Dawes Severalty Act

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Troy Voss Rachel Woodward English 110.429 Nov 5, 2009 The Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 The Dawes Severalty Act is a very controversial topic in the United States history. Its goal was to oppress the Native Americans by taking their land and worked to decimate their culture completely. Despite what were considered good intentions by the government at the time, the Dawes Severalty Act caused incredible destruction of the Native American culture and the entire tribe dynamic. Looking back into the act’s legacy, historians found that it was unsuccessful in the assimilation Native Americans. However, the Act did manage to suppress many of the Native American practices for the time being and its land allotment policies had long-standing implications. The Dawes Severalty Act was passed to serve the purpose of “civilizing” the Native Peoples. The common belief among many settlers was that the reservation system, in which the majority of tribes owned their lands communally, was heeding their ability to establish economic and cultural prosperity. Steven J. Gunn, an Associate Professor of Law and an expert on American Indian Law, spoke about how: The Friends of the Indians, an influential group of philanthropists and reformers in the Northeast, believed that if individual Indians were given plots of land to farm, they would flourish and become integrated into the American Economy and culture as middle-class farmers. (2) This tied in with the idea that if a Native American was to drop his heritage and culture and assimilate into the population; the government would no longer need to oversee Native American welfare in a paternalistic way which it felt it was obligated to do. Another popular interpretation was offered by Ezra A. Hayt, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. She tells us “Tribal relations should be broken up… the allotment of land in severalty, a
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