a people. Indian tribes faced serious challenges over the outcome of water rights disputes and waste disposal, both affecting not only the flow of a river, but the course of a people's culture and identity as well. This description of federal policy and its primary goal is, of course, rather pejorative and was not the way it was characterized at the time. As many Americans in the nineteenth century saw it, the West's natural resources were not being exploited. Instead, they were being put to productive use, in contrast with the "unproductive" uses of hunting, gathering, and subsistence agriculture that largely characterized Indian peoples' use. (Valarde 276 - 77). Although many would have conceded that Indian tribes were being pushed onto Indian reservations, most argued that it was for their own good and that ultimately Indians would benefit by departing from their unproductive use of the land in favor of more productive activities such as farming, ranching, and mining.

To the extent these policy justifications were insufficient or uncomfortable, the law was a helpful ally. The law of the land gave Congress nearly plenary control over Indian tribes and the lands on which they resided, and the Supreme Court had limited Indians' property rights in their aboriginal lands. Removal of tribes from their land required no compensation unless the United States deemed it wise. (Hundley 455 - 82). Most Americans now look back on this era with discomfort and regret. Federal Indian policy is roundly criticized as self-interested, cruel, and often deceitful. Based on such motives, we can conclude that the newcomers did not most kind attitudes toward the Indian people.

The panoply of public land laws disposing of public lands -- among which were the 1872 Hard Rock Act, the 1902 Reclamation Act, and the various railroad land grants -- are routinely disparaged as leading to the Great Barbecue, a period of unequaled despoliation of the natural resources on the public lands. (Goddard 138 - 41). The result of public land policy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the establishment of a number of rural communities throughout the West. These rural communities were largely dependent upon using the natural resources on the public lands to sustain their livelihoods. Much of the rural West suffered from the booms and busts endemic to mining, but farming and ranching generally provided a foundation for the development of stable communities of families that over multiple generations developed an attachment to the public lands that went well beyond those lands' financial fruits. From the perspective of Native Americans, the demographic changes in the nineteenth century were surely enormous. However, in sheer numbers the migration into the West during the nineteenth century is dwarfed by that since World War II.

During the last half century, the West has undergone massive growth and the Mountain West has grown more quickly than any other area of the country. The influx has occurred largely in the cities of the West, and the suburban and exurban areas that surround them, resulting in a number of what demographers have called "urban archipelagoes. " (Hare 26). In fact, the Western United States is now the most urbanized portion of the country. The in-migration experiences in the West have not, of course, come simply to Colorado's Front Range, Utah's Wasatch Front, and the West's other urban archipelagoes. It has also come to a variety of small towns in the West, like southeastern Utah's Moab, which serve as gateways to the West's national parks, monuments, wilderness, and recreation areas. (Calvin 14 - 21).

In the nineteenth century, most were certain that leaving the West undeveloped and using its abundant resources for hunting, gathering, and occasional agriculture was economically irrational. Now a variety of persuasive economic studies show that traditional public land economies, dependent upon timber, grazing, and mining, are not efficient and that recreation and preservation are far more productive uses of the public lands. Such studies point out that the percentage of the national and Western economy represented by Western extractive industries is small and getting smaller, making it less and less rational to devote the public lands to extractive interests. (Felix 248 - 53). Likewise, the prevailing political and moral sentiment in the nineteenth century was that the yeoman farmer who mixed his labor with the soil and established community roots was engaged in an activity superior to the transitory act of hunting and gathering. Extraction and consumption of resources to promote economic development were viewed as better than eking out subsistence.

Now, many of us tout ecosystem preservation - largely for recreation - as a morally superior land use, whether as a matter of intergenerational equity or ecological necessity. (Membrino 1 - 31). Underlying the entire federal policy of promoting the settlement and development of the West, was the federal program of acquisition. If the United States wanted to encourage its citizens to settle the West and develop its resources, it first needed to gain clear title to and control of the land. That effort faced two obstacles. First, other European nations claimed title to the lands, and second, Indian nations inhabited the land. The first problem was solved by a series of purchases, cessions, and treaties.

Once the United States cleared the title of any competing claims from European sovereigns, it was left to face the competing claims of the multitude of Indian tribes. With respect to the legal status of those claims, the "courts of the conqueror" were obliging, articulating what became known as the doctrine of discovery. Writing for the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Marshall concluded that upon discovery of the New World, European powers acquired fee title to the land that could be consummated by possession. This so-called "discovery title" was subject only to the right of the native inhabitants to use and occupy the land, but the Indian tribes' right of use and occupancy (often called aboriginal title) could be extinguished "either by purchase or conquest. " (Felix 248 - 53). Having cleared title from competing European powers and armed with the discovery doctrine, the United States had free reign to deal with the Indian tribes. It could negotiate with the tribes to purchase their lands, or it could simply take them by force.

