In 2009, the President of the United States of America Barack Obama signed one of the most landmark bills turning it into the law. The bill was drafted by the Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas representing Republicans and aimed at ”offering the official apologies to all Native Indian Peoples on the behalf of the United States of America” for all the previously perpetrated wrongdoings, crimes and ”ill-conceived policies” against them. My personal opinion is that with the adoption of this act the United States’ government officially acknowledged the fact that Indians were forcibly and very often illegally displaced from their native homelands. While leading the US scholars the before assailed Spanish invasion to the South of America and the subsequent elimination of Aztec and Inca millennium civilizations, the European colonists virtually were doing the same by forcing Indians to move to the specifically designated reservations (Johnston). Before Christopher Columbus landed on the US soil, the Apache, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Comanche, Delaware and many other tribes were scattered throughout the entire territory of the present United States of America, Canada and the Northern part of Mexico. Nowadays, the reservations of native Americans are occupying only 2,3 % of the whole territory of the United States (Snipp). Since the native territories have been colonized, only 0,9 % of the USA population identify themselves as native Americans. Also, 0,7% reported that they were the natives in combination with other races (Johnson).
The aim of this paper is to define the homeland of the Native Americans, its perception and contemporary practice, the interrelation between ancestral homelands and Native American People, and the effect done by the number of forced evictions perpetrated by the United States’ authorities on indigenous people.
Homeland’s Definition, Its Perception and Practice
Various scholars propose different definitions on the word ‘homeland’. Having aggregated the most common approaches, homeland can be defined as an extensive plot of land associated with the particular ethnic group, which, in its turn, has the profound cultural, economic and historical connections. According to the Professor Peter, the concept of homeland is not necessarily connected with the state of government’s formation and the borders delineation (Peter). Moreover, the concept shall not be always associated with the geographically designated area due to the nomadic character of certain ethnic groups. To illustrate this in case of Delaware or Cherokee Indians, they were migrating through the continent eastwards and then westwards. Following this assumption, for the majority of the American Native Inhabitants, the entire American continent starting from Florida to California and from Northern Carolina to Texas can be justly considered as their homeland.
One of the hottest problems of the Native Americans’ issue is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the American nation comprehend this term differently. For instance, according to the recently conducted survey, the concept of Homeland for the Native Americans refers primarily to the artificially created reservations. However, while living in their natural environment, the American Natives have in their disposal everything considered to be necessary for their own and future generations. Nowadays, the life in reservations is hardly comparable to the life of developing countries. The malnutrition, short life expectancy, poverty and drug abuse are the outcomes of forcible evictions to reservations. To illustrate this, Shannon County located in South Dakota is widely known as one of the most impoverished regions in the country.
The government of the United States of America has permanently endeavored to safeguard the interests and well-being of Native Americans, while ensuring and protecting the rights and privileges of the European colonizers and their contemporary descendants. One of the first attempts to legalize the situation was the adoption of the General Allotment Act in 1887. The instrument passed by the Congress of the United States was aimed at regulating the land relations among the citizens of the United States and Indians. The year 1934 was remarkable due to the adoption of the Indian Reorganization Act. In 1975, the United States’ Congress adopted the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, which legalized the establishment of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. According to this Act, 310 Indian reservations have been established across the United States of America, and 562 tribal governments were recognized at the federal level. Today, these governments are vested with the power to collect taxes and to exercise civil and criminal jurisdictions; also, they are able to evict persons from tribal lands. This means that the reservations have the broad autonomous powers, sometimes even broader than those possessed by the state governments. Nowadays, it is often reported that state authorities as well as the corporate whales routinely encroach upon the autonomous nature of reservations because the enormous deposits of natural resources (uranium and iron mines) are located there. These attempts resulted in the 2000-year bill drafted by the Republican Party proposing to terminate the autonomy of Indian tribes and to subject them to the federal and state governments completely. Fortunately for the Indians, the bill was vetoed by George Bush’s administration.
Result of the Forcible Homeland Deprivation
Once the indigenous tribes have been forcibly removed to the reservation, the outcomes of this displacement were heinous. First and foremost, the number of indigenous Americans has declined dramatically. Making a simple mathematical proportion, it can be easily inferred that the today’s Indian community represents only 1,5% of all Indians of Columbus’ period (Snipp). The conclusion is simple. The rest of Natives was either murdered or assimilated among colonists. Secondly, with the eradication of traditional lifestyle elements, including nomadism and agriculture on the ancient territories, the numerous indigenous cultures have been liquidated or substantially modified out of the normal evolutionary process (Peter). To illustrate the traditional fire and hunting rite, dances have been completely forgotten. Moreover, with the advent of civilization with its benefits, the traditional trades of many tribes have been forgotten. The statement I am advocating for is the fact that the cultural legacy of the Indian civilization together with housewares of the museum value has been destroyed by arbitrary acts of colonists and by the ill-conceived policy of coexistence. Thirdly, the homeland deprivation resulted into the change of moral orientations of Native Americans. The great aim of Indian life was thought to be the union with gods, while nowadays it is replaced by the necessity to survive. Finally, but not the least, the negative impact of homeland deprivation triggers the increase in criminal inclinations of Natives. Once Columbus reached the shores of Florida, he reported that Indians were engaged into wars with each other, but there was no single occasion of robbery, theft, or homicide taking place in the Indian community. Nowadays, since the tribes have been confined to reservations, the Indians are more inclined to the drug and alcohol abuse, violence, or other types of intentional crime.
Today, practically all remnants of the anciently dominating Indian tribes have been evicted from their homeland and located in reservations. Although the United States’ Federal Government has vested them with a broad set of autonomy, the deficiency of their evolutionary natural environment resulted into the social, cultural and economic downturn. The numerous efforts taken by the US officials in the 19th and 20th centuries did not bring any significant results. The Indian communities are predicted to entirely disappear in the next 100 years, unless the drastic preservation approaches are taken momentarily.