thth and 19 Century American Indian Policy and South A Comparative Analysis of 18
In his book, Apartheid in America, James A. Kushner suggests that “Apartheid in
America is not totally dissimilar to the policies of segregation practiced in South
1Africa.” While Kushner‟s comparison extends only to racial minorities in America, which for the first century of the nation‟s history, Native Americans were not considered by the federal government. They were members of separate dependent nations, and so the “Native American experience” cannot be easily generalized and characterized. This is probably the reason why Kushner decided to omit American Indians from his comparison. Despite their changing and often unclear status within the United States of America, evidence exists that can extend the comparison of South African Apartheid to the US government‟s relationship with Native Americans.
Although their goals seem to have changed as each nation developed, the United States of America and the Republic of South Africa formulated similar government policies with comparable results in regards to their indigenous peoples. The aim of this paper is not to offer a comprehensive analysis of the government policies of the USA and RSA, as this would require the pages of a rather large book. Instead, a comparison of the similarities between several of the two nation‟s policies toward indigenous peoples will
be presented in two thematic periods that are roughly chronologically oriented.
1 James A. Kushner, Apartheid in America: An Historical and Legal Analysis of Contemporary Racial Segregation in the United States (Arlington: Carrollton Press, 1980), 1.
These periods include the establishment of government-native relations during the early stages of American and South African history and segregation and separate education of native peoples on reservations in the United States and bantusans or homelands in South
When the Dutch East India Company established the first permanent colony on the Cape of Good Hope in 1652, they unknowingly set the stage for one of the most comprehensive and appallingly inequitable systems of racial segregation in history. The next 300 years would bring many governmental changes to the southern tip of Africa, as the descendants of Dutch, German and Scandinavian Company employees, calling themselves Afrikaners, would wrestle on and off with the British government from 1795 to 1961 for control of what is today known as the Republic of South Africa. Although the United States was an independent nation throughout the period of British-Afrikaner struggles, Native Americans‟ experiences under the evolving government can be
compared rather closely to those of Native South Africans.
Laws that can be directly referenced to later official Apartheid laws began appearing as early as 1809 when the British governor of what would soon become the Cape Colony, the Earl of Caledon, “issued the Caledon Code, a proclamation requiring all Khoikhoi [one of South Africa‟s native groups] in the colony to have a permanent
2 Additionally “Khoikhoi address either on a mission station or with a White employer.”
traveling outside their district of residence were required to carry a pass from the local
3magistrate,” a stipulation that would be temporarily abolished during a British civil
2 Roger B. Beck, The History of South Africa (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000), 45. 3 Ibid, 45.
rights push during the 1820‟s and „30‟s and re-emerge after diamonds were discovered in
1867 and gold was discovered in 1886.
While he was a Senator in 1948, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, the future prime minister of the Republic of South Africa, made a speech to Parliament supporting what was now being called “apartheid.” He outlined his Nationalist Party‟s plans for what apartheid should look like, but denied his opposition‟s criticisms that the policy would create worse racial relations than already existed. Saying, “nobody has ever contended
4 Verwoerd that the policy of apartheid should be identified with „total segregation,‟”contended that total segregation could never be effectively carried out. He also advanced the conflicting ideas that Native Africans would exist everywhere but still be segregated, forming the basis for complex apartheid laws. The ambivalence that the British government and Afrikaner leaders displayed in early pass laws and speeches is also evident in the ways the United States government treated the status of Native Americans during the first forty years of the nation‟s history.
Before this nation‟s constitution was drafted and ratified, the federal government was behaving in contradictory ways toward American Indians. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 stated:
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
4 Edgar H. Brookes, ed., Apartheid (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1968), 7.
time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and
5friendship with them.
