Crooked Paths to Allotment: The Fight over Federal Indian Policy after the Civil War

Oct 31st, 2013 | By | Category: 25-2: Tribal and Behavioral Health, Media Reviews

University of North Carolina Press (2012)

Review by Miriam R. Jackson

Although the federal government’s Indian policies of dispossession and coerced assimilation won out in the 19th century with the passage of the Dawes General Allotment Act of 1887, C. Joseph Genetin-Pilawa asserts that the course of history—and the development of policy—could have gone differently. Students of history may assume that what ultimately prevailed did so inevitably. This book suggests other outcomes were possible.

There is a sad sense of ultimate loss in this story, but that loss did not occur without a struggle. Ely Parker (Seneca), who served as head of the Office of Indian Affairs, and progressive leader Thomas Bland, led the effort to fight dispossession. Bland, in particular, might have challenged the constitutionality of the Dawes Act in the Supreme Court if not for a train accident.

Readers of this book may have mixed feelings about Parker’s views, who was certainly influenced by his Western education and “realpolitik” orientation. Bland’s views, on the other hand, were more genuinely radical. As a whole this book tells a significant story, recreating the crooked paths of history.

Miriam R. Jackson holds a Ph.D. in American studies/history from Purdue University. She has taught history, literature, and reading at Diné College and currently teaches at Kent State University.

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