Wednesday, July 19, 2006

dawes tomb

Passed by Charles Gates Dawes' tomb on Saturday's pitstop at Rosehill Cemetery during the Egyptian Revival Tour (oh you REALLY don't want to hear about ALL the egyptian revival mausoleums we looked at in that unbearable heat -- do you?). A history fan had dropped by -- probably over the 4th of July holiday -- and festooned the doors with flags.

Led me to research what he was all about -- Vice President under Coolidge he picked up the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925 for his work on the Dawes Plan -- an effort to ease the pain of German reparations. Apparently it didn't pan out so well, as WWII would soon prove.

Of course I took a wrong turn while researching and dusted off the Dawes Act. Kinda wish I hadn't. Seems whenever we get around to imposing our American Way we manage to bung it up somehow.

Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia (in dispute of course -- because it's an unpleasant notion) about the Act put forward by another Dawes, this one a senator from Mass:
The Act had one of the most substantial impacts on Natives, most significantly affecting Native gender roles. This Act broke up the reservation lands into privately owned parcels of property. In this way, the legislators hoped to complete the assimilation process by deteriorating the communal life-style of the Native societies and impose values of strengthening the nuclear family and values of economic dependency strictly within this small household.

Legislators' opinions of communal living saw the extended family as “needy” since the Indigenous ideas of wealth contrasted and disagreed with Western ideas of wealth (Stremlau 277). Indigenous people valued generosity and received status by being generous. Western values form around individual wealth and surplus and status is gained from these same values.


The Act forced Native people onto small tracts of land distant from their kin relations. Traditionally, in most Indigenous societies, women were the agriculturists while the men were the hunters and warriors. The Allotment policy depleted the land base, ending hunting as a means of subsistence. According to Victorian ideals, the men were forced into the fields to take on the woman's role and the women were domesticated.

This Act imposed a patrilineal nuclear household onto many traditional matrilineal Native societies. Native gender roles and relations quickly changed with this policy since communal living shaped the social order of Native communities. Women were no longer the caretakers of the land and they were no longer valued in the public political sphere. Even in the home, the Native woman was dependent on her husband.

Before Allotment, women divorced easily and had important political and social status for they were usually the center of their kin network (Olund 157). With this Act, women were deprived title to land and the distribution of allotments proves this point. To receive the full 160 acres, women had to be married and even then, her husband received title to the land.

Here's a link to the whole act, if you're curious »

1 comment:

Anali said...

And of course I was curious! Great research. I love documentation! Interesting bit about the whiskey. I just had a flashback to 1st year law school property class. I vaguely remember a lecture about the tragedy of the commons, where private ownership of property is considered the best for society.

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