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The giveaway of Native Lands
Wednesday - January 1, 2014 8:40 am
The giveaway of Native Lands
Indigenous Peoples Issues and Resources On This Day: In 1863 the first claim under the Homestead Act was made by Daniel Freeman for a farm in Nebraska. The Homestead Acts were several United States federal laws that gave an applicant ownership of land, typically called a "homestead", at little or no cost. Between 1862 and 1934, the federal government granted 1.6 million homesteads and distributed 270,000,000 acres (420,000 sq mi) of federal land for private ownership. This was a total of 10% of all land in the United States. Homesteading was discontinued in 1976, except in Alaska, where it continued until 1986. All of this land that the U.S. gave away for private ownership was indigenous land. Much of it was “obtained” through treaties that were signed between the U.S. government and Native tribes, forcing Natives to live on reservations and to give up much of the land they traditionally inhabited. However, for Natives, reservation life was restraining, and the land Natives were forced to occupy was often too small to raise animals or hunt on and not viable agriculturally. Still, many settlers believed that Natives had gotten the choicest land, and pressed for their availability to claim. The government responded to this crisis in favor of the settlers and land speculators, stripping Natives of the last semblance of sovereignty they had by abolishing the reservation system as well as their honoring of tribes as separate entities from the United States. The 1871 Dawes Act stated that “hereafter no Indian nation or tribe within the territory of the United States shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe, or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty.” It also marked the beginning of increased efforts to integrate Natives into American society rather than cordoning them off into isolated reservations. This was continued to a larger extent with the 1887 Dawes Severalty Act (also called the General Allotment Act), which was a Homestead Act directed at breaking up Native reservation holdings as well as tribes themselves.

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