History 420 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer

The Consequences of Manifest Destiny on American Indians

Introduction: Tribal maps with American Indian namesToday we continue our discussion of Manifest Destiny by focusing on the ways that the policies and beliefs of Manifest Destiny dramatically influenced the cultural, spiritual, political and economic lives of the many American Indian Nations living on the North American continent. We will begin by discussing various Federal Indian Policies that were passed during the era of Manifest Destiny, continue with an analysis of how the state of California during this era dealt with California Indians, and conclude with a local case study of what happened to the California Indians in Humboldt County.

But first, a word about this map. Aaron Carapella, a self-taught mapmaker from Warner, Oklahoma, has pinpointed the locations and original names of hundreds of American Indian nations before their first contact with Europeans.

As a teenager, Carapella says he could never get his hands on a map that depicted the more than 600 tribes — many now forgotten and lost to history - with their original names and locations. Now, the 34-year-old designs and sells maps as large as 3 by 4 feet with the names of tribes hovering over land they once occupied. Your can read more about the map and how to obtain a copy by clicking here.

Discussion Goals:

Goal #1: To understand the colonial attitudes and policies that influenced 19th Century Federal Indian Policy.

Because the Indian policies that arose during colonial America greatly influenced 19th Century Federal Indian Policies, it is important to briefly discuss the issue of sovereignty which is at the heart of all relations between American Indians and the federal government. But first, what does it mean to be sovereign? And what does it mean to be a sovereign nation?

Poster defining sovereignSovereignty and Indian Policies in Colonial America. At the time of European contact with the North American continent, all Indian nations exercised the powers of sovereigns by forming treaties, trade agreements, and military alliances with other Indian nations. In recognizing such sovereignty, each Indian nation consisted of a unique group of people who had a distinct language and a distinct moral, cultural, and religious structure; controlled and regulated a specific geographical area; and possessed governmental powers acknowledged by the tribal people and enforced by some sort of tribal authority. (And by the way, these are the required characteristics of a civilized nation.)

However, as we will learn today, once the American Revolution was over and the newly-created United States of America had a Constitution, Indian sovereignty would gradually be eroded. In short, by the end of the colonial era, the colonists and the king had developed a confusing policy about Indian sovereignty: while they recognized it, they also sought to erode it. These early attitudes and policies of the colonies and the King contributed to the federal Indian policies designed by the newly-created United States government.

Goal #2: To understand the Federal Indian policies passed during the era of Manifest Destiny.

Within seven years after the end of the Revolutionary War, the new American government created three distinct policies that determined how the Americans would deal with Indians: the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790.

These federal actions indicated that the U.S. government should and would act in good faith in its negotiations with sovereign Indian nations. However, Indian sovereignty soon became a problem for the growing United States. While Euro-Americans wanted to move westward and conquer the land to the Pacific Ocean, it was clear that the hundreds of sovereign Indian nations living on the North American continent were not going to willingly or voluntarily give up their land. Consequently, the United States government took two steps:Photo of Treaty of Fort Laramie 1868

The Federal Indian Policies we will discuss today were largely responsible for the enormous loss of Indian lands between 1763 and 1889. As Euro-Americans moved westward, they began to demand access to more territory - the vast majority of which was occupied by American Indians.

Thus, from 1830 throughout the remainder of the Nineteenth Century, the federal government responded with four specific policies that aimed to open up Indian land to white settlement: removal, reservations, allotment, and elimination. The federal implementation of each policy further eroded Indian sovereigny.

Removal. By the early 1830s, about 80,000 members of the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations lived on land that many Americans felt could be more profitably farmed and settled by non-Indians. But all five nations had signed treaties with the federal government guaranteeing the right to live in their ancestral lands and maintain their sovereign systems of tribal government. Not surprisingly, these nations were unwilling to give up their land and to negotiate new treaties with the federal government that would give away any of their territory.

map of Indian Country 1834President Andrew Jackson decided that a new federal policy would be necessary in order to remove the Indians from their lands. Thus, he supported the Removal Act of 1830 which gave the President the right to make land "exchanges" by forcibly removing the five tribes from their ancestral lands against their will. The Removal Act was bolstered by the 1834 Indian Intercourse Act which moved Indian Country (see map) westward across the Mississippi and was set aside for all Indians who were removed. Consequently, over the next several decades, more than 40 tribes were removed to Indian Country - the area that now comprises the state of Oklahoma.

