Is the following statement true or not? and why?  The government's treatment of the Native Americans was an unfortunate yet necessary step in the nation's progress.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is no objective way to answer this question.  The words “unfortunate” and “necessary” are both subject to individual interpretation in this context.  I will give some arguments on various sides of this question and you can decide which arguments you can agree with.

Today, almost everyone would say that the government’s treatment of Native Americans was unfortunate.  The Indians were clearly treated in ways that were not very humane.  The US clearly acted in ways that killed large numbers of Indians and deprived all of them of their freedom and traditional ways of life.  However, there are at least two ways to argue that this was not unfortunate.

For a long time, many Americans would have said that the treatment of the Native Americans was not unfortunate because there was nothing wrong with it. In this view, the Native Americans were clearly “backwards” and “uncivilized.”  They needed to be moved out of the way so that America could expand.  This was, in this view, no more unfortunate than blasting a hill to make way for a highway.  Most Americans today find this view repugnant, but there was a time (and not so long ago) that many would have agreed with it.

Today, there will be people who would argue that calling what happened “unfortunate” is using a very weak euphemism.  It is like calling the Holocaust “unfortunate.”  In this view, what the US did to the Indians was evil and intentional.  It was not a simple mistake.  Instead, it was a considered policy that essentially tried to destroy a people and their culture.  So, which of these three ways of looking at the issue do you agree with?

We can also debate whether treating the Indians as we did was necessary.  In one sense, you can clearly argue that it was.  In order to expand the United States as we know it, it was necessary to remove the Indians (with the possible exception of the Cherokee in Georgia).  In order to expand and grow, we needed to have control of the land.  We could not let, for example, roving bands of nomadic Indians control the Plains when we could be using that area of the country as our breadbasket.  Thus, in order to expand we had to treat the Native Americans in this way.

However, you can also argue that this was unnecessary.  We could have been less greedy in our desire to expand.  We could have shown the Native Americans that our way of life brought prosperity and other good things.  This might have convinced them to give up their way of life in favor of ours.  Then, we could have expanded.  That expansion would have been slower than it was, but it would have been accomplished without abusing the Native Americans.

So, looking at all of these arguments, which do you agree with?

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