This law‟s primary purpose was to provide guidelines for the settlement and eventual statehood of lands north and west of the Ohio River, but the above provision made clear the federal government‟s intention to protect lands occupied by Native Americans. While making statements like this one, the government was already allowing settlers to encroach on Indian lands across the United States. Francis Paul Prucha points out that General Henry Knox reported to Congress one year after passage of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that white settlers were waging an “informal war” against the
6Cherokees on the frontier of North Carolina. Article V of the Hopewell Treaty with the
Cherokee of 1785 explicitly stated:
“if any citizen of the United States, or other person not being an Indian, shall attempt to
settle on any of the lands westward or southward of the said boundary which are hereby
allotted to the Indians for their hunting grounds, or having already settled and will not
remove from the same within six months after the ratification of this treaty, such person
shall forfeit the protection of the United States, and the Indians may punish him or not as
Clearly the United States was sending mixed messages to American Indians. By including provisions by which Indians were expected to police artificially created borders, the federal government was promising things that the Indians themselves were expected
5 The Avalon Project, Yale University School of Law, The Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/nworder.htm, last accessed August 9, 2005. 6 Francis Paul Prucha, The Great Father, abridged ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), 18. 7 The Avalon Project, Yale University School of Law, Treaty With the Cherokee: 1785.
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/ntreaty/chr1785.htm, last accessed August 9, 2005.
to enforce. Indians were also being told that their rights to land were to be respected by white settlers while those settlers were moving onto those same lands.
According to most history books, if one general goal could be extrapolated from American Indian policy throughout American history, that goal would be the eventual assimilation of Indian peoples. This would be in stark comparison to the goal that South African officials of the twentieth century called “separate development,” a doctrine that
emphasized the nation‟s need for racial segregation and separate spheres in the economic development of “White South Africa” and “Black South Africa.” Examination beneath
the surface of US government dealings with Native Americans presents a situation quite similar to that in South Africa, especially during the days of what is commonly known as “removal.” In both cases natives were forced to relocate, often hundreds of miles from their homes and traditional territories and be educated under paternalistic government mandates calling for self-determination or some other lofty promise that would not be fulfilled.
For both South Africa and the United States, a frontier environment and mindset existed that contributed to the need for population relocation. Frontier migration in South Africa moved from south and west to the north and east, while in America movement was generally to the west. It is no coincidence that the majority of Indian reservations are today located west of the Mississippi River and most bantusans were located in the eastern half of South Africa. In both countries white settlers were encroaching on native lands from the governments‟ inceptions.
In 1789 and 1790 the federal government signed treaties with the Six Nations of the Iroquois League and the Creek Nation in which payments were made for Indian lands
8 These agreements set the precedent for future large-scale ceded to the United States.
removal plans when westward movement of white Americans began to create hostile relationships with Native Americans.
For Native South Africans, segregation from whites had been the rule since the arrival of the Dutch in 1652. They had remained on the northeastern frontier of white settlement, but when the Afrikaner Great Trek of the 1830‟s and 1840‟s brought some
915,000 voortrekkers (pioneers) to the interior, bloody conflict ensued immediately. The
British government responded by authorizing Natal Province‟s governor, Theophilus Shepstone, to create the area‟s first African reserves. African people located in Natal
were, according to Roger B. Beck, “convinced” to relocate onto the reserves, and “by the 1860‟s there were over sixty government and mission reserves, comprising about 16
10percent of Natal‟s total land area.” Of course, white settlers or the government owned
the 84% of Natal‟s land that was left, on which Africans were allowed to engage in tenant
11farming for the price of rent.
When the first official “Apartheid” government under the National Party took control of South Africa in 1948, segregation laws became Parliament‟s main focus. The Group Areas Act of 1950 made all residential and trading zones segregated according to race, and the Population Registration Act of the same year provided for the classification
12and registration of all people in South Africa by race. African workers were often
forced to travel many miles from their homelands to find work. The economic development of these areas was extremely weak, and working for whites was usually the
8 Francis Paul Prucha, The Great Father, abridged ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), 19-20. 9 Roger B. Beck, The History of South Africa (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000), 64. 10 Ibid, 69. 11 Ibid, 69-70. 12 Ibid, 127.
only option for Native Africans. Transportation costs increased due to the long distances African workers had to travel, contributing to a worsening level of poverty in the reserves throughout the 1960‟s and 1970‟s.
