Dawes Act

When the problems of what to do with the Native Americans in the West arose, Dawes Act was created in 1887. President Cleveland signed off on the Dawes Act in a sincere attempt to help Native Americans integrate and assimilate the Native Americans into white culture. The act altered existing reservations, and gave allotments to Native American families. These allotments were about 160 acres, and were to be used for farming and ranching. The main goal of the act was to absorb the Native Americans into the culture of American society, and eventually for them to become citizens. Once they were moved onto the allotment, they had to maintain it and live there for twenty-five years in order to become a United States citizen. The size of the allotments varied depending on the age and status of the Native American. If they were under eighteen years of age, they were given 40 acres. Any single Native American was given 80 acres, and families were given 160 acres. The outcome of the forced allotments depended on the family. Some of them were very successful in their farms and ranches, but were not happy with their new lives. Others had difficulties due to the fact that they were not trained and the land was too small, so they leased their land. In the end, there were only a few Native Americans that stayed in their allotments to gain citizenship. These facts compiled on each other and proved that Dawes Act had failed. The once-thriving Native Americans were struggling to keep up their lifestyle. The buffalo that they once flourished off of were diminishing because of ranches. Another goals of Dawes Act was to undermine the tribal leaders and chiefs. They posed a threat to the assimilation of the Natives into society. One of the main reasons for delegating the land was to try to break apart the Native American culture. The theory behind it was that if there were no ties to rituals or a tribe, it would be much easier for Natives to be integrated into society. In the eyes of congress, the easiest way to accomplish this was to force them to live on their own, without the help of their tribe. ¬†The act lasted about 47 years. In those long years, about two thirds, a large 90 million acres, of the Native American’s land was lost to the settlers. This left many Native Americans landless, and the land that was left was desolate and arid. It wasn’t useful for anything that the Natives thrived off of. Going back to the main idea of the act, it was to pull the Native American’s out of poverty. It acted against itself and downed them into what seemed like the complete opposite of what they had hoped for. There were two main supporting groups of Dawes Act: those who truly wanted better lives for the Native Americans, and those who only wanted the land from their reservations. ¬†Dawes Act was abolished by President D. Roosevelt in 1934 in his first term. The Dawes Act was the best that they knew at the time and was a hasty fix to the problem of what to do with Native Americans.