Slapped in the Face by History

I am compiling an education wiki as part of my studying for comprehensive exams. Right now, it is fairly amorphous…after all, I have some nine months to study. I decided to start with a timeline to make sure I had some sense of when important educational events and reports occured. I was poking through Edmund Sass’s American Educational Hypertext History Timeline and discovered the Northwest Ordinance. I suppose at some point I knew what it was but I needed a quick review that it was passed by Congress of Confederation in 1787 and basically announced how the US would occupy the area north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi. You can read it online.

I skipped to Article 3 since that’s the one having to do with education and here’s the whole quote: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.”

Sometimes history just slaps you in the face, doesn’t it? I was thinking how nice it was that the early US government was so concerned with education, only to be confronted with the hypocrisy of our policy towards Native Americans. Even as they seem to recognize native rights, they are planning for the occupation and settlement of that very land.

I did a quick Internet search and here is the fate of the Native American tribes in Ohio after the Northwest Ordinance:

The Delaware: Forced to surrender most of their land by 1795 and removed completely to Kansas by 1829

The Algonquian: Had ceded most of their lands east of the Mississippi by 1840

The Miami: Basically the same as the Delaware, they were defeated at Fallen Timbers by Anthony Wayne, and then signed the Treaty of Greeneville that made them surrender most of their lands. By 1820, they had also been forced to Kansas.

The Ottawa: Same fate as the others…

It only took seven years, and it’s really ironic since even as they wrote those words that seemed to give the Native Americans whatever land they already occupied, they were already at war with Little Turtle and Blue Jacket, northwest Indian leaders who did not recognize the right of the new country. I know it’s not a historical surprise that the US has treated Native Americans very very badly. It’s just that sometime documents like the Northwest Ordinance remind us how pretty blatant it was despite all the pretty words that may try to hide it.

We learned a lot about the sad history of the Native Americans during our trip out west.  I uploaded a few photos.


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