American identity has been created by many events throughout the course of history. This country was founded on the clashing and mixing of many different cultures and lifestyles. One of the most important periods of time for this country was during the period of conflict between Americans and Native Americans over land rights. Americans had an idea of manifest destiny and that this land was theirs for the taking. The Americans were going to walk through anyone who opposed them in this quest for land. The treatment of the Indians during this time period was harsh, cruel, and violent to say the least. It is in this treatment that Americans came to view the Indians as a racialized other and where race began to matter. This early thinking is what created our American identity which is based on race.
In the early settling of this country, when the English first encountered the Indians they viewed them as uncivilized beasts. The first English colonizers in the New World found that the Indians reminded them of the Irish (Takaki, 28). To the English the Irish represented a lower and uncivilized class of people, a group that the English considered to be beneath them. This association was the beginning of creating an Indian Race. The Indians were different then Irish in they had a reddish tint to their skin. This was important because this lead further to their separation by their color. The Indians were further looked at as savages based on their culture. They were seen as incapable of becoming civilized because of their race (Takaki, 36). This thinking lead to the belief that the Indians were worthless and simply impeding the spreading of a civilized culture.
Indians from this point began to be dehumanized even further. Due to the color of their skin they were associated with the Devil. The settlers believed that Indians must be removed in order to progress in the settling of our land. God was making room for the colonists and hath hereby cleared our title to this place (Takaki, 40). The early Puritans believed that they were meant to spread their religion and beliefs across the entire land.
The killing of Indians for this purpose could then be justified by they were doing what God had wanted them to do. They saw themselves as messengers of God and they needed to get rid of theses Devilish creatures to do so. The English created these negative and unholy images of Indians to lower their own moral standards. In their minds they weren t killing another human being, they were killing a demonic unholy beast.
As the settlers made their way westward, they developed an ideology of savagery (Takaki, 44). The natives were then considered to be an unimprovable race. They were incapable of being changed, their traits were inherent and their descent caused them to be this way. The thinking of the Americans was that the Indians had to removed off their lands. One of the leaders in this movement was Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a man who pushed for the advancement of his country. He saw the need for the Indians to be moved out the away for this to occur. He removed Indians from their lands and sought to place them out of the way of expansion. He could rationalize this as the fact that Indians were wasting the land, and we could use it better, so it is our duty to take it from
them. The removal of the Indians was done through signing treaties with them and by giving them land to live on that would be out of the way of progress. This is the beginning of classifying people by location. Indians live on Indian reservations and the Whites lived elsewhere. The areas that the whites moved the Indians to was out of the way of their cross- country railroad. This created boundaries between the American and the Indians.
The identity of the Indians was their free and open land, now this was all being taken from then by the Americans. All of this seen by whites as progress and the advancement of civilization (Takaki, 102). What all this lead to was that the Americans had come in and taken over the Indians land from them. They proceeded to kill thousands and thousands of Indians in the result of progress. Indians had become a racial minority on lands they had occupied for thousands of years (Takaki, 104). The thinking of early Americans lead to the culture that we have today which is purely based on race. The early Americans created an identity for the Indians, they were thought as a racialized other. They were seen as being uncivilized and a weaker people. This created an us versus them appeal to the situation.
The English could not come over here and live together with the Indians. The Indians were a group that was unholy and beneath them. They had to progress their culture and their beliefs and mark out that of their opponents. Americans sought to cleanse the land of these savage beasts and further their own society.
Their view of the Indians as a racialized other is what dominates our society today. Today were are still impaled by the thinking of men centuries ago that there is a us versus them culture. Race still in this country is still the top factor in life. Riots and violence are fought over racial issues. The thinking that people in this land should be divided by color and class is based on what happened with the Indians. The actions taken in dealing with the Indians is what lead to the development of our culture today.
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