Public policy toward Native Americans has been inconsistent. Some of the policies reflect the desire to make the Indian more like the Whites who came to this country, while others reflect cultural relativity. Using specific examples, discuss which policies reflect the dominant groups ethnocentrism and which ones reflect cultural relativity.
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I believe that all of the policies were certainly needed and have had positive impacts for various reasons. I think the most beneficial thing to Native Americans is when attitudes towards them started to change, and they were no longer attacked, ridiculed, and exploited by the government. They were viewed as equal citizens who deserved a right to "liberty, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness."
Native-Americans are given many opportunities nowadays that are not afforded to others. For instance, in Alabama they are allowed to have gambling casinos while the casinos were taken away from white people or any other ethnic group. Restitution is paid to them; minority points and opportunities are given to them on applications for jobs and scholarships. Besides, there has been a tremendous assimilation with other races by the Native-Americans, as well, so many of them are no longer singled out in any way.
Whilst we can look at aspects of American policy such as the Indian Reorganisation Act and other such decisions as positive, we must not be blind to the way that indigenous peoples have been marginalised and sidelined systematically for a long period of history. Whilst now indigenous peoples have their own reserves, it has certainly not allowed them to become more respected or part of American mainstream society.
Ethnocentrism in public policy pertaining to Native Americans can be seen most Acts of Congress beginning in the 1700s. One such Act preceded the Dawes Serevalty Act (1887) by sixteen years. In 1871, the Act of Mar. 3, 1871, consigned Native American tribes to the status of wards of the U.S. Government by forbidding that any more treaties be drawn between the U.S. and the tribes or the tribal nations. This public policy presupposed the ethnocentric position of tribal inferiority against dominant group superiority.
The design of US policy early on was always to exterminate Native populations and take their land. Those that were not exterminated, attempts were made to exterminate culture such as language and religion. They were often brutally successful (Dawes-Severalty Act)
Later efforts such as the Indian Reorganization Act, and court decisions awarding some compensation for lost land and delayed or stolen BIA payments have also had a positive impact on tribes as far as their cultural and economic independence.
Ethnocentrism can be seen most clearly in the policies of the late 1800s. Specifically, we can see it in the boarding school system where Native Americans were forbidden to speak their own languages or wear their hair in traditional ways.
Relativity is best seen today. Natives are given the right (in many ways) to be autonomous on their own reservations. There is little in the way of attempts to encourage their assimilation into mainstream American society.
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