From 1830 to 1840, between 70,000 and 100,000 American Indians living in the East were forcibly resettled by the US Army. Many others were massacred before they could be persuaded to leave; an unknown number died from disease, exposure, and starvation suffered during the Trail of Tears as well as on other enforced, long-distance marches westward to Indian Territory.

While the removal policy helped to alleviate the immediate "Indian problem," as more and more Americans continued to move westward, they found other Indian tribes living in freedom throughout the continent. Because these Indians prevented non-Indians from settling in many desirable areas, and because many white settlers did not feel safe living amidst the Indian "danger," another new policy was created to deal with the Indians - they would be confined to a land reserved exclusively for their own use - areas that came to be called reservations.

Reservations. The men who created the reservation system believed that if Indians could be confined to one particular geographical place reserved for them, they could become 'civilized" and assimilated into American life. They could be encouraged to stop being Indians and to become like white men. Thus, the reservations were to make sure the remaining tribes were converted to Christianity; taught English, sewing, and small-scale farming; and ultimately, to be Americanized.Map of Indian Reservations

Although treaties were the primary method for creating reservations, Congress suspended formal treaty making in 1871. Thereafter, executive orders, congressional acts, or any legal combination recognized by the federal government were used to establish federal reservations. By the end of the 19th Century, 56 of 162 federal reservations had been established by executive order. After 1919, only an act of Congress could establish reservations.

While some Indians adjusted to life on the reservation, the vast majority did not become more like the white man. Indeed, most fought to maintain their Indian culture and traditions. While the reservation system continued to grow and resulted in the loss of even more territory (as seen at the right in the map), it was clear that all Indians were not going to be confined to reservations and that the vast majority were not going to become Americanized. Thus, arose the necesssity for another new federal policy - allotment.

Allotment. Many Americans believed that Indians would never become Americanized as long as they lived in large reservation communities in which they celebrated their cultural and spiritual traditions and owned land communally. Further, American policy makers believed that the reservations did not give Indians an incentive to improve their situation. So, the federal government's new policy was designed to destroy the idea of communal land ownership on the reservations. This policy was signed into law as the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887. and its ultimate goal was to assimilate Indian people into white, Euro-American society.

The Dawes Act allowed the President to give, or allot, portions of certain reservation land to individual Indians - 160 acres to each head of family and 80 acres to others - to establish private farms. Each head of family would receive final title to the land and American citizenship after a 25-year period during which they had willingly assumed responsibility for the land. It also authorized the Secretary of Interior to negotiate with the tribes for purchasing "excess" lands for non-Indian settlement. Any land remaining after allotment would be sold to whites; all proceeds were to be used to "civilize" Indians on the reservation.

Poster of Indian Land for SaleThe results of the Dawes Act and its allotment policies were catastrophic for American Indians. When allotment went into effect, Indians still owned over 138 million acres of land. But when Dawes was repealed 47 years later, 90 million acres had passed from Indian hands into the hands of whites, representing a 60% loss of land.

In addition to the Dawes Act, the federal government adopted another assimiliation policy designed to go hand-in-hand with allotment - Indian Boarding Schools. This article is filled with excellent photos and information about the boarding schools. (Please look at the photos even if you do not want to read the article.)

Ultimately, allotment and Boarding School policies failed to assimilate Indians and force them to accept a more settled, Americanized way of life. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a large number of Indians and several Indian nations still lived in communal groups that refused to live on reservations or to be involved in allotment. Thus, the federal government moved ahead with another policy to deal with these recalcitrants - elimination.

Elimination. The rationale for eliminating Indians grew out of a belief that Indian resistance was equivalent to a declaration of war against the US. Using such a rationale, in the late 1800s the US Army declared war upon several tribes, began eliminating resisters, and sought to absolutely subjugate any survivors. But war was hardly a last resort nor was it something used only at the end of the nineteenth century. A review of official miliary records, some of which are incomplete, shows that from 1776 to 1907, the US Army was involved in 1,470 official actions against Indians. These figures do not include actions against undertaken by private armies against American Indians. For an brief but important case study of the federal government's war against the Sioux, click here.

By the turn of the century, this first era of Federal Indian policy had drawn to a close. The consequences had been disastrous for American Indians:

But no discussion of Federal Indian Policy can end without this very important point: Despite over 100 years of such destructive federal Indian policies, the cultural and spiritual heritage of of many Indian nations survived. Indeed, by the end of the 19th Century, American Indians across the nation refused to be assimilated and victimized by their historical experiences with the federal government. As the twentieth century commenced, this survival mode helped to revitalize many Indian nations as they continued their resistance to becoming assimilated and to celebrating their spiritual, cultural, lingual, and political traditions. The history of American Indian nations, then, must be one of both victimization and survival!!

