From Treaties to Reservations

American Indian Reservations colonial days

Indian Reservation – Land reserved for and managed by  Native American tribes. It’s sovereignty is limited by federal and state or local law. The reservations are under treaty agreement with the United States; where the federal government holds the title to the land in trust on behalf of the tribes. Today there about 300 reservations in the United States.

How did Reservations come to be?

Treaties signed between American Indians and Colonial powers in the 17th and 18th centuries and between American officials in the late 18th and 19th centuries resulted in the reduction of Indian lands or relocation of Native Americans to designated areas governed with limited independence. The Indian Removal Act signed by President Andrew Jackson was an unprecedented maneuver giving the President power to make treaties with every tribe east of the Mississippi; forcing them to surrender their lands in exchange for territory in the West. Jackson was persistent for the removal of Native Americans from the states and White settlements in the territories. He believed Indian Peoples had no intelligence, the industry, moral habits, or desire for improvement for any favorable change in their condition

Indian Territory part of Oklahoma  Native people who stayed in their regions were forced by government to relinquish large areas of land and made to live in small isolated areas. Native Americans were relocated to “Indian Territory”  (area now part of Oklahoma) through out the 1800’s. Some left without conflict while many were driven by force to their ancestral land.



In the North – Shawnees’, Hurons’, Ottawas’, Miamis’, Delawares’, moved west. In the South – Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminoles were migrating masses. Most of the Cherokee Nation were forcibly removed from parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama known as “The Trail of Tears”.  The United State government’s western expansion aka “Manifest Destiny” contributed to further displacement and hardship for Native Americans. The Indian Appropriations Act of 1851, authorized the creation lands what is now Oklahoma. The Native people were forced again to move to small tracts of land now called “reservations” . The U.S. government promised to support the tribes with food and other supplies that was not carried out. Native Americans were restricted to fishing, hunting, or gathering food that resulted in illness, starvation, and depression.

In addition to being moved to reservations, the Native people were mandated to boarding schools forcing them to put an end to their traditions and beliefs. Chief Red Cloud Lakota Indian

~ No Indian leader of mid 19th century was as well-known as the great Lakota Sioux Red Cloud.


The 20th Century brought a little improvement for Indian reservations with the help of the “Indian Reorganization Act of 1934” aka “The Indian New Deal”. Through this act tribal sovereignty and land management was encouraged. The act also outlined “New”  rights for Native Americans. Today Indian Reservations remain a complicated national issue. Native Americans continue to cope with the effects of forced relocation and to retain cultural traditions and languages.


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