It's Them or Us: Changing Notions of 'Civilizing' American Indians

11:30, Friday 13 Nov 2015 (2 hours)
River Exhibition
StudentsResearch InterestedSocial & Behavioral SciencesSocial and Behavioral Sciences
In justifying his policies toward American Indians, Andrew Jackson argued the government must introduce "the arts of civilization" in "hope of gradually reclaiming them from a wandering life." Federal Indian policy in the United States from 1828-1968 had the expressed goal of civilizing American Indians. While no longer seen as a policy of civilizing, this study contends that current federal Indian policy is based on a modern notion of civilized. In each period, federal Indian policies have shifted the definition of being "civilized," and the evolving but persistent pursuit of "civilizing" American Indians is reflected both in policies and the way the government has measured success. Federal Indian policies have defined American Indians as the "other" through culture, method of government, and, in the modern era of self-determination, class. Racism is no longer simply related to a fear of the other, as racism has developed a direct correlation with classism. High poverty rates and low socioeconomic classes have hindered many American Indians and subjected them to classist prejudice that is often perceived as racism. Benedict Anderson contends that "the dreams of racism actually have their origin in ideologies of class, rather than in those of nation" (1983). The author employs case studies of the Cheyenne River and Sisseton-Wahpeton tribes in South Dakota to determine how being civilized is defined for these tribes during the assimilation, reorganization, termination, and the modern eras. Through content analysis of newspapers at both national (The New York Times) and local levels (Capital Journal, Sisseton Courier) and a current survey of South Dakotans, the author gauges the link between classism and racism toward American Indians.
Northern State University