For a great video to use in class showing how skateboarding on the Pine Ridge Reservation has helped young people hold on to their traditional beliefs, go to https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15090387bd733049?projector=1

Goal #3: To examine California's Indian policies

During its first ten years as a state, California neither recognized Indians as citizens with civil rights, nor did it treat Indians as sovereign people. As soon as the state government was created, the new legislators passed a series of legislative acts that legally encouraged and carried out genocide against California Indians.

1. In 1850, California's first legislature passed the Act for the Government and Protection of Indians - which wrote the following into law.

2. In 1850 with the first California constitution, Article VII gave the Governor the power "to call for the militia,Humboldt Militia recriting poster to execute the laws of the State, to suppress insurrections, and repel invasions." Governor Burnett, in keeping with his call for militias, allocated state funding to “protect” Euro-American gold mining settlements. California legislation offered militia members individual payments for proof of dead California Indians. The state funded both the bullets for the voluntary militias, and $10 to $25 for proof of executed Indians – scalps, heads, hands, or bodies.

3. California passed a law in 1854 "making it a crime to disinter, mutilate or remove the body of any deceased person" - but Indian bodies were understood to be exempt from the law. This begins a period of Indian grave robbing that does not end until federal legislation (NAGPRA, 1990) is passed in the late 20th Century that specifically makes this practice illegal. NAGPRA requires that all Indian human remains, funeral objects,and sacred objects in federal museums and any museum receiving federal assistance be given back to their tribes.

4. In 1860, California passed an amendment to the Act for the Government and Protection of Indians [Approved April 18, 1860.] In essence, this amendment declared that Indians who were not already indentured/enslaved could be kidnapped.

"Sec. 3. County and District Judges in the respective counties of this state, shall, by virtue of this act, have full power and authority, at the instance and request of any person having or hereafter obtaining an Indian child or children, male or female, under the age of fifteen years, from the parents or person or persons having the care or charge of such child or children, with the consent of such parents or person or persons having the care or charge of any such child or children, or at the instance and request of any person desirous of obtaining any Indian or Indians, whether children or grown persons, that may be held as prisoners of war, or at the instance and request of any person desirous of obtaining any vagrant Indian or Indians, as have no settled habitation or means of livelihood, and have not placed themselves under the protection of any white person, to bind and put out such Indians as apprentices, to trades, husbandry, or other employments, as to them shall appear proper, and for this purpose shall execute duplicate articles of indenture of apprenticeship on behalf of such Indians, which indentures shall also be executed by the person to whom such Indian or Indians are to be indentured - such indentures shall authorize such person to have the care, custody, control, and earnings, of such Indian or Indians, as shall require such person to clothe and suitably provide the necessaries of life for such Indian or Indians, for and during the term for which such Indian or Indians shall be apprenticed, and shall contain the sex, name, and probable age, of such Indian or Indians; such indentures may be for the following terms of years: Such children as are under fourteen years of age, if males, until they attain the age of twenty-five years; if females, until they attain the age of twenty-one years; such as are over fourteen and under twenty years of age, if males, until they attain the age of thirty years; if females, until they attain the age of twenty-five years; and such Indians as may over the age of twenty years, then next following the date of such indentures, for and during the term of ten years, at the discretion of such Judge; such Indians as may be indentured under provision of this section, shall be deemed within such provisions of this act, as are applicable to minor Indians."

What were the goals of such legislation?

  1. Promoting Indian slavery. Californians interpreted the 1850 law in such a way that all Indians, including children, faced indentured servitude through a simple procedure of arrest and "hiring out" through any local justice-of-the-peace. Once they were indentured, the term limitation was almost always ignored, thus resulting in slavery.
  2. Denying Indians equal protection under the law by forbidding Indians to defend themselves in a court of law, describing the only type of life acceptable via Euro-American customs, allowing the courts to contract Indians out as servants.
  3. Pomoting vigilante violence against Indian people by empowering and funding militias designed specifically to kill Indians.

Goal #4: To understand the genocidal nature of the Massacre at Indian Island that took place in Humboldt County in 1860

One of the worst depredations against Indians in California occurred in 1860 in Humboldt County. Known as the Indian Island Massacre, this tragic event almost destroyed the Wiyott Nation and left their sacred island where the annual World Renewal Ceremony was performed in ruins. The Wiyott people were not able to reclaim their island for over 140 years. Below is a timeline of events leading up to the 1860 Indian Island Massacre as well as the events that followed.

