Relocation and Urbanization

European, and later American, displacement of Indigenous people has since transformed into an urbanization which empowered coordinated efforts of Urban Indians to influence Modern American (and global) Politics. This success scenario is practiced by many previously displaced groups of people and is particularly successful with more than one other displaced community whose Suburban efforts are coordinated by Urban upper classes that provision and guide the local townships and cities in fostering growth. The story of the American Urban Indian began with a displacement, followed then by an admission that the land was originally owned by its original Indigenous inhabitants. This lead to a brutal allotment process that further divided this culture with no representative central authority. These people had no system in place by which to exchange this commodity (land), or utilize it through coordinated efforts, leaving many lone Indians to tend to land they were sorely equipped to maintain alone.

In his “The Outrage of Allotment”, Dewitt Clinton Duncan claimed, “What am I to do? I have a piece of property that doesn’t support me, and is not worth a cent to me, under the same inexorable, cruel provisions of the Curtis law that swept away our treaties, our system of nationality, our every existence, and wrested out of our possession our vast territory. . . .,” where he outright declares the effects of acts of the United States government which he claims dismantled all preexisting agreements that he’d grown to rely on during his life (“Hearts on the Ground: The Outrage of Allotment.” Native American Testimony, Penguin Books, 1999, Page 266). Under these previous agreements, he indicates he was able to farm on a larger plot of land. There’s a lot of context that’s missing from this short passage, specifically why Duncan was not able to subsist on 60 acres is left unanswered (For reference, an average plot for various Roman/European peasants was generally less than a quarter of this).

In his testimony, Dewitt Clinton Duncan indicates that escalating debts that were assumed by him lead to his plight – something that very often not all the mismanaged land in the world can generally get folks out of feeling the effects of. Of note here is that if one were to accidentally write, “Curtis Law” (as written), instead of “Curtis Act”, into Google (or literally any search engine), you’ll see the inherent bias to further neglect an Indigenous culture in an attempt to hide the history under dozens of the same type of institutions that Duncan was referring to in his testimony as corporate law firms displaying smiling white people come up at the top of the results and not much else.

Duncan’s referring to the replacement of tribal law with United States federal law through the Curtis Act, which ensured that Indigenous folks whom were over-leveraged and heavily in debt would’ve had their collateral turned over through the use of collection agencies performing business in the United States. This is in opposition to having a different solution which presumably would have been found in the effectively de-personed Tribal Courts. Understood, but not discussed here, were the political motivations behind the expansion being predominantly a response to wars with the British Empire, the Spanish Empire and Mexico; many of which were paid for in land deals in exchange for that which was needed to pay for coming out ahead as a nation from these wars. Acts such as the Curtis Act, and processes such as allotment set the stage for the urbanization that followed this and many other stories just like it, as the preceding generation was left without ancestral homes or lands to grow up at.

As great example of the fallout of urbanization, Tommy Orange in his, “There There”, describes one relatable result of losing tribal and familial lands. Orange conveys the impression that Indigenous folks had the assumption of a sort of sentencing to death, on first living in cities. He conveys a message that North American Indigenous folks found their assimilation in embracing American urban life to be empowering. Orange writes of the initial fear and apprehensiveness, “Getting us to cities was supposed to be the final, necessary step in our assimilation, absorption, erasure, the completion of a five-hundred-year-old genocidal campaign. But the city made us new, and we made it ours. We didn’t get lost amid the sprawl of tall buildings, the stream of anonymous masses, the ceaseless din of traffic. We found one another, started up Indian Centers, brought out our families and powwows, our dances, our songs, our beadwork. (There There, Vintage Books, 2018, Page 8).” Orange is describing the pivot in Indigenous culture that became part of it in its entrainment in a larger American culture. He describes power being found in doing this, and sees a continuation of the beliefs that were inherent to the past generation prior to the change. He makes an important point in differentiating this adaptation to a different lifestyle as something that has less to do with persistence and resolve.

In showing this, Orange writes, “The wound that was made when white people came and took all that they took has never healed. An unattended would gets infected. Becomes a new kind of wound like the history of what actually happened became a new kind history. All these stories that we haven’t been telling all this time, that we haven’t been listening to, are just part of what we need to heal. Not that we’re broken. And don’t make the mistake of calling us resilient. To not have been destroyed, to not have given up, to have survived, is no badge of honor. Would you can an attempted murder victim resilient?” (There There, Vintage Books, 2018, Page 137). What he means here is that the taking of the land damaged these people in a way that Orange can only describe in metaphors, and their continued existence isn’t some cheap byproduct of their strength of character, more that it’s something more on a shared cultural level that continues to empower these people as they further adapt American lifestyles, politics and cultures to their own needs. In doing so, a resurgence in cultural representation, political power and actual people with Indigenous backgrounds become a daily part of American life.

In conclusion, there are two topics here in this paper, one is where Indigenous people were brutalized to feed wars that never really stopped and continue taking from people to this very day. This process typically results in the relocation of people into larger cities where facilitation of them can continue due to the broad amount of resources that are in cities by design. The second topic is that this urbanization process is not unique to the Indigenous people of North America and has been very successful in transferring wealth from people to the coordinated war machine that seeks to pursue an ever-expanding empire to this day where, “The West”, now is representative of an increasingly expanding population base. In exchange for the loss suffered when European, and later American politics, forced a displacement of Indigenous people, an urbanization effort which empowered coordinated efforts of Urban Indians to influence Modern American (and global) Politics and their local tribes has grown in the intervening ~200 years. As this process continues this trend, American Indians will become more prevalent in the American culture.

Works cited

Nabokov, Peter. Native American Testimony, Hearts on the Ground, The Outrage of Allotment, Dewitt Clinton Duncan, Cherokee. Penguin Books. 1999.

Orange, Tommy. There There. Vintage Books. 2018

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