Native Americans, Reservation Life
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the United States pursued a strategy of ethnic cleansing to force hundreds of linguistically, culturally, and politically distinct indigenous peoples with their own rich histories of alliances, trade, and cultural exchange onto Indian reservations—remote, poor vestiges of their vast former holdings. The prevailing political discourse cast Native Americans as savages standing in the way of progress and the Manifest Destiny of the white race to settle the continent all the way to the Pacific. On the reservations, proud independent peoples were classified as wards of the federal government, denied individual and collective rights, and subjected to a variety of measures designed to destroy their cultures and assimilate them. A variety of often contradictory policies, administered at first by the Department of War, and later by the Department of the Interior through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, wrought havoc on the lives of Native Americans ...