Broken Promises

Westward expansion, the building of roads and settlements on Indian lands, led the U.S. government to negotiate multiple treaties with Native Americans. However, while white attitudes toward the Indians would ensure rigorous enforcement of limitations placed on the tribes, the provisions stipulating restrictions on themselves were either ignored or renegotiated. As circumstances on the frontier and administrations in Washington D.C. changed so too did the governing documents, with each ensuing treaty either negating or totally erasing any promises previously given to the Indians.

Additionally, various Indian Appropriation Acts (1851, 1871, 1885, and 1889) passed by Congress established further provisions that resulted in the movement of Native Americans onto reservations, their declaration as wards of the federal government, the end the of their treatment as independent sovereign nations, and the opening up of their lands to further white settlement.

In compensation [the Indians] were to receive houses, barns for their livestock, and schools to teach their children the white man’s language and ways – none of which they asked for or wanted. All the treaties would be similar in terms. For the promise of food, clothing, lodging, and education the tribes were [forced] to surrender most of their traditional tribal territories. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Many of those promises were never fulfilled resulting in the Indian Wars which did not end until 1891, and the modern American Indian Movement which, since its inception in the 1960’s, has sought to focus national attention on the history of broken promises made by the U.S. government to Native Americans.




Author: maxknight73

Retired Army Officer and Counterintelligence Specialist. Currently living in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Gray. Cancer survivor. Avid history buff and writer.

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