Native Americans and the Land, Essay Example

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According to the views of Native Americans, a close bond exists between the land and the people. The land is not only the material life-source of the people, but also possesses a sacred function tied into religious beliefs and the cultural identity of the Native Americans. The limitation of Native Americans to so-called reservations by U.S. government policy in the late nineteenth century was therefore not only devastating on a material level, but also on a metaphysical level. The continued taking of Native American land meant the restriction of Native American access to material resources, as well as to delimitations of their living space, which was especially devastating for the more mobile and nomadic tribes, such as the so-called Plains Indians.

The relationship between land and U.S. citizenship, however, was not a factor in U.S. government-Native American relations, insofar as this was largely determined by racial discourses: Native Americans were not eligible for U.S. citizenship until 1924. Instead, the relationship between land and citizenship was a relationship symptomatic of the struggle for hegemony in the United States, as control of land became a crucial geopolitical policy of the U.S. government. Ownership of land and the autonomy in regards to where one lives appears as a marker of social position, as the restrictions on Native American autonomy clearly demonstrated who occupied the hegemonic position within late nineteenth century America.

The question of land between Native Americans and the U.S. government thus demonstrates the crucial importance of geopolitics in terms of the analysis of history and politics in general. By appropriating land, one allows for the growth of one’s own civilization, while simultaneously inhibiting the growth of the civilization from which this land is taken. War for land becomes a war for the continuity of a civilization itself, especially in the case of the Native Americans, whose material existence as well as world-view was determined by their relationship to the land.

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