The Indian tribes who are the natives of the American continent are treated as independent political communities in USA. They possess a unique status within USA because they enjoy American citizenship at the same time they are the members of the tribal government within the reservations. There existed a policy of limited rule of jurisdiction in the Indian reservations because these reserved areas were considered independent self governing bodies. Native Indian communities gained this unique position in USA by the Federal Indian policy. The evolution of federal Indian policy is the growth and development of Native Indian Communities to the mainstream of American society.
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The reign of George Washington as the American president is from 1789 to 1797, and Andrew Jackson was from 1829 to 1837. Patrick Killough in ‘George Washington’s Indian Policy’ points out that: “As first President of the United States (1789-1797), George Washington created our first official policy toward native Americans.” (Killough).
The mastermind behind the first official policy towards the Native Americans is George Washington. This official policy was able to decrease exploitation of American Indians by the immigrants. This policy helped the American Indians to gain a unique place and independence within the state control. The policy of George Washington was to protect the Indian tribes from extinction and exploitation. Through this policy the sharing between American Indians and European settlers in the American continent increased and there was communal harmony. John Adams, the next American president supported the federal control and he protected the Indian communities from further exploitation. He supported federal control and protection of the Indian groups against invasion of their lands by the states. (The American Presidency). Thomas Jefferson the next president decided to remove the Eastern Indian Tribes across the Mississippi river. The pragmatic necessity hindered the growth of philanthropic thought in Jefferson. James Madison the next president of America was of peace policy with American Indian communities. The next president James Monroe was a reformist but he was unable to begin more generous policies towards Indian community because the administration of Indian affairs was under the war department. The next president, John Quincy Adams was in favor of slave trade and slavery. His policy against American Indians and blacks in America was brutal. The next president of America, Andrew Jackson, forcibly removed the American Indian community westwards over the river Mississippi. The Indian removal act of 1830 was considered as the doom of America Indians in the mainland. The civilizing policies of George Washington the first president of America came to an end and the age of segregation and racial feeling began to originate in the mind of Americans. Earlier, the European settlers lived with the natives with peace. But the policies of the federal government like the Indian removal act of 1830 hindered the growth of harmony between the natives and the settlers. Connie F. Erickson is of the opinion that the separation policy of the government segregated the tribal people to small areas of land. Earlier, they were the masters of the land but now they were forced to be away from their land. “The policy of separation evolved into removal of the Indians and eventually into segregating them onto tiny islands of land (Erickson, 1993). They were evacuated from their homeland permanently and it was difficult to flourish in a new land. It can be seen that the federal policy of George Washington was the beginning of the era of toleration and communal harmony. But the reign of Andrew Jackson was that of brutal deeds against the tribal communities.
So, the history of American government from George Washington to Andrew Jackson is the story or evolution of American Indian community from master to slave. They were the real owners of the land and were forced to flee from their motherland to reservations. The reservations or the land which was provided to American Indian tribal people was to protect them from further aggression of invasion. But it caused their isolation from the mainstream of American Society. It is evident that the federal policy of George Washington resulted in communal harmony among the people of American and the policy of Andrew Jackson resulted in the segregation of the American Indians.
- Erickson, Connie F. 1993. Chapter Two: Movement to the Reservations 1820-1871. 8.
- Killough, Patrick. 2000. George Washington’s Indian Policy.
- The American Presidency. 2007.