[I wouldn’t usually post my homework, but I find this item both meaningful to me as well as quite well written. – ed.]
The cultural journey of the Cherokee since the arrival and colonization of the United States is a story fraught with broken promises, conflict, and deceit.
As a result of the covetous actions of immigrants from Europe, the Cherokee Nation, once the largest Native American group within North America, has shrunk to a mere 200,000 members who are scattered across the country and who reside upon the comparatively miniscule pieces of land left to them by the United States government. Among the challenges the Cherokee have faced since the arrival of the Europeans are prejudice, segregation, racism, and active usurpation of their sovereignty as well as their natural, human rights (CherokeeNation.Org. 2010).
The history of prejudice against the Cherokee is most readily evidenced by the historical statement rendered by President Andrew Jackson in favor of the Removal Act of 1830 that “No state could achieve proper culture, civilization, and progress, as long as Indians remained within its boundaries.” (Mulligan. 1970) This direct and public statement of discriminatory bias against all Native Americans, but targeted specifically at the Cherokee, was the preface to the notorious forced removal of nearly 17,000 Cherokee from their tribal home and lands into Oklahoma; an act of deliberate segregation of the Cherokee people that required over one hundred years to finally redress (though this redress came too late to ensure the Cherokee Nation retained or could resume their ownership of their homeland). In the interim years, the Cherokee Nation suffered instance after instance of aggressive disruption, active prejudice, and systemic encouragement and support thereof continued unabated.
The underlying threads of racism and covetousness by the immigrants of Europe are far from extinguished even after nearly two hundred years and countless, continued instances of cooperation by the Cherokee Nation. The Dawes Act of 1887 all but destroyed Cherokee culture and life by a process of forced assimilation that mandated the use of English, promoted and subsidized farming over the Cherokee tradition of hunting, and continued to infringe and splinter Cherokee lands. Cherokee culture was further decimated by an amendment, The Curtis Act of 1898 that abolished tribal courts and governments. These injustices continued unabated, until 1934, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt restored Native American rights to self-govern, returned some of their lands, and put an end to the egregious forced assimilation activities. (Dye. 1995)
Unfortunately for the Cherokee, this effort was far too little and much too late; Today, Native Americans are among the poorest and most under-privileged sub-groups in the United States. Their unemployment rates are skyrocketing, their levels of drug abuse and addiction are equally horrifying, their reliance upon agreements with the federal government are increasing, and it is obvious that never will The Cherokee Nation regain (let alone increase) its cultural prowess; It is a thing that can no longer feasibly be recovered or restored. As recently as 1988, it is demonstrated that profoundly unequal resources ensure relative inability to access higher education; this reality ensures the Cherokee is unable to effectively complete or succeed in the marketplace or the greater American society and culture. According to C. Mathew Snipp, “The lack of personal resources, such as a higher education, represents the most formidable barrier to American Indians seeking greater socioeconomic equality in American society” (Snipp, 1988, 11).
As a descendant of the Cherokee Nation, I find that I identify culturally with the Cherokee ethnic group. As a native American, I also identify with the United States mainstream culture. It is an unfortunate truth that, because of the actions of the United States and the immigrant, oppressive culture introduced, maintained, and permitted vigorous and aggressive dominance of this ethnic group, it is no longer possible for me to enjoy a culture or country in which pluralism and a resulting peaceful unified, and enriched cultural experience is prevalent. Because of the prejudice, segregation, racism, and discrimination that continues to this day against the Cherokee Nation, I will likely never in my lifetime know what it feels like to hold my head high and be proud not only of my heritage, but of my government, my fellow citizens, or to believe that we have even the remotest levels of consistency, commitment, or care for the concept of a country in which liberty is truly something we guarantee to all.
No Author Noted. (2010). A Brief History of the Trail of Tears. Cherokee Nation. Retrieved May 22, 2010, from http://www.cherokeehistory.org/Culture/58/Page/default.aspx
Dye, T. (1995). Politics In America. Pearson Prentice Hall. Retrieved May 22, 2010, from
Mulligan, E. (1970) Accounts of the “Cherokee Trail of Tears” With reference to “Princess Otahki” Retrieved May 22, 2010, from http://www.yvwiiusdinvnohii.net/articles/princes.html
Snipp, C. Mathew. (1988). On the costs of being American Indian: Ethnic identity and economic opportunity. Institute for Social Science Research, 4 (25), 1-14. Retrieved May 22, 2010, from eScholarship Repository database.