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Assimilation, Relocation, Genocide

Photo Credit: Laney Juan

Since first contact, Native Americans have been given three choices — which weren’t really choices at all.

Assimilate

The first “choice” was for a tribe to assimilate into the dominant American culture, become “civilized,” give up tribal ways and be absorbed into America society. Many tribes tried this, many times through history. Education was the tool for assimilation in the boarding school experience. The government push to assimilate native tribes continued through the 1950s Urban Relocation Program.

Relocate

Even if a tribe, like the Cherokee, tried to join the American society, they could still be forced to relocate to Oklahoma Indian Territory hundreds of miles away. That’s what happened on the Trail of Tears.

Genocide

Some tribes chose to fight or were forced to resist. While many have won some battles, they lost all the wars. Hundreds and thousands of Native Americans were killed in battles or by disease or starvation. One of the worst examples of genocide was what happened to the California tribes.

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