Path of Tears to a Tribal Nations Summit: The White

Native People and the White Home share a tough historical past. This Native American Heritage Month, a glance again at their relationship over greater than two centuries.

Stewart D. McLaurin  |  Opinion contributor

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Recognizing Native People on Indigenous Peoples’ Day throughout the US

A rising variety of cities, states and universities are changing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, also called Native People Day.

Scott L. Corridor, USA TODAY

Earlier than there was a White Home, Native American tribes just like the Nacotchtanks and Patawomekes lived within the Potomac Valley area for greater than 10,000 years, a part of an East Coast community linked by interconnected waterways. 

Captain John Smith got here in 1608 to a area dotted with villages close to trendy day-Washington, D.C. that had developed refined commerce relationships, agricultural improvements, and superior instruments.

Inside seven a long time, all of this land had been claimed by colonists who settled Maryland and Virginia — together with a main location on the Potomac River that may grow to be the brand new nation’s capital metropolis.  As we observe Nationwide Native American Heritage Month, it’s becoming to contemplate how the White Home that was constructed on these tribal lands turned central to the historical past that adopted.  

Early makes an attempt to fulfill with Native People

Even earlier than the chief mansion was accomplished, George Washington met with Cherokee chiefs and their wives, starting an extended custom of presidential conferences with Native American delegations who would quickly be coming to the White Home.  Through the Battle of 1812, President Madison invited delegations from Midwestern tribes, hoping to move off alliances with the British. 

Within the 1830s, Cherokee leaders John Ross and John Ridge got here to the White Home for a sequence of unsuccessful conferences with President Andrew Jackson after the state of Georgia handed laws to expel them from their lands.  

Path of Tears: A tragic historical past

Jackson and his successor Martin Van Buren deployed federal forces to take away greater than 16,000 Cherokees from the southeastern United States alongside what turned generally known as the Path of Tears, together with tens of thousand Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw Indians who have been pressured to maneuver west of the Mississippi River.

Through the Civil Battle, President Lincoln invited leaders from the Apache, Arapaho, Caddo, Cheyenne, Comanche, and Kiowa nations to the White Home to hunt alliances and stop their help of the Confederacy.  He additionally signed laws permitting settlers to additional displace Native People whereas vowing to wash up corruption within the authorities’s personal system for managing relations with Native peoples.

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After the conflict, a delegation of Teton Sioux visited President Grant to debate the prospectors and settlers flooding into Sioux and Cheyenne Indian lands after gold was found. Grant couldn’t persuade them to go away their homeland, and the Teton Sioux and Northern Cheyenne peoples have been dispersed when the federal authorities confiscated the Black Hills. 

Within the a long time that adopted, because the U.S. authorities sought assimilation by breaking apart tribal lands and standardizing farming and ranching practices, two-thirds of the remaining Native American land was taken.

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An evolving relationship 

By the Twenties, the U.S. encounter with Native People was evolving, in ways in which might be seen on the White Home. President Calvin Coolidge, who claimed he was descended from Native People, incessantly hosted them on the White Home and posed for public images.

When Coolidge introduced within the Committee of One Hundred, an advisory council of specialists and activists, he was so impressed by remarks from Cherokee poet Ruth Muskrat that he invited her into the White Home for a non-public lunch. “We need to grow to be residents of the USA, and to have our share within the constructing of this nice nation that we love. However we wish additionally to protect the most effective that’s in our personal civilization,” Muskrat mentioned. “Nobody can discover our resolution for us however ourselves.”  

Coolidge later turned the primary sitting president to go to a Native American reservation, the place he was inducted as a member of the Lakota tribe in the identical Black Hills that had been the epicenter of the Nineteenth-century wars.

As Native People more and more protested their sovereignty standing and strain to assimilate, President John F. Kennedy met with the Nationwide Congress of American Indians on the White Home in March 1963.  “The problem for us all,” Kennedy mentioned, is “ensuring that the American Indians have each probability to develop their lives in the best way that most accurately fits their customs and traditions and pursuits.”

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The upcoming Tribal Nations Summit

President Nixon introduced Taos Pueblo tribe leaders to the White Home in 1970 as a part of his work with Native American teams to return lands, settle claims towards the federal authorities and alter the federal government’s deal with assimilating Native People.

Given this tough historical past, it’s no shock that many Native People view the White Home as a spot to amplify their considerations, just like the caravan that got here through the 1976 bicentennial to demand better self-determination and land rights, or the 2017 Native Nations Rise March protesting the development of the Dakota Entry pipeline. 

Native People have come to the White Home for greater than two centuries for a lot of functions, the place they have incessantly been handled as obstacles to growth or in want of civilizing. Once they return this month for a Tribal Nations Summit, to a White Home constructed on tribal lands, will probably be to debate the federal authorities’s treaty and belief obligations to Tribes.

Stewart D. McLaurin is a member of the USA Right now Board of Contributors and president of the White Home Historic Affiliation, a non-public nonprofit, nonpartisan group based by first woman Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961 to privately fund sustaining the museum commonplace of the White Home and to supply publications and applications on White Home historical past.

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