Saturday, June 13, 2015

Minority vs Minority: Discrimination of Both Sides?

As we continue to look at life after the Civil War, an important aspect is buffalo soldiers and native Americans versus the government and citizens. After the war, many blacks still faced discrimination from white citizens and had a hard time finding jobs. Many black men who had fought in the Civil War for the Union become permanent soldiers and became Buffalo soldiers. These "black troops" went west to fight the Indians for the western lands and force the tribes into reservations. America's federal government wanted this land and this fighting was called the Indian Wars. In class, we learned about this topic both as a class and in groups. We first watched a series of videos from ABC Clio about the soldiers and Indians which not only introduced us to the topic, but also provided good detail. We then split up into groups to analyze a diagram, a primary source excerpt from a book by Helen Hunt Jackson from 1881, and a primary source excerpt from the Dawes Act of 1887. We then reconvened as a class to come up with our essential question for the unit: Were federal policies towards Native Americans and buffalo soldiers intentionally discriminatory or well intentioned?

For hundreds of years since colonists started coming to the "New World", the issue of how to deal with the Indians living on the land was prevalent. In the 1880's, Americans wanted more westward expansion, and the same problem arose. However, the American government was harsh and forceful and tried to take the land away without negotiation. This started the Indian Wars. During this time right after the Civil War, many African Americans who had fought in the Civil War and wanted to settle down in the west, became permanent soldiers for the U.S. This organization of colored troops became known as the buffalo soldiers and they had an extremely hard job and had to endure harsh conditions. They were ordered to fight against the Indian to conquer the land. However, along the way, both sides were discriminated against; the buffalo soldiers by white citizens and the Indians by the federal government's policies.

I think that the federal government was intentionally discriminating against the Indians with all of their actions and policies. They primarily wanted all of the Indians’ land for themselves and wanted all Indians to get rid of all their culture to become Americans. That does not sound like a fair deal, and it was very one-sided. The Americans were not willing to negotiate or compromise at all with the Indians, and instead used force. The Americans had been pushing the natives further and further west for hundreds of years, and Andrew Jackson's Trail of Tears during the 1830's was still a fresh wound to the natives. Yet, events like the California gold rush resulted in more American westward expansion and even more conquering of native land. The leaders of the Indian tribes tried to make compromises and peace, but the federal government wanted the land and didn’t care about the native leaders. In Helen Hunt Jackson's book A Century of Dishonor written in 1881, she wrote “These Indians found themselves of a sudden surrounded by and caught up in the great influx of gold-seeking settlers, as helpless creatures on a shore are caught up in a tidal wave. There was not time for the Government to make treaties; not even time for communities to make laws. The tale of the wrongs, the oppressions, the murders of the Pacific-slope Indians in the last thirty years would be a volume by itself, and is too monstrous to be believed.” The government also decided to try to Americanize the Indians on their reservations. They required all children to be sent to school, and above the doors of the school there were signs that said “kill the Indian in him, and save the man”. The policies stated and admitted that their goal was to completely get rid of Indian culture, and to minimize the power and influence of native leaders so that they learn to obey the American government. The federal policy of the Dawes Act in 1887 also gave each family a piece of land on their reservation, but they did this with the intent to get rid of Indian culture by splitting up the sharing of land that normal occurred in Indian culture and the traditional community atmosphere. The federal government was greedy and knew how to strategically make policies to discriminate against and lessen the Indians. They not only forced the Indians from their homes and took over it, they also forced the Indians to conform to their ways and squash all diversity in culture.
Picture from Quotes from Richard Pratt

Buffalo soldiers were also wrongly discriminated against by the white citizens in their own country of America, but the federal government didn’t discriminate against them. Even though slavery was abolished, whites still did not accept or agree with blacks' equality. They gave blacks a hard time and didn’t make it easy for them to find jobs, so many of them were stuck with a job in the military. Whites did not like having blacks be able to tell them what to do, and there were many altercations and fights started by white men against buffalo soldiers.This is extremely unfair and disrespectful because the buffalo soldiers were the people protecting the white Americans and fighting for more land. It was an extremely hard job that nobody else would do, and the soldiers were very courageous. They did not deserve these fights as a thank you for their service. However, the federal policies did not discriminate against buffalo soldiers. Since these soldiers were having a hard time finding jobs with whites and needed the military for a job, the government provided soldiers with food, shelter, and clothes. This was a generous and attractive offer. The government also knew how hard their job was, and would often give many of the soldiers medals of honor to acknowledge their service. Although the American government didn't discriminate against buffalo soldiers, they did against Indians by trying to get rid of their culture completely and conquer their land without compromise.

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