History

Study Notes

Life on the reservation

Level:
GCSE
Board:
Edexcel

For Plains Indians, life on the reservations was tough.  From the 1880’s onwards, Plains Indians were essentially prisoners on the reservations. Government policy aimed to destroy Plains Indians way of life to force them to assimilate to white-American culture. Below is a list of the impacts government policy had on the Plains Indians way of life:

For Plains Indians, life on the reservations was tough.  From the 1880’s onwards, Plains Indians were essentially prisoners on the reservations. Government policy aimed to destroy Plains Indians way of life to force them to assimilate to white-American culture. Below is a list of the impacts government policy had on the Plains Indians way of life:

 

Education

All Indian children were forced to go to boarding school away from their parents. Children were taught to have no respect for Plains Indians way of life and traditions, and were instead brought up as Christians. They were punished if they spoke their own language, or practised their own religion. If Indian parents refused to send their children to school, their food rations would be withdrawn until they agreed. By 1887, over 2000 Indian children attended 117 boarding schools.

 

Religion

All Plains Indians religious dances, feasts, vision quests, and ceremonies were banned. The influence of the medicine men was also reduced. Christian missionaries worked on the reservations to try and fill this ‘spiritual gap’.

 

Economic

Plains Indians were unable to hunt buffalo since the majority had been exterminated. Instead, they had to rely on government rations that could be withdrawn at any time for poor behaviour. Since they could not leave their reservations to raid other tribes, there was no way for Plains Indians to increase their wealth.

 

Political

The power and authority of the chiefs was weakened. In the 1880s, the US government set up councils who took over the chiefs power. In 1885, the government took over all legal powers regarding Plains Indians. This meant Plains Indians had lost all power to govern themselves.  Some Plains Indians joined the Indian Agency Police where they were given food, shelter and a reasonable standard of living. 

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