What was the main purpose of the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887?
The Dawes Severalty Act was intended to force Native peoples to assimilate to white society by making them into settled farmers. It was mainly intended to affect Plains Indians, whose reservation lands were split up into allotments that were given to Natives who agreed to settle as family units and farm the land. In other words, Native Americans, especially those who lived on the Plains, were given lands in return for a promise to live like white settlers. It would have relieved the responsibility of the federal government to take care of reservations, and it was intended to protect the land rights of Indian peoples whose reservations were increasingly encroached upon by whites. Overall, the Dawes Severalty Act was part of a broader assimilation effort that included sending Indian children to boarding schools, many of which were far away, to receive an education in a White American setting. In addition to the negative repercussions for Indian culture, it had many disastrous unintended consequences. The worst was that Indians who agreed to the arrangement often received very poor lands that were not capable of supporting a family. This, combined with the fact that many Native men were not interested nor experienced in agriculture meant that many Indian families lived in dreadful poverty.
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