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The Lives of American Indians

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1 The Lives of American Indians
In the Nineteenth Century (1800’s)

2 The Lives of American Indians in the 19th Century
Today we are going to begin learning about how our new nation – the United States of America – and its new government leaders – our founding fathers – decided to deal with the American Indians. But before we can learn about the actions of our governmental leaders, we need to learn something about the people who lived on the land that we now call the United States of America.

3 When the US was born, it consisted of 13 states.
The rest of the United States was owned by the French, the Spanish, and the American Indians. Between 1776 and 1853 – just 77 years – all of that land came under control of the United States government.

4 An important part of our study about American Indians is just how the original inhabitants of North American lost almost all of their land during this period. As you can see on this map, before the English colonists arrived in the early 1600’s, all of the North American continent was under the control of the many Indian tribes. By the end of the nineteenth century, almost all that land had come under the control of non-Indian peoples.

5 Before we can learn how the American Indians lost their land, we need to learn a little more about who they were and how they lived when the United States was born.

6 The Lives of American Indians in the 19th Century
When the US Constitution was signed, hundreds of tribes lived in North America – tribes that had been living there for thousands of years. Tribal members spoke hundreds of different languages, practiced many different spiritual beliefs, and experience a wide variety of different political, cultural, and economic lifestyles. Indians of North America were diverse peoples.

7 Diversity Discuss the word “diversity.” What does it mean in general? What is cultural diversity? Spiritual diversity? Political? Economic? Discuss the concept that from the time of European contact forward, North American became even more diverse, especially in terms of race.

8 Diversity Racial diversity arrived early to North America. Indeed, as early as 1619 when the first Africans arrived, the continent became the home to at least three races of people – Anglo Europeans, black Africans, and American Indians. Ask students if they think there is much diversity among themselves? Ask them to relate some information about their ancestry and emphasize how truly diverse they are – even though they may not appear to be diverse.

9 SOVEREIGNTY Not only were Indian peoples of North America quite diverse, they were also politically sovereign. Does anyone know what sovereignty is?

10 SOVEREIGNTY Sovereignty is the supreme power from which all political powers are derived. A nation is sovereign when its people have the power to govern themselves. Were the Indian Nations sovereign at the time of European contact with the North American continent? Yes! All Indian nations originally exercised the powers of sovereigns. Indian nations recognized the sovereignty of other Indian nations by forming compacts, treaties, trade agreements, and military alliances with one another. All the colonies recognized the sovereignty of Indian nations by entering into treaties with the Indian nations. Sovereignty, then, was an inherent right of Indian peoples - a right that could not be taken away.

11 “SAVAGE” But many Americans, instead of recognizing either the diversity or sovereignty of American Indians, instead referred to them as “savages” or “noble savages.”

12 “SAVAGE” Noah Webster, the author of the first new dictionary produced in the United States in 1828, included the following definition: Savage, n. A human being in his native state of rudeness; one who is untaught, uncivilized or without cultivation of mind or manners. The savages of America, when uncorrupted by the vices of civilized men, are remarkable for their hospitality to strangers, and for their truth, fidelity and gratitude to their friends, but implacably cruel and revengeful towards their enemies. Questions: By this definition, Indians were savages who were uncivilized. What did “uncivilized” mean? 2. What do you think Webster and other Americans felt was “civilized”? 3. How are the definitions of savage, uncivilized, and civilized different in a contemporary Webster’s Dictionary? Discussion: This definition reveals the mixed feelings that many white Americans felt about the Indians. On the one hand was the so-called “noble savage” belief that Indians were good by nature (“remarkable for their hospitality to strangers, and for their truth, fidelity and gratitude”) because civilized society had not taught them to be otherwise. On the other hand was the “cruel savage” belief that Indians were violent, cruel, and revengeful. Regardless of whether white Americans viewed Indians as noble or cruel, they were always defined both as savages and as heathens – persons who did not believe in God and were in need of conversion to Christianity. Nowhere was there any understanding that the actions of white settlers might be to blame for some of the cruelty, revenge, and violence they encountered among the Indians. It was easier to regard the Indians as fundamentally different from and inferior to whites.

13 Assignment Now let’s take a brief moment to think about our own beliefs and attitudes about American Indians who lived over 200 years ago.

14 Assignment #1 My Thoughts about American Indians
Goal: To help students think about their beliefs and/or stereotypes about American Indians. Directions: Write a brief paragraph describing your thoughts about American Indians who lived in the US over 200 years ago. What clothing did they wear? What were their homes like? What did they do for a living? How did they have fun? Now, write a brief paragraph describing your thoughts about American Indians today. Have students turn these in and keep them throughout this unit of study. At the very end of the unit, have them write a new paragraph about their thoughts. Then have them compare the two. Finally, have them write a brief paragraph telling how and why they think their thoughts have changed. * * * * * * * * * * Homework Assignment: Have students collect at least one example of stereotyping of any group of people from each of the following: a television program; a television commercial; a popular song; a newspaper article; and food package. In at least one written page, have students explain each of their five examples and describe why they are stereotypical. Be sure to have them identify the group that is the focus of each stereotype.

15 Discussion Discussion: What is stereotyping? Do you think that American Indians have been stereotyped? Stereotyping occurs when an entire group of people is characterized by mistaken ideas of how they behave, live, dress, or think. What types of stereotypes exist about American Indians in our society? What is harmful about such stereotyping? Stereotyping degrades Indian people and their cultures and it distorts the reality of Indian people for non-Indian people. It is dehumanizing.

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