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Native Americans are an indigenous people throughout the world, simply misunderstood and ill-treated for centuries (Scheafer, 2012). History tells us, Native Americans were subject to land theft, controlled by others, and resistance to governance. This discrimination goes back to Christopher Columbus. He and his followers showed true hatred toward the Indian Nation. Europeans moved to extermination or genocide trying to distinguish this culture of people. The United States joined in that mission as time moved forward.
Indian land would be taken, the people would be made to conform to the law of the white man causing them to build a defense mechanism of avenging their losses. During the nineteenth century the white man government made policy to give fairness to the tribes. This may have worked if it did not interfere with the needs of the non-Indian people. The American government of the white man used the politics and social differences to interfere in the business of the Native American to govern the Indian culture and beliefs.
It has taken centuries for the Native American to trust the policy makers because of broken treaties of the past. Native Americans today, live on Indian reservations in 33 states across the country. Just as in the beginning the American Indian is forced to live their lives in a way determined and controlled by the federal government. The Indian Removal Act developed by Andrew Jackson, was intended to remove Indians from their land to make way for cotton crops and other ways of prosperity.
The Termination Act of 1953, like many policies the government had control of, was written to benefit the Native American people. Through this act, many social services were available to the American Indian. These services were a direct obligation to be fulfilled by the treaties, not just a special favor. The Termination Act was developed to gradually do away with these services, when the act passed, all services were cut off immediately. The Indian people worked collectively by creating a tribal or reservation government action to politically protest unfair legislation.
The Native Americans fought this legislation by forming civil rights groups to take the issues to the Supreme Court in order to be treated fairly and just. The first national organization was organized in 1944 called the NCAI, National Congress of American Indians (Schaefer, 2012). This National organization is one of the most respected civil rights groups in our nation today. NAGPR Act of 1990, Native American Graves and Protection Act was developed to provide protection to the Native American gravesites and cultural issues.
The American Indian worked to lobby the government to find a way to protect their sacred ceremonial ground, ancestral gravesites and artifacts. The government enacted this law in 1990. The American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 was written to give the American Indian the right to believe, express, and exercise the traditions of their tribal spirituality. Peyote is part of the religious rituals used by the Indian Nation. From the 1920s through the 1980s Peyote was a prohibited hallucinogenic outlawed by the government.
People were prosecuted for the use of peyote. In 1994 Native Americans won the right to possess, transport and use peyote for religious reasons by amending the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. It is hard to believe that despite the work of the past and present generations of the Naive Americans, they still struggle with economic development, employment levels, quality healthcare, and equal education. The needs of others seem to stand in the way of what is right and fair.