Compare the governmental policies regarding indigenous people from any two of the following: Mexico, Canada, Brazil, and South Africa. What are the similarities and differences? How do these policies compare with the United States? Of the three policies, which was the most progressive and which was the most oppressive?
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In each of the specified countries, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and South Africa, indigenous peoples suffered greatly from the intrusion of European colonialists, primarily, but not exclusively, from Spain, Portugal, France and England. If one were to compare the experiences of the indigenous peoples from Canada and South Africa, where the English were a common denominator, with the French also settling Canada and the Dutch also settling South Africa, one would have to conclude that in all cases, the native populations suffered greatly and irreparably.
The plight of the indigenous of South Africa was one of enslavement in the service of colonial powers. Treated as inferior beings to be exploited for commercial purposes, South African blacks were the victims of institutionalized racism that would continue until the 1990s. While the formalization of apartheid would not take place until 1948, it was a continuation of policies and practices that went back many decades, involving both Dutch and British settlements. If English attitudes towards native populations in South Africa were considerably better than those of the Dutch, who would become the Afrikaners responsible for the formulation of the apartheid policy, the English were not without fault in the extremes to which indigenous tribes throughout southern Africa were subjected. (It should be noted that Portuguese rule in what is now Mozambique and Angola was similarly lacking in regard for the fundamental notions of human decency with respect to indigenous peoples.) In Canada, British colonial practices with regard to the native populations was similarly exploitative and frequently brutal, with native tribes forced off their traditional lands to make way for British Canada’s trappers and traders.
To contrast the experiences of indigenous peoples in Canada and South Africa would be similar to that involving American treatment of indigenous peoples in the portion of North America between the Canadian and Mexican frontiers. The British marginalization and cultural genocide in Canada was exceeded by the Americans in the emerging United States. In both cases, native tribes were forcibly removed from their traditional lands and relocated to reservations on far-less favorable territories. The Americans, however, were imbued with an even stronger sense of racial superiority than the British, although the differences in attitudes could be considered inconsequential. In both cases, the indigenous peoples were left destitute and in both cases, as the British did also in Australia, efforts were made to assimilate the natives through compulsory educational processes designed to eliminate remaining vestiges of native languages and cultures.
The experience of indigenous peoples in South Africa can be compared to that of the indigenous of North America primarily in the extent to which the Afrikaner policy of racial separation was institutionalized to an even greater extent than what occurred in the United States during the Jim Crow era, although, once again, the distinctions are marginal. The most appropriate comparison between South Africa and the United States would involve the treatment of blacks in both countries – with the difference being that African Americans are no more indigenous to North America than the Caucasians of Europe. The treatment of Native American tribes in the United States would then compare better to that of the tribes north of the Canadian frontier.
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