Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations

American Indians

Category: History

Many Indian tribes were removed from their homelands and their lands taken by whites in the nineteenth century. After the passage by Congress of the General Allotment Act of 1887,” Indian lands were cul down by 1930 from 139 million acres to 47 million acres. This destruction and scattering of the tribes had a devastating effect on Indian life and culture. The terrible hunger, deprivation, disease, illiteracy, suffering and death of Indian men, women and children on the reservations and in the city slums are their current and continuing plight.

There are hundreds of claims against the federal government by Indian tribes and tribal groups requiring payment for lands taken from them — some pending for 20 years. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the Senecas* of New York State were fighting in the courts to prevent their arable land from being flooded by the Kinzua Dam, and the New York State Tuscaroras* were fighting in thecourts to prevent the building of a reservoir on a large part of their reservation. The Iroquois later picketed the White House and said that they would take their grievances of confiscated lands and destitution to the United Nations as an international problem.

The Indians have built organisations such as the National Congress of American Indians, an organisation representing two-thirds of the 600,000 Indians in more than 20 states, and the National Indian Youth Council which grew out of the discussions at the American Indian Chicago Conference of 1961. Others are the young American Indians United and the United Nations of Pan-American Indians.* These are developing leadership toward unity in their fight for Indian rights. Indians are demanding fishing rights on rivers through fish-ins,* self-determination and political independence — that, Red Power.

While many Indians have continued to live in their old tribal ways isolated from capitalist life, they exist in a capitalist environment and are basically subject to its economic and political laws. They are developing class differentiations. The Osage Indians* of the U.S., one of the rare cases, have even a few wealthy, land-owning Indians. Even the most isolated tribes must adopt a commodity economy more or less in order to get the things that they must have.

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