Themes and Trends on Reservation Era

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The chapter on reservation life presents several trends that have taken place since the reservation era. Also, different themes on the relations between the Indians and the Americans are brought out.

Themes and Trends on Reservation Era

Among the major themes that are evident in this case is white supremacy. The plains people were isolated in reservations that were assigned to more than one tribe, and the white federal agents governed them. The Americans also wanted to eradicate the native Indian language and lifestyle in favor of their western cultures since they considered it superior to the natives’ way of life. Besides, Americans encouraged their missionaries to reside within the Indian communities to lead as an example to the natives. Moreover, white dominance was seen in the creation of new rules that were meant to take away the Indian land on bases that the natives were not productive enough. Also, the education system was white-dominated, and the Indians were restricted from acquiring formal education unless they collaborated and proved to be productive enough.

Based on the chapter, there are trends in family and social status. Family life considerably changed as the Indian office advocated for monogamous families, unlike the existing polygamy. The officials also banned various cultural practices such as wife inheritance. The practice was essential to Indians as it ensured the protection of widows and children by a brother to the deceased. On social bases, Indian men were to stop taking part in ceremonial community activities but rather be productive through farming and other agricultural activities. The federal agencies also changed the way of dressing where men were expected to maintain short hair and embrace the American dressing style, often referred to as the citizen’s dress. The federal officials banned social activities such as food sharing and property distribution in exchange for gifts in the reservations. Also, a court was established to oversee the regulation and punish offenders through the withdrawal of food and other essential services.

Furthermore, education was incorporated into the reservation in an attempt to Americanize the local natives. The establishment of boarding schools that taught vocational training and simple reading and writing took place in 1879. Also, military schools, which were aimed at instilling discipline to the native students, were put in place. Examples of the military institutions include the Carlisle school. In the school, students were aligned in military formation, wore uniforms, and marched to class in organized platoons. The reservations also had day schools and government boarding schools operated by the protestant and catholic missionaries. However, the main goal for these schools was not to promote education but to eradicate the Indian customs, primarily through harsh punishments to those that objected. The native parents only sent children to school with the hope of being provided with clothing and food. Also, the majority of the time spent in schools was to maintain their conditions rather than learning. For instance, students were involved in activities such as looking after school stock, farming, and cleaning.

Finally, there is the land allotment trend. New legislations were put up in 1887 to hasten the assimilation process and opening up the Indian land. The legislation advocated for individual ownership of land and sale of the surplus reservation land, through the president’s directive. The Indians, however, did not have a right to vote on the allotment since they were not considered citizens of America. For example, the Omaha reservations were considered assimilated enough to manage their land, and thus, their land was subdivided to individual owners and the remainder sold for American settlements. The allotment procedures were characterized by hostility to the resistance Indian tribes, which led to most of them giving in. For example, the settlers trespassed to the Cheyenne and Arapaho settlements and terrorized the Indians as well as stealing their cattle and other property (Fowler 2003).


Fowler, L., & Bragdon, K. J. (2003). The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Great Plains. Columbia University Press.

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