Political leaders inflicted change among the American Indians in various ways. Development of the transcontinental railroad facilitated the travel of new farmers to the west, stimulating the growth of agriculture, mining, and other businesses. Increased migration of people to the west led to a change in the pattern of activities among the Indians (Foner, 2017). This resulted in great transformation of their lives. The availability of horses, which were bought from Spain resulted in change in the farming based on foot hunting to hunting buffalos while riding on horses. Nevertheless, rapid migration caused the occurrence of war between the indigenous groups and the new immigrants. As a result, President Ulysses S. Grant established a new peace policy to prevent the oppression of the Indians. However, the Congress eliminated the treaty system in 1871, which made it even harder for Indian tribes to negotiate with the government. Instead, they offered those who would leave their Indian identity an American citizenship.
As the government sought to relocate Indian tribes to reservations, the establishment of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) by the federal government in 1836 was a reflection of how the government considered the natives. BIA ensured that it suppressed military efforts by the native tribes against the whites. The government abandoned the initial resolve to keep the peace with the native tribes and saw suppression of the Indians as the best way to prevent future conflict (Foner, 2017). With their lands allocated to white farmers, the native Indians had to settle in the reservations. To support the actions of the federal government, the Congress refused to recognize the native tribes as sovereign. Children from native families were forced to go to boarding schools to become ‘American’ and embrace new traditions, names, hair, clothes, and culture (Foner, 2017).
Although new reforms were later embraced to allow the native tribes to have some form of sovereignty, a major damage had already been done and affected all future generations. Movements organized by different native groups such as the Society of American Indians helped tribes maintain parts of their culture. However, they could not get back the lands and cultural values they lost.
- Foner, E. R. I. C. (2017). Give me liberty! An American history (5 ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.