Segregation in the United States hit full swing with the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This law “authorized the President to provide unorganized public lands west of the
13 The key Mississippi [River] for the settlement of eastern Indians willing to move there.”word in Christine Bolt‟s description above is willing. Federal troops were brought in to
forcibly remove members of the Potawatomi, Cherokee, Creek and Seminole tribes
14during the 1830‟s. With conflict between the Indians across the American East and
whites encroaching on their land, Congress and the President seem to have had very little choice but to separate the two populations as much as possible. The Indian Removal Act states that “it shall and may be lawful for the President to solemnly assure the tribe or nation with which the exchange is made, that the United States will forever secure and
15guaranty to them, and their heirs or successors, the country so exchanged with them,”
illustrating the government‟s commitment to keeping Indian nations on these new lands separate and independent from the United States.
The movement to separate Indians from whites was often accompanied by the same paternalistic attitude of South African officials; in this case, instead of a “separate development” goal, government officials often claimed to be protecting the natives from
the encroachment of unruly whites. Segregation again emerges as the primary goal of the federal government. The ineffectiveness of any government effort to “civilize” Native
13 Christine Bolt, American Indian Policy and American Reform (London: Allen & Unwin), 59. 14 Ibid, 62. 15stst Indian Removal Act of 1830, Public Law 148, 21 Cong., 1 sess. (May 28, 1830), 412,
Americans was evident as the tribes and bands were moved west. Bolt states that “the
great irony in removal…was that it transported groups, thereby preserving the tribal units
16associated with „savagery.‟”
In the realm of education, segregation comes to the fore in both South Africa and the United States. The aims of each government contrast a bit more than with other policies. The clearly stated goal of the South African government was strict segregation, but at least initially in the United States, the stated goal was assimilation. However, upon implementation educational programs for American Indians served not as vessels for assimilation but for segregation.
In 1953, the South African government took full control over the education of Native Africans when it passed the Bantu Education Act. Until that time, schools reserved for the so-called “Bantus” (black South Africans) were run by missionary
organizations. Frightened that the missionary schools were teaching too much equality, South African officials created a law that Beck claims “had some of the most far-reaching
17and long-term consequences of any apartheid legislation.” The aim of the Bantu
Education Act was to educate Native Africans in separate schools from whites where students would be forced to use the English and Afrikaans languages to learn how to be excellent common laborers. Additionally, “from the general condition of buildings and
classrooms, to the availability of texts, to the caliber of the teaching staff -- African
18schools were far inferior to those for Whites.” This system of separate educations for
different racial groups existed throughout the Apartheid years and still affects the Native African population over ten years after the system was abolished.
16 Bolt, 64. 17 Beck, 131. 18 Ibid, 132.
Schools established and maintained by the passage of the Indian Civilization Fund Act of 1819 were much like those created in South Africa. Again the initial goal of creating such a program was to help Indian children assimilate into American society. Boarding schools often far away from Indian lands, teaching skills that most Native Americans seemed to have viewed as preparing them for servitude similar to African
19 Americans‟ plight, and teaching them in extremely strict ways were bound for failure.Indian children learned very little from these experiences and often went truant as Euro-American religious hymns, naming practices, ways of dressing and eating and other
20customs were forced upon them. This educational system created more socio-economic
inequality than already existed in American society because Indian children were not only being taught information incongruent with their traditional upbringing but were also missing out on the education that they truly needed-that from their own people in their own homes.
thIn today‟s world the effects of Apartheid and American Indian policies of the 18
thand 19 centuries are still evident. Economic development on Indian reservations in the United States lags far behind that of the rest of the country, and reservation residents are some of the poorest people in the land. Although Apartheid is no longer part of South Africa‟s government and a free republic exists primarily upon the premise of racial equality, Native Africans still only account for 30 percent of the country‟s income while
21ththmaking up 77 percent of the population. The policies of the 18 and 19 centuries in
America and the first 300 years of European-contact history in South Africa similarly created environments of subjugation and segregation. Luckily both countries continue to
19 Bolt, 212-213. 20 Ibid, 213. 21 Beck, 205.
move forward and seem to be aiming to change their societies based upon the ideal that
all people, regardless of race or ethnicity, deserve equitable treatment under the law.