In other words, Congress, and by and large the President, were free to decide upon an "Indian policy" without interference from the courts. There was never much doubt as to what that policy would be - tribal lands and resources were to be opened for settlement and development. The only questions were the method by which the transfer would occur and the justifications that would be offered. With respect to methodology, the United States chose a combination of purchase and conquest. Generally, the United States purchased Indian lands or offered to exchange other, less desirable, lands for Indian lands.

In the absence of any legal impediment, however, the price was often negotiated under a threat to forcibly remove uncooperative tribes, or at very least under the harsh light of the United States's vastly superior power. (Hare 28). United States Indian policy in the nineteenth century has been broadly divided into four periods, although there is considerable conceptual and chronological overlap among them. The initial period, often referred to as The Trade and Intercourse Act period, was one during which the United States set out to establish federal control over Indian affairs through a series of Trade and Intercourse Acts, the key components of which were the prohibition of any trade, diplomatic relations, or purchase of land from Indian tribes without federal consent. (Valarde 277). The ambition of advancing the frontier continued during the "removal period" when it was federal policy to remove Indian tribes voluntarily and then, under Andrew Jackson's administration, forcibly beyond the area of white settlement to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River in what is now the area of Oklahoma and Kansas. Although the basic foundation of removal policy was opening the frontier to settlement, the justifications for the policy were seldom expressed in such self-serving terms.

Many argued, often with complete earnestness, that removal was a salutary step in accomplishing the long-standing national goal of turning Indians into Jefferson's yeoman farmers and instructing the tribes in what President Monroe termed the arts of civilized life. Removal would prevent the degradation and extermination of the tribes by the on-rushing settlers. (Calvin 14 - 18). The idea of a separate Indian Territory beyond the borders of the United States was abandoned as settlers pushed westward beyond the Mississippi and after "westward settlement leap-frogged the Indian Territory to California" during the gold rush. The United States entered a third period of Indian policy and adopted what is commonly referred to as the "reservation policy. " The reservation policy had the same basic goal as the removal policy: precluding Indian interference with the settlement and development of the West. (Calvin, 1987: 21). During this period, the United States began negotiating treaties with Indian tribes to remove them to reservations within the boundaries of newly established states and territories. The reservations were established in areas then unoccupied by settlers but when settlers began to encroach upon these reservations in pursuit of a newly discovered resource -- whether gold in the Black Hills within the Great Sioux reservation, or gold and silver in the San Juan mountains within the Ute reservation - it was common for new treaties to be negotiated, reducing the boundaries of a reservation.

As with the removal policy, the reservation policy was not generally articulated in selfish terms, but was viewed as a more beneficent way to facilitate the civilization and education of the Indian tribes. (Membrino 1 - 31). Nevertheless, the motives of some for promoting the reservation policy were simply venal, and selfish motives had a significant impact on federal policy and on the attitude toward Indian people. But for many decades the memory of suppression did not allow Indians to settle friendly relationship with the new Americans. Works cited: Calvin, M. The American Indian and the Problem of History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987, 14 - 21.

Felix, S. Handbook of Federal Indian Law. Washington DC: U. S.

Government Printing Office, 1942, 248 - 53. Goddard, D. Indians of Southern California, University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, vol. 8, no. 3. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978, 138 - 41. Hare, C. Indian Rights: An Analysis of Current and Pending Indian Rights Settlements.

Oakville WA: Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1996, 25 - 6. Hundley Jr. , "The Dark and Bloody Ground of Indian Rights" Western Historical Quarterly 9 (October 1978): 455 - 82. Membrino, J. "Indian Rights, Federalism, and Trust Responsibility, " Law Review 27, no. 1 (1992): 1 - 31. Valarde, T. American Indian Reservations and Trust Areas (Albuquerque: Tiller Research Inc. , 1996), 276 - 77. Outline Introduction: overview of public land policy.

Body. West and its abundant natural resources. Indian community and culture. Federal policy and its primary goals.

Demographic changes from the perspective of Native Americans. Resource usage in the lands perspectives: The federal program of acquisition; free reign to deal with the Indian tribes; "removal period." Conclusion - reservations within the boundaries.


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Research essay sample on Relationship Between Indian Reservations And Their Neighbors

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