Cultural assimilation of Native Americans

The cultural assimilation of Native Americans refers to a series of efforts by the United States to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream European–American culture between the years of 1790 and 1920.[2][3] George Washington and Henry Knox were first to propose, in the American context, the cultural assimilation of Native Americans.[4] They formulated a policy to encourage the so-called "civilizing process".[3] With increased waves of immigration from Europe, there was growing public support for education to encourage a standard set of cultural values and practices to be held in common by the majority of citizens. Education was viewed as the primary method in the acculturation process for minorities.

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was a major institution for the assimilation of Native Americans. From 1879 until 1918, over 10,000 children from 140 tribes attended Carlisle.[1]

Americanization policies were based on the idea that when indigenous people learned customs and values of the United States, they would be able to merge tribal traditions with American culture and peacefully join the majority of the society. After the end of the Indian Wars, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the federal government outlawed the practice of traditional religious ceremonies. It established Native American boarding schools which children were required to attend. In these schools they were forced to speak English, study standard subjects, attend church, and leave tribal traditions behind.

The Dawes Act of 1887, which allotted tribal lands in severalty to individuals, was seen as a way to create individual homesteads for Native Americans. Land allotments were made in exchange for Native Americans becoming US citizens and giving up some forms of tribal self-government and institutions. It resulted in the transfer of an estimated total of 93 million acres (380,000 km2) from Native American control. Most was sold to individuals or given out free through the Homestead law, or given directly to Indians as individuals. The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 was also part of Americanization policy; it gave full citizenship to all Indians living on reservations. The leading opponent of forced assimilation was John Collier, who directed the federal Office of Indian Affairs from 1933 to 1945, and tried to reverse many of the established policies.

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