U.S. Governmental and Native Voices in the Nineteenth Century: Rhetoric in the Removal and Allotment of American Indians

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2006-07-14

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This study situates institutional and American Indian discourses at the interstices of 19th century ideologies that underscored interactions of the U.S.-Native relationship. Specifically, the project argues that both U.S. governmental and American Indian voices contributed to the policies of U.S.-Native relations throughout the removal and allotment eras. Simultaneously, these discourses co-constructed the identities of both the U.S. government and American Indian communities and contributed textures to the relationship. Such interactions demonstrated the hybridity extant in U.S.-Native affairs in the nineteenth century. That is, both governmental and indigenous discourses added arguments, identity constructions and rhetorical strategies to the relationship. Ultimately, the study argues that this hybridity helped shape "Indian" policies and constituted cultural identities in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

American Indians, it is contended, achieved numerous goals in terms of impeding the removal and allotment policies. Likewise, by appropriating the U.S. government's discursive frameworks and inventing their own rhetorical strategies, American Indian communities helped reshape their own and the government's identities. Natives, further, worked through the government's homogenization of indigenous culture to organize a pan-Indianism that allowed them to unify in opposition to the government's policies and constructions of American Indian identities. During the first third of the twentieth century, American Indian agency was shown to impact the U.S.-Native relationship as Natives urged for the ultimately successful passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 and the Indian New Deal of 1934. American Indians concomitantly challenged the government-instigated negative identity constructions of Natives. Similarly, American Indians interrogated the government's self-professed positive identities; in the process, they illustrated how the U.S. government acted through deception and fraud.

In the end, Native communities were granted increased discursive power, though the U.S. government still retained its control over American Indians. The Indian Citizenship Act and the Indian New Deal - where this study concludes - demonstrated the prevalence of this hybridity. Early twentieth century hybridity was built incrementally through the removal and allotment periods, and existed as residues of nineteenth century U.S.-Native relations.

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