Essay on American Indians and World War II

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By 1940, Native Americans had experienced many changes and counter-changes in their legal status in the United States. Over the course of the nineteenth century, most tribes lost part or all of their ancestral lands and were forced to live on reservations. Following the American Civil War, the federal government abrogated most of the tribes’ remaining sovereignty and required communal lands to be allotted to individuals. The twentieth century also saw great changes for Native Americans, such as the Citizenship Act and the Indian New Deal. Alison R. Bernstein examines how the Second World War affected the status and lives of Native Americans in American Indians and World War II: Toward a New Era in Indian Affairs. Bernstein argues…show more content…
The Dawes Act of 1887 began the process of allotment. By trying to force Native Americans to become farmers, the federal government cast many groups into poverty. The land which the United States held in trust for Indians was usually not choice farmland. Those trying to make a living off the inhospitable lands of the West found little success. During the interwar period of the early twentieth century, the government made new efforts to alleviate Indians’ position as a marginalized group. Over 10,000 Native Americans volunteered and served with distinction in the armed forces during World War I. In recognition of their efforts, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, making all American Indians United States citizens. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed John Collier Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Collier was a longtime advocate for native rights. Collier called for the Dawes Act to be repealed, insisting “that minority groups must be permitted cultural autonomy and political self-determination analogous to the legal rights of municipal or county governments.” As commissioner, Collier was the principle architect of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, otherwise known as the Indian New Deal. The IRA ended allotment and appropriate funds to purchase more land for native communities, establish a credit fund for improvements, and provide educational opportunities. Many native
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