Pre-Contact.  About 1500-2000 Wiyot people lived in their ancestral territory that included the current tows of McKinleyville, Photo of Indian IslandBlue Lake, Arcata, Eureka, Kneeland, Loleta, Fortuna, Ferndale, and Rohnerville.  Indian Island was and remains the center of the Wiyot People’s world.  It is home to the ancient village of Tuluwat and the traditional site of the World Renewal Ceremony held annually to welcome the new year.  The ceremony lasted between 7-10 days and began with the men leaving the island and returning the next day with the needed supplies.  The elders, women, and children remained behind. The ground beneath Tuluwat village is an enormous clamshell mound (or midden). This mound, measuring over six acres in size and estimated to be over 1,000 years old, is an irreplaceable physical history of the Wiyot way of life. Contained within it are remains of meals, tools, and ceremonies, as well as many burial sites.

1850.  The town of Eureka was founded by a group of miners who needed a more convenient route to the overland trail from Sacramento the California gold fields.  Shortly thereafter, Humboldt Bay became the busiest port between San Francisco and Portland.  As Eureka’s population and economy grew, its white residents became increasingly uneasy about local Indians whom ranchers blamed for thefts and cattle loss.  Merchants began to see Indian villages that thrived along the Bay as a direct threat to their growing trade.

1860. An army officer at Fort Humboldt observed, "Cold-blooded Indian killing being considered honorable, shooting Indians and murdering even squaws and children that have been domesticated for months and years, without a moment's warning and with as little compunction as they would rid themselves of a dog." An editorial in the Humboldt Times opined, "The whites cannot afford horses and cattle for their [Indian] sustenance, and will not. Ergo, unless Government provides for the Indians, the settlers must exterminate them."

Map of Indian Massacres in Humboldt County"It has now been two months since the Indians in this vicinity started in open hostility to us, though so far they have confined their operations to the trail connecting this County to Weaverville. This being our direct channel of communication with the Sacramento Valley, and a trail over which the United States Mail must pass once a week, it is of the utmost importance that it should be kept open. The Indians on this trail first manifested their hostility to us by shooting a man who was traveling alone. We supposed that a few men would be sufficient to punish the Indians and make them ask for peace, and accordingly, a party was organized, provided for by private means and sent in search of the hostiles. After trailing the Indians for several days, they were attacked from ambush and one man was killed. In the meantime their camp which they had left unguarded was attacked, and ten mules were killed. This party consisted of only twelve men. Subsequently, another party of twenty-five men went out who were provisioned at a heavy private expense. In endeavoring to drive the Indians from the vicinity of the trails, they were fired upon in a deep canyon, and one man was killed, another wounded. The company has now disbanded, not feeling inclined to incur further danger and hardships at their own expense. The trails are now closed, there being no travel over them except by night or in large parties. The question now is what is there to.be done? There are no troops here at the garrison and the people are not able to carry on a war at their own expense. The people of the county are of the opinion that if the militia could be called out, and arms furnished, the merchants would feel encouraged to furnish supplies, and wait for the State to pay. We can furnish the men if they can only be supplied."

After 1860.  An estimated 200 Wiyot people still lived in the area.  Federal troops collected the surviving Wiyot people from other villages and confined them to the Klamath River Reservation.  After a disastrous flood on the Klamath, the Wiyot were moved to the Smith River Reservation and later to the Hoopa and Round Valley Reservations.

1870.  A shipyard repair facility was built on part of the Island and operated there until the 1980s.  During that time, it dumped creosote, solvents, and other chemicals that were used to maintain ships.

Late 19th Century.  Non-Indian settlers built dikes and channels on Indian Island that changed tidal action along the shore and caused some erosion of the clamshell-shaped mound.

Early 1900s.  A church group purchased 20 acres in the Eel River estuary for homeless Wiyot people.  This land later became known as the Table Bluff Rancheria of Wiyot Indians.

1910.  Under 100 full blood Wiyot people were estimated to be living in Wiyot territory.

1913. Anthropologist Alfred Kroeber sent one of his staff members, Llewellyn Loud to Humboldt County to collect Indian human remains. Loud conducted most of his work at Indian Island. He recorded 24 skeletons existing in 22 graves that existed prior to the 1860 massacre.

1918. Loud published his report and thereafter, Indian Island became a popular site for local hobbyists and entrepreneurs to search for collectables and human remains.

1923. Eureka dentist, H. H. Stuart began extensive excavations of Indian graves at Indian Island. He eventually dug up 382 graves.

