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American Indian Treaties AMERICAN INDIAN TREATIES This research paper

This research paper discusses the reasons why the United States Government (USG) entered into treaties with various Native American Indian tribes and ultimately breached most, if not all, of those treaties.

The USG-Indian treaties played a key role in implementing American Indian policy from the time when the first such treaty was negotiated (with the Delaware in 1778) until Congress abolished the President's power to make such treaties in 1871. As the relative power of the new Republic increased and that of the Indian tribes waned, the emphasis of Indian policy shifted; however, throughout this period treaties served as the principal means of extinguishing Indian title to their traditional homelands and hunting grounds and thereby facilitated the relentless westward expansion of white settlers. Although the treaties were originally intended to and did in fact regularize and slow to some degree that flow, a combination of factors including white racism, powerful economic, political, military and technological pressures and Indian intransigence and inability to cope produced a dishonorable trail of broken treaties which forever threw into question their legitimacy. After 1871, the USG used other means than treaties --i.e. laws, agreements with specific tribes, executive orders and actions to implement Indian policy; nevertheless, in the second half of the 20th centuries, past treaties assumed new importance as a major basis for claims by various Indian tribes that their sovereign rights had been violated and that they were entitled to a much greater measure of self-determination.

When Europeans first arrived on North American shores, they encountered a vast undeveloped continent populated by hundreds of Indian tribes which Costo & Henry (1977) estimated comprised about twelve million people (p. 149). By 1860 that population was reduced to about 300,000 due to war, disease and famine (Brown, 2001, p. 9). Since the Indians' prio...

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