In history textbooks, I feel as if the great tribes that lived in America before the colonists arrived are widely overlooked. There’s so many tribes, so many differing cultures that I feel, in comparison, as if there’s so little information that we currently have about them. Maybe, the diseases brought on by colonizers wiped out certain tribes before any information could be gathered about them. However, Native Americans today are not as decimated today as they were back in those days. In fact, there are more than 566 federally recognized tribes today! Some of these Native Americans live on reservations where there are vast problems and the history of these reservations is interesting.
In the past, the tribes that refused to leave their lands were most likely either killed or forced to move to a reservation that severely restricted their lands. These lands were further restricted by “treaties” which were really attempts to steal even more land from these tribes. Many agreed to these treaties as to keep peace with the government and yet more and more tribes were forced off their native land and forced onto reservations that were only becoming smaller and smaller as land was stolen time and time again. Sitting Bull, who was a famous tribal chief, was a casualty in the violence between the government and Native Americans in the 1800’s. He wasn’t the only one. Many Native Americans who refused to comply with the governments demands were killed. Some were killed escaping the reservations and others were killed for refusing to live on them in the first place. Aid that was promised to Native Americans who lived on the reservations rarely arrived and, if it did, was stolen by officers of the government.
Reservations have come a long way since then. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 was a step in the right direction, at least at first. John Collier, who in 1933, was appointed as commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs helped the Act come into effect. He believed in many things that were in favor of the tribes that were currently wary of the government. This act gave many tribes some of their native lands back which were taken unlawfully from them. However, as soon as Collier retired, his job was taken over by others who did not share his sentiments. An attempt was made to seize tribal lands and forcefully assimilate the Native Americans into the general population. Fortunately for the surviving tribes, this plan failed.
Today, these practices no longer occur. However, that doesn’t mean that life on reservations is great. That’s far from the truth actually. Today, many Native Americans receive aid from the government. Yet, Indian reservations are among the poorest counties in all of America. The poverty rates are much higher than the national average and something must be done to improve the quality of life on these reservations. On the bright side, many Native American tribes have been able to continue their customs and traditions on these reservations and they have fashioned for themselves an interesting culture that will hopefully never be forgotten.