Friends of Indians

Image of a Vanishing Life, courtesy Library of Congress

Image of a Vanishing Life, courtesy Library of Congress

Not everyone bore animosity toward Native Americans, and there were several groups who were willing to try to help them. An early group called the Indian Rights Association (IRA) was founded in 1882. Their mission was to “bring about the complete civilization of the Indians and their admission to citizenship.”

The problem with a group like this is that it assumed  Indians wanted to be “civilized” into the white culture in the first place, or that they wanted to be American citizens. What was worse was the group’s belief that the only way to effect this civilization was to destroy Indian culture. That meant erasing Native Americans’ religions and languages, and doing away with tribal ownership of land.

The group was founded  after a number of bloody confrontations between whites and Native Americans, and hoped to bring about needed reforms. Ultimately, it failed. The IRA supported the allotment process brought about by the Dawes Act, which stripped away most land from Indians and reduced many to poverty.

View of Farming Land, Mescalero Indian Reservation, courtesy Library of Congress

View of Farming Land, Mescalero Indian Reservation, courtesy Library of Congress

IRA Pamphlet, courtesy Library of Congress

IRA Pamphlet, courtesy Library of Congress

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