Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Reservation System

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Reservation System

Although the reservation system exists to this day, it has a dark history in its original oppression of Native Americans.

The Native American Reservation System Definition

The reservation system in America first developed in the 1800s in response to Westward Expansionism. Essentially, white settlers wanted more land and resources for themselves and so the government forcibly expelled Native Americans from their native land. The government then “gifted” the Native Americans parcels of land out West called reservations where they could continue self-governance but under terrible conditions.

Western Expansionism

the movement of settlers out West as American territory expanded

The History of the Reservation System in America

The History of the Reservation System in America: The Indian Removal Act

Reservation System History Trail of Tears Routes StudySmarterMap of routes taken on the Trail of Tears, commons.wikimedia.org

In 1824, the American government created the Office of Indian Affairs (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs) to figure out how to handle the land issue created by Westward expansion. In 1830, the Indian Removal Act “solved” the problem by expelling Native Americans from their rightful land and forcing them to relocate out West. It was the Indian Removal Act that led to the Trail of Tears.

The Trail of Tears

the thousand-mile long, torturous journey Native Americans had to take out West as a result of the government’s forced relocation of tribes

The History of the Reservation System in America: The Indian Appropriations Act

The Indian Appropriations Act of 1851 formally created the reservation system with the introduction of reservations in Western territories where Native Americans had been relocated. Although the government allowed tribes to continue self-governance, the land was not their own--hunters did not have much use for farmland--and the government made no consideration of rival tribes when forming the reservations. This led to a poor quality of life for the various tribes. There were high rates of poverty, disease, and malnutrition but low rates of positive and necessary factors like economic development.

Living within a reservation was not optional. More like a prison, Native Americans had to stay on reservations or face military action. While in these reservations, agents of the Office of Indian Affairs either encouraged or required Native Americans to take on aspects of white culture. There were lessons in English, sewing, caring for livestock and other topics deemed necessary for assimilation.

The Sioux Wars

Native American tribes did not simply fall in line once the United States passed the Indian Appropriation Act of 1851. Since the Europeans first arrived, Native American tribes had been fighting wars for their land and their fight against the reservation system was no different.

Upon the creation of the reservation system, the Sioux entered a years-long war with the United States in defense of their land and way of life. In 1876, the Sioux won the Battle of Little Bighorn but they knew retaliation was coming and abandoned their fortress. The Battle of Little Bighorn signaled the end of Native American resistance.

The History of the Reservation System in America: The Dawes Act

The Meriam Report on the living conditions in these reservations led to calls for change and in 1887, the Dawes Act passed. The Dawes Act ended the reservation system with the new goal of assimilating Native Americans into white society rather than confining them to certain lands. The government reclaimed the lands of reservations and redistributed them to individuals. Any Native American who accepted a plot of land could receive United States citizenship.

Although it might seem as though the Dawes Act would be beneficial to Native Americans, it actually worsened their situation. First of all, Native Americans actually lost up to two-thirds of their land as a result of the Dawes Act and the land they did retain was often not suitable farmland. Additionally, the individualized nature of this new land system did not mesh well with the collective nature of Native American society.

A photograph of a teacher and her students at a missionary school, commons.wikimedia.org

One large negative consequence of the Dawes Act was the creation of missionary schools across the country. These boarding schools claimed to help with the assimilation of Native American children into society, but they were actually hotspots for abuse where teachers attempted to remove any hint of Native American heritage or culture from the children. The children could only speak in English or they would face brutal punishments and classes included the typical subjects but also indoctrination into white culture and ideology.

The History of the Reservation System in America: The Indian Reorganization Act

By the 1930s, missionary schools had fallen out of favor as there were reports of horrific abuse, but very little success in actually assimilating Native American children. It also became clear that, on a broader scale, the Dawes Act did not have the intended effect of helping the situation of Native Americans. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 brought back the reservation system, this time with financial aid and optional residence, as an attempt to right the government’s wrongs.

The Consequences of the Reservation System

The reservation system still exists today, but not as it did in the 1800s. With the reintroduction of the reservation system in 1934, the goal was to restore Native American culture and land while also offering financial assistance to ensure better conditions. Individual reservations govern themselves and are not subject to most federal legislation.

Unfortunately, those who choose to live in reservations today still face a myriad of issues due to the years of oppression. Poverty remains a major issue and the housing market is oversaturated to the point of crowded conditions and poor standards of living. Residents of reservations also often lack access to proper healthcare and adequate help for the high rates of substance abuse.

Reservation system - Key takeaways

  • The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forcibly relocated Native Americans to Western territories so that white settlers could continue their Western expansion.
  • The reservation system in the United States began with the Indian Appropriations Act of 1851, which introduced reservations to these Western territories.
  • Native Americans could not leave these reservations where they faced outbreaks of disease, high rates of malnutrition, and low rates of economic development.
  • The Dawes Act of 1887 ended the reservation system but caused a whole new set of problems such as the loss of Native American territory, the breakdown of Native American culture, and the creation of missionary schools.
  • The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 reintroduced the reservation system that is still in use today. The government continues to offer financial aid but reservations still struggle with poverty and a lack of adequate healthcare.

Frequently Asked Questions about Reservation System

The Indian Appropriations Act created the reservation system in 1851.

The American government initially implemented the reservation system as a way to make room for white settlers.

The reservation system was a failure because Native American tribes did not have the tools to thrive in new lands without help. Reservations were nothing more than glorified prisons.

The main purpose of the reservation system was to make room for the Westward expansion of white settlers.

The Dawes Act caused the breakdown of the reservation system.

Final Reservation System Quiz

Question

What act created the reservation system?

Show answer

Answer

The Indian Removal Act

Show question

Question

When was the reservation system created?

Show answer

Answer

1811

Show question

Question

Which is not true of reservations in the late 1800s?

Show answer

Answer

divided based on the tribe

Show question

Question

What act ended the reservation system?

Show answer

Answer

The Dawes Act

Show question

Question

What is the term for the boarding schools created to assimilate Native American children into white society?

Show answer

Answer

missionary schools

Show question

Question

What report exposed the problems with the reservation system in the 1800s?

Show answer

Answer

The Meriam Report

Show question

Question

When was the Indian Removal Act passed?

Show answer

Answer

1810

Show question

Question

What was the main reason for the implementation of the reservation system?

Show answer

Answer

Westward Expansionism, to make room for white settlers

Show question

Question

What Act reintroduced the reservation system?

Show answer

Answer

The Indian Reorganization Act

Show question

Question

Reservations today do not have any lingering problems from the prior reservation system.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Which is not a reason for the failure of the Dawes Act?

Show answer

Answer

the creation of missionary schools

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Reservation System quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.