The ideal American doesn’t really exist; he’s a myth

Dr. Lawrence discusses the Dawes Act (or General Allottment Act) that forced Dakota assimilation in the late 1800s.

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See back in the beginning, in 1897 when they came out with the Allotment Act, or they put it into effect, the Indian families were allotted so many acres, one hundred and sixty acres, and that was a one-time thing. And then for us, they only allotted about one-third of our reservation. The government bought up the rest and homesteaded it out to the non-Indians. That shrunk our reservation to about one-third of its original size. And there was no follow-up allotment for anybody else that was born after that, so we as the heirs, we inherited the land that was allotted to our ancestors. I’m living on the allotment that was originally my grandfather’s.

And even in American Indian policy, when they do something like the Allotment Act, where they took away tribal holdings, individualized Indians, they say, "It was for their own good; now they’ll be civilized, now they’ll be just like us." But instead, it completely destroyed the culture. But on the outside, on the outer surface it looked like they were doing a very good, humane thing; we’re trying to educate them and get them up to being full-fledged, contributing American citizens and the ideal American. Which doesn’t exist, by the way; the ideal American doesn’t really exist; he’s a myth.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Elden Lawrence Interviewer Deborah Locke made in New Ulm, MN | Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. The ideal American doesn’t really exist; he’s a myth July 22, 2024.

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