1960. The City of Eureka acquired ownership of most of Indian Island.

1961. Eureka High School teacher and collector of local history, Cecile Clarke received uanimous approval from the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors "to excavate and preserve relics of Indian tribes native to this region" on Indian Island.

1963-69. Clarke and her team excavated sites on Indian Island. It carried out radiocarbon dates tests confirming the site's original occupation as 880A.D.

1992.  In February, the first candlelight vigil was held to remember those who lost their lives in the Massacre and to help the community heal.  About 75 people participated that year and by 1996, over 300 participated.  The Wiyot hope that at some  point, the vigil can be held on Indian Island which remains inaccessible to the Wiyot.

2000.  The Wiyot Tribe purchased 1.5 acres of Indian Island and began cleaning the debris and pollutants left on the village site.

2004.  On May 18th, the Eureka City County unanimously approved a resolution to return 60 acres - comprising the northeastern tip of Indian Island where the Tribe once celebrated its World Renewal Ceremony - to the Wiyot Tribe. Some of the remaining Wiyot people lived on the 88-acre Table Bluff Reservation and 550 members were enrolled in the Wiyot nation.

2009. In February, the Wiyot Tribe had its 17th candlelight vigil

2010. In February, the Wiyot Tribe commemorated the 150 year anniversary of the Indian Island Massacre.

2013. The Wiyot Tribe completed the clean-up of dioxin, asbestos, and other toxins left by the former shipyard.

2014. In February, the Wiyot Tribe had it 22nd and final candlelight vigil as shown in the photograph below. Photo of Indian Island Celebration

2015. In April, the Eureka City Council received a request from the Yurok Tribe to transfer more of the publicly-owned land on Indian Island to the Tribe. On April 7, the City Council unanimously voted to refer the tribe's request to a committee that promised an "expeditious" process.

Methods Discussion: One of the tried and true measures of assessing what your students have learned is a strong analytical Essay Question/Prompt. Today, we end our discussion with one such question/prompt. Please take out a piece of paper, write your name and "Essay Question/Prompt" at the top. Then spend 10 minutes addressing the following:

There is little consensus among American historians about whether or not the Federal Indian policies that were implemented in the 19th Century were genocidal in intent and consequence. However, there is very little disagreement among American historians about California's Indian policies - the vast majority agree that they were genocidal in both intent and consequence.

  1. Do you believe 19th Century federal policies were genocidal? Provide evidence from what we have learned to support your answer.
  2. Do you believe California's 19th Century Indian policies were genocidal? Provide evidence from what we have learned to support your answer
  3. How were the federal policies different from those of California?
  4. Be sure to keep your "Essay Question/Prompt" method assignment. It will go into your Portfolio.

Conclusions: The Consequences of Manifest Destiny on American Indians

  1. The State of California decided to solve the “Indian Problem” through policies of forced labor, slavery, and vigilante militia whose job it was to kill local Indians. 
  2. The policies of the federal government in regard to California Indians paralleled the federal policies passed during the era of Manifest Destiny: making treaties, removing Indians from their ancestral homelands and placing them on reservations, educating their children through Americanization and assimilation, and alloting Indian lands.
  3. State and Federal attitudes about the “Indian Problem” resulted in policies and/or actions that had enormous consequences for the Indians of California:
    • Many of the previously sovereign Indian Nations became semi-sovereign, impoverished nations largely dependent upon the U.S. government for their well being.
    • The Indian nations of California were the victims of genocidal policies. The vast majority of the Indians who had lived in California had either been forcibly removed to Indian reservations, or they had been killed.
    • The Indian population of 1850, ranging between 70,000-100,000, dropped to about 30,000 by 1870.  By the 1900 federal census, only 16,000 Indians were recorded in California.
  4. Northern Californian citizens responded to Indian raids, Indian killings, and economic competition from Indian communities with acts of vigilante violence – none of which were punished by local, state, or federal agencies.
  5. Despite the many attempts to destroy the Indians of California, within several generations, most nations had survived and replenished their populations and maintained many of their tribal cultural, political, economic, and spiritual traditions.
    • By the end of the twentieth century, California had more Indian people than any other state in the nation.
    • About one-sixth of the estimated Indian population of the nation lived in California - approximately 320,000 Indians.
    • The Bureau of Indian Affairs served about 56,000 Indians who live on California's 104 federally recognized Indian reservations, about one-third of which are located in Northern California.
    • About 200,000 urban Indians and 75,000 other indigeneous Indians live on about 80 reservations that are not federally recognized.
    • As of late 1999, approximately 52 California Indian Nations had applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for federal recognition