Native Americans did not gain anything or lose anything?This is for an essay topic.

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James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If I'm understanding your question correctly, you want to explore ideas for writing an essay on how Native Americans neither gained anything nor lost anything over the course of American history. I'm asking what may seem an obvious question because, in all honesty, I can't understand how someone could believe that Native Americans lost nothing or that the gains balance out the losses. 

Native Americans experienced extreme, perhaps even unimaginable losses, including but not limited to the following:

  • loss of life (huge numbers died in wars with the newly arrived "Americans" and in the various plagues that the settlers brought with them)
  • loss of land (large numbers of Native Americans were forcibly relocated from fertile and sometimes even sacred areas to much less hospitable or "useful" areas for agriculture, such as the tallgrass prairies of what is now Oklahoma)
  • loss of culture (Native American languages and tribes have dramatically declined in number over the 20th century)

This all is not simply propaganda or bleeding-heart liberalism on my part. Many problems affecting Native Americans today are linked to two centuries of dislocation and marginalization by the dominant culture.

Technology may probably be the most important gain. Native Americans had for the most part a stone age culture prior to contact with Europeans. Of course, technology comes with problems of its own (pollution, mechanization of the labor force, etc.).

I find it hard to see how the losses and gains balance out.

(Wikipedia is not the final say on any subject, of course, but the two links below offer introductory discussions of this topic and can point you to names and titles for further reading.)

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that you will not be able to get a good answer to this question unless you clarify what you mean.  You could submit an answer to clarify, or you could message me, whichever you like.

But we need to know what time period you are talking about.  I take it you want to discuss whether Native Americans gained or lost anything.  But when/what are you talking about?  Do you need to talk about what they gained or lost from Europeans coming to the Americas?  From Indian Removal?  From the final move to an all-reservation system?

No matter which of these things you are talking about, it seems unlikely that you will be able to argue that Native Americans did not lose anything.  That is one reason I as very curious to know what time period you are talking about.  I wonder what time period could warrant such a question.

Please let us know so we can be of some help.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whatever the topic or context you are referring to, unless it's a modern day issue like fishing or tribal gambling, I can't think of a way in which Native Americans arguably gained anything.  In fact they lost nearly everything - their culture, way of life, tribal lands, 90% of their population, spoken languages went extinct in many cases, their autonomy, even their religion as the US government attempted to assimilate them forcibly.

Any of the so called concessions gained by Native Americans through treaty or otherwise can hardly offset losses of that scale and scope.