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Explain the significance of the phrase: “As long as grass grows or water runs” in A...

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jodie101 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 7, 2013 at 3:00 AM via web

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Explain the significance of the phrase: “As long as grass grows or water runs” in A People's History of the United States. How does the government treatment of Native Americans refute this statement?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 7, 2013 at 3:15 AM (Answer #1)

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This phrase is the title of Chapter 7 in this book.  It is taken from a message that was sent by President Andrew Jackson to the Choctaw and Cherokee Indians when they were going to be moved out of their homelands in the process of “Indian Removal.”  In this message, Jackson is promising the Native Americans that the place where they are going will be theirs forever.  He is promising them that they will be able to hold that land as long as grass grows or water runs which is, one would think, forever.

This sentiment is badly contradicted by the way in which the US government actually treated the Indians.  The government would make treaties in which it would give Indians certain areas of land as reservations.  But then, inevitably, something would happen that would make whites want the land that had been given to the Indians.  When that  happened, the Indians would be forced to make new treaties taking away some of the land and leaving them with smaller and smaller areas on which to live.


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