Native American Treaty Making

Improved Essays
Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Cheyenne Indian and past U.S Senator, once said, “treaties are promises between two nations. And whether they are going to be valid or not, and whether they are going to last or not, is based on the heart and belief of the people that are participating.” (Harjo,221). This short statement is packed with reference to historical treatment and intent of American Indian treaties, acknowledgement of the continued power of treaty making in the present and the lasting social, economic, legal and strategic impacts of reclaiming sovereignty. These sentiments reveal that treaty making has had an extensive effect on the daily lives, both past and present, of countless American Indians as well as American ideology and law. Throughout …show more content…
The European colonizers and Native Nations at the time of first contact, had vastly different notions of it meant to engage in treaty making, owing to their own unique beliefs and practices of culture, ideology and political structure. More specifically, the European colonial powers sought to develop and exploit the lands and resources of North America from an individual, hierarchical alliance building perspective, while creating law-binding agreements with American Indian tribes. Native Nations, on the other hand, had their own distinctive cultures, languages and sociopolitical organizations, wherein most tribes were structured by rules of consensus and communal agreement that promoted living in unison with the land, all the while establishing and maintaining relationships through kinship terms (Clinton 17) . Thus, for American Indian Nations, signing a treaty did not initially constitute a process of forming a temporary alliance in the form of a written document, as it did in European minds, rather, Native Nations understood treaties as the formation of metaphoric kinship bonds that lasted until the end of time. Consequently, the central goal of treaty-making in the eyes of Native Nations was to build and maintain relationships with the Europeans, while Europeans maintained treaties as a vehicle for vindicating and …show more content…
In which, the effects of Marshall Supreme Court decisions and the Indian Removal Act decimated Indian sovereignty by refusing to acknowledge that American Indians governments could have been full partners in nation building and left their legal texts malleable enough that interpretation would always benefit the United States (Norgren 142). Even on Indian Territory, Native Nations sovereignty was still in question because most Americans “rejected the idea of Indian autonomy” and manifest destiny was revitalized after the Civil War (Norgren 144). According to Jill Norgren, after 1865 United States Indian policy followed several “ethics”: continue to acquire Indian land, consolidate more Indians within Indian Territory, tolerate White intruders in Indian Territory, and further incorporate assimilationist legislation (Norgren 150). Together, these “ethics” force Native Nations to denationalize and end communal land holding through Congress enacted laws like the Dawes General Allotment Act. These land allotments destroyed Indian autonomous governments and culture through the forcing of individual land titles and allowed for Indian surplus land to be taken by the government. These unkind laws to American Indian sovereignty were in affect until